Cooking Tips

Is Your Oil Actually Shimmering? Double Check with Panko.

Don’t have an instant-read thermometer? Use panko instead.

Published July 8, 2022.

One of the most important parts about frying, especially shallow frying, is making sure your oil is just the right temperature. If it’s too hot, the exterior will brown and burn before the interior is completely cooked through. If it’s too cold, the food will end up soggy and greasy.

A lot of recipes that use shallow frying tell you to heat the oil until it’s shimmering. However, shimmering oil can be deceptive. The oil at the bottom of the pan, since it’s closest to the heat, will shimmer before the oil on top, which is still below the ideal temperature.

So how can you tell if your oil is ready for frying? Give it a test run with a pinch of panko.

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

Once you think the oil is shimmering, add a pinch of panko bread crumbs to the hot oil. Once they turn brown, your oil is ready for frying.

Alternatively, you could always use an instant-read thermometer and aim for around 350 degrees (or the specific temperature your recipe calls for). But if you don’t have one, or don’t feel like digging around your drawer, a pinch of panko is a supersimple solution.

Now that your oil is hot enough, be sure to follow these tips to keep your oil in the correct temperature range:

  • Cook in batches (instead of all at once) to avoid overcrowding, which will bring down the oil’s temperature.
  • Let your oil come back to temperature between batches (and use a pinch of panko to double-check!).
  • Use a cast-iron skillet if you have one. Its high side and excellent heat retention make it perfect for shallow frying.

This is a members' feature.