How to Pan-Fry Frozen Mozzarella Sticks

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Mozzarella sticks have no depth perception -- deep-fry them in several inches of oil or pan-fry them in a half-inch of oil, and they cook to golden brown either way -- but you have to use a slightly different frying technique when using the lesser amount of oil.

Choosing the Pan

Pan-frying requires a heavy straight-sided pan -- cast-iron or stainless-steel skillets work best. Unlike the saute technique, which requires quick flicks of the wrist to turn the food over rapidly, pan-frying requires little to no pan movement -- the longer the pan stays on the burner the more stable the oil temperature. This makes heavy-bottomed pans the safest and most effective choice for the cooking method.

The Technique

Step 1

Add 1/3 to 1/2 inch of vegetable oil to the skillet. Set the heat of the stove to medium and let the oil heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Medium heat falls between 325 to 374 F, the optimum temperature range for frying frozen food.

Step 2

Lay the frozen mozzarella sticks in the oil using a slotted spoon or tongs without overcrowding the pan; leave at least 1 inch of space around each piece. Disturb the oil as little as possible to prevent splattering.

Step 3

Move the mozzarella sticks in the oil using tongs so they don't stick to each other; monitor and move them for 15 to 20 seconds, which is long enough to prevent sticking. Fry the sticks for 1 1/2 minutes without moving them.

Step 4

Turn the mozzarella sticks over using tongs. Some piece might roll over on their own in the oil, some may not. Turn the sticks over so each side gets about 1 1/2 minutes of full oil contact, or about 3 minutes of total cooking time.

Step 5

Transfer the mozzarella sticks to the wire rack when they turn golden brown and cheese starts to ooze from the crust in some spots. Using a wire rack to drain the sticks instead of paper towels produces a crisper crust. Wire racks let the crust "breathe," whereas paper towels smother it, producing steam as a result; steamy crust equals soggy crust.

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