Breadings and Batters

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Nearly all meats that are shallow- or deep-fried are coated with a layer of dry breading or flour-based batter before they’re cooked. These coatings do not “seal in” moisture. Instead, they provide a thin but critical layer of insulation that buffers the meat surface from direct contact with the oil. The coating, not the meat, quickly dries out into a pleasingly crisp surface, and forms a poorly conducting matrix of dry starch with pockets of steam or immobilized oil. Because rare meat that still exudes juice would quickly make the crisp crust soggy, oil-fried meats are generally cooked until bubbling in the oil ceases, a sign that their juices have ceased to flow.