The Difference Between Sous Vide vs. Pan Frying

Pan frying, like sous vide, is a popular method for cooking a variety of recipes. But there are some differences between the two, and we outline them below.

What Is Pan Frying?

Pan frying is also referred to as shallow frying because it doesn’t use a lot of oil. Unlike deep frying, during which you place your ingredients into a large amount of oil, completely surrounding the food in oil as it cooks, when you pan fry, you add a layer of oil to a pan and then place your ingredients in.

For example, if you’re using a skillet to pan fry, you can fill roughly 1/3 of it with the oil of your choice. No deep fryer necessary! But this does require that you flip your ingredients as they cook to ensure they’re fried evenly and completely.

In terms of the temperature that’s used during pan frying, it typically ranges from 325-400°F. It’s important to preheat the oil, and then keep it at the right temperature while you’re cooking. Doing so can help prevent the ingredients from absorbing too much oil. And, to maintain the temperature as you add new ingredients, you might need to adjust the amount of heat from your burner, too, so there’s a bit of work involved just to get the cooking temperature right, and that can become tedious.

How Is Pan Frying Different from Sous Vide?

Unlike pan frying, which requires that you use your stove and keep an eye on everything from start to finish, with sous vide, you can enjoy the perks of a “set it and forget it” method.

Using a sous vide machine, you can cook a wide range of ingredients without handling them at all. That’s because you just need to put your ingredients into plastic bags before submerging them in a water bath to let the machine do the rest. You just set the temperature and cook time on your sous vide oven or circulator, and it will take care of everything until the ingredients are done cooking.

Another way that sous vide differs from pan frying is the temperature that’s typically used. While you need to use high temperatures to pan fry, sous vide is a method of cooking your ingredients slowly and over a longer span of time, so the temperature is lower, such as around 140°F or less. The water is heated to whatever temperature you set, and then that temperature is maintained for the duration of the cook time, so you don’t have to worry about changing the amount of heat to the water like you do when pan frying on a stovetop.

Finally, when it comes to the end result, you can enjoy tender and juicy results when you use the sous vide method. On the other hand, when you pan fry, you can get crunchy, crispy results.

You Can Use Both Techniques for the Same Recipe!

Now that you know about some of the differences between these methods, you can see how certain recipes are best prepared using sous vide, while pan frying is better for others. It all depends on the results that you want to achieve, and whether or not you want to use any oil when you cook.

But it doesn’t always have to be a choice between one or the other. Instead, you can take advantage of both of these cooking methods to create tasty meals. Basically, you could use sous vide to get the tender results that you want, and then follow that up with pan frying to get the crispy and crunchy texture that you crave. And this is easier than you might think!

After you take the ingredients out of the water bath at the end of their cook time, you can pat them dry. Next, coat them completely in flour or breading. Get your oil ready, heat it up, and pan fry the ingredients quickly, just until the exterior is brown. You don’t want to overdo it when pan frying because the ingredients have already been cooked sous vide; instead, you just want to create that crispy exterior.

With a clearer understanding of the pros and cons of sous vide and pan frying, you can make the right choice when preparing meals for your family. But combining the two methods can be a great way to enjoy the flavor and texture of deep frying without all of the oil. Give it a try to see how you like it!

Photo credit: Pawel Bartoszek/Shutterstock

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