I keep seeing recipes that specify frying the food. But I’ve modified many such recipes to make them leaner and less fatty and altogether tastier. How did I do it? I just made some subtle changes in the preparation and exchanged the deep-fryer/skillet for a sheet pan and a wire rack. Try it once and you’ll be hooked!
I first doubted that baking foods could make them as flavourful, moist or tender as frying them. After all, even the best chefs will tell you that ‘fat is flavour!’ But you can prep meats and veggies, and other foods, in ways that keep them moist and develop great flavour without dousing them in Fat or Oil.
What you’re doing is what the frozen food purveyors have done for years. You’re just not pre-cooking the food (in Oil!) to set the crust.
What I do…
Bake all crusted or bare foods at 375 – 400 F. You’ll learn what temperature is best for what food as you go along.
like to crust meats with a standard Flour-Egg-Crumbs process foe baking. But I always toss the crumbs lightly with a little Canola or other high-temp Oil so the coating will help seal in moisture during cooking. And it adds that ‘fried’ flavour without drowning the food in Oil. No need to add the Oil if you are coating your foods with crushed Potato or Corn Chips or flavoured Chips. I’ve never done it. but I know someone who regularly coats their chicken wings with a blend of crushed Cheetos and Cayenne Pepper!
Foods that can be cooked in relatively small pieces are perfect for Baking. Think: Wings, Chicken Tenders, and so on. They’ll cook quickly.
You can also do Veggies and Cheese Sticks/Balls in the oven. Veggies can be crusted or left bare. Crust Cheese things to suit your taste and bake on med high just to set the crust and melt the Cheese. This takes only minutes!
Give uncoated foods a toss in a couple of tablespoons of Oil. Just a light coating. And sprinkle with Salt and Pepper, and any other Herbs or spices you wish.
Bacon is best cooked in the oven. Just lay out slices close together on parchment paper on a baking or cookie sheet. You’ll have perfect, flat crispy pieces of Bacon in 20 to 25 minutes.
Don’t over-cook in the oven! Bake most foods at 350 F. Just cook until the food is done through. Use a thermometer on thick cuts like Chicken Breasts to check doneness.
All crusted foods should be baked on a wire rack which is set in a sheet pan or raised-edge cookie sheet Line the baking sheet with parchment paper to catch any drippings. Using a rack ensures that Crusted foods get crispy and golden on all sides.
Bare Veggies can be placed right on the parchment paper, to catch any Oil runoff and avoid sticking. This is essentially like placing Veggies in with your roast.
Try baking all sorts of foods you thought you had to have a deep fryer to make! You’ll find you don’t have to fry to get the results you want! Baking is something the kids can get in on, too, because there’s no danger from hot Oil. Above all, have fun!
~ Maggie J.