To cook things on the stovetop in a fairly large amount of fat without immersing the food. This provides for more even cooking than sauteing.
To pan fry something you need a high sided skillet or a saute pan, a significant amount of oil without immersing the items, and a medium-high burner.
- Add your fat to the pan. How much you add depends on the item (see considerations). Turn your burner to medium-high.
- Carefully lay your ingredients to be cooked into the fat
- Let fry until the downward facing side is properly browned, flip, repeat. If you're cooking a meat and it browns before it hits the correct internal temperature, finish in a 350 degree oven.
- Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
Unlike sauteing, there is enough oil in the pan to dissipate the heat significantly more effectively, and therefore cook things more evenly (enough to come up 1/2-1/3 of the way up the sides of what you are cooking). Unlike deep frying, the heat is still directional, and your pan fried item will need a flip. Generally, pan frying is used to cook thinly cut vegetables and thinly cut or pounded meats which have been dredged in flour, or breaded (anglaised in French cooking). Although you don't have nearly as much heat coming into contact with the food as you do with sauteed food, you're limited by the amount of time the breading can take in the hot oil. Meat that has been completely browned but has not cooked through can be finished in a 350 degree oven.