How to Pan-Fry Chicken

Chicken is a popular (and tasty!) source of protein, but it’s one you have to be a little bit careful cooking because of the risk of salmonella. Luckily, chicken undergoes a very helpful change in colour and texture from raw to cooked.

Like fish (which I wrote about baking here), raw chicken is translucent, or kind of see-through, and has a kind of jelly-like texture. Once cooked, the colour fades from pink to a kind of off-white (though this does depend on the part of the chicken). The texture also changes, becoming firmer and more stringy.

If you’re going to be handling raw chicken, make sure to wash your hands (and utensils) with soap and water afterwards. Don’t wash the chicken though – this can actually spread harmful bacteria. You can find out more on food safety in my post here.

Pan-frying chicken is a great way to cook it quickly, and you can even cook it from frozen!

To start, add a little oil to your pan, and put it on a medium heat. You don’t need a lot of oil to fry chicken, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. We like to use a silicone brush to get a nice, thin layer.

Once you’ve added your chicken, putting a lid on your pan will help it to heat up quicker. It can also help to keep moisture in. (You can even add a little water if you want – this can help distribute the heat more evenly, as well as stopping the pan from overheating and burning your chicken! A little water is especially helpful if you’re cooking from frozen.)

Now chicken usually comes in quite large chunks – breasts or thighs for example. This means the heat reaches the outside of the chicken much quicker than it does the middle. This can lead to the outside being overcooked while the inside is undercooked. To avoid this, I like to chop my chicken into cubes a couple of centimetres (a little under an inch) on each side. You can even do this while the chicken cooks, as long as you don’t have a non-stick pan! Doing it in the pan also helps you to check whether the chicken is cooked right through to the middle.

It takes about 20 minutes to pan-fry chicken, but it does of course depend on how high you turn up the heat!

Pan-fried chicken is great for salads or sandwiches as well as hot dishes, but if you’re looking for a hot chicken recipe, why not try adding it to my curry (link) or stir-fry (link)?

How to Make Stir-Fry (or should that be Steam-Fry?)

We love stir-fry in our house, in fact it’s kind of the default meal option! Now a proper stir-fry is cooked hot and fast, and preserves a lot of the vitamins and minerals in your food. This dish that we call stir-fry is really more of a steam-fry – it starts with a little frying to really get the flavours going, then gently steams the vegetables in their own moisture.

You will need:

  • a sharp knife
  • a chopping board
  • a wok or deep saucepan with lid

and the ingredients (for four people):

  • a little oil
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1 bell pepper
  • beansprouts
  • leafy green vegetable such as baby spinach
  • frozen prawns or unsalted cashew nuts

 

Start by placing your pan on a gentle heat. Add a little oil (less than a teaspoon is fine), and slice your onion. (You can find more detailed instructions here: onions)

Add your onion to the pan, along with any spices you want to use. This recipe gets plenty of flavour from all the lovely veggies, but a little ginger or Chinese five spice is also nice.

Photograph of a wok with a layer of sliced onions, lightly sprinkled with powdered ginger

While your onion is gently frying, cut your carrots into sticks, then add them to the pan. (More detailed cutting instructions here)

Photograph of a wok with a layer of carrot sticks on top of sliced onions

Once you’ve added your carrots, put the lid on so the vegetables can steam. The dish will take about 20 minutes from this point.

Cut your bell pepper into strips (chopping tutorial here), then add them to the pan.

Photograph of a wok with a layer of red pepper strips on top of carrots & onions

While your other vegetables are cooking, check your beansprouts and leafy greens over for any that don’t look tasty.

Five minutes before serving, add your prawns (if you’re using them) and beansprouts to the pan.

Photograph of a wok with a layer of prawns on top of red pepper, carrots & onions

Photograph of a wok with a layer of beansprouts on top of prawns, red pepper, carrots & onions

Finally, add your leafy greens. (You could use frozen peas instead, but they’re harder to pick up with chopsticks!)

Photograph of a wok with a layer of pak choi on top of beansprouts, prawns, red pepper, carrots & onions

The stir-fry is cooked when the greens wilt down ever so slightly, and turn a brighter shade of green – this usually takes less than 5 minutes.

Photograph of a wok with a layer of pak choi on top of beansprouts, prawns, red pepper, carrots & onions

Stir everything together before serving. If you’re using cashew nuts instead of prawns, add them now.

Photograph of white bowl filled with stir-fried vegetables and cashew nuts on egg noodles

This dish looks like a rainbow on a plate! I like it with rice or noodles, but it’s also delicious just as is. Serve with soy sauce; you can add some during cooking but I think it’s nice to let everyone season to their own tastes.

If you want a sweeter dish, try adding a tin of pineapple along with the beansprouts. And if you fancy a little chilli kick, some sweet chilli sauce goes beautifully!

If you make stir-fry with this recipe, I’d love to see a picture of your finished dish!