Sep 292010

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Warning:  read the following only if you have eaten very recently.  Otherwise you may find yourself raiding the refrigerator after you read this and adding unnecessary pounds.

OK…you’ve been warned…my conscious is clear regarding your clogged arteries and added weight.  On with the post.

Apologies first.  Camera is out of order, pictures will be added soon.

Last night I had the ultimate southern dinner.  Deep fried chicken, mashed potatos (potatoes?  Am I really Dan Quayle?) with gravy, fried okra, and cornbread.  At the risk of making the folks at Kentucky Fried Chicken angry at me for borrowing their tag line, it was “finger lickin’ good”.

I had intended to tell y’all about the chicken…crisp, moist, and tasty…and I will in a later post, but a comment last week about my Caribbean Plantain Toast suggested that I was writing too many posts on sweet recipes and asked specifically for a recipe for fried okra…so for Jerry in Iowa, here it is.  Enjoy!

Lots of folks try to fry okra and end up with the same bad result…a “crust” that is too heavy.  They use one of two methods to bread the okra and both turn out bad.

Some people use a “wash” of some sort…an egg wash for example…to help bind the breading to the okra.  This makes too much cornmeal stick to the okra and by the time the okra is done the over-coated crust is burnt.

A more rare mistake some folks make is trying to use a batter covering rather than a breading…

Yes you!!!  I see you over by the window trying to hide behind your daughter!  I’m talking to YOU!

…anyway, some folks try to use a batter.  Nope.  No good.  A batter results in too much crust.  We are making fried okra here, a southern delicacy, not sweet and sour okra in a tempura batter for the Chinese buffet.

So, let’s make some really good fried okra, shall we?

Y’all aren’t gonna believe how easy this is…hehehe…

The ingredients you need are simple…okra and cornmeal.  That’s it.  No egg wash, no “binder”, nothing but okra and cornmeal.  What makes for good fried okra is in the technique, not the ingredients.

Well…that’s unless you count the slick’um for the frying pan…veggie oil, olive oil, lard…whatever you prefer.

After capping the okra pods, cut them into chunks, each about ½ inch wide.  When you get to the skinny tip end cut it off and throw it in the container you have on your counter for compostable things.  The skinny tip will burn before the larger pieces cook.

You do compost, don’t you?  You don’t?  Why not?  You need to spend some time over at the Family Homesteading section of and pick up some homesteading-like habits…even if you live in an apartment.

There…off my homesteading/self-sufficient/earth friendly soapbox.

You need to wind up with about 1/3 to ½ cup of okra pieces per serving.

Unless you are like me.  I’m a “full cup” kinda guy.  Unfortunately, my waistline looks like it.

Now, get a large, heavy skillet.  My preference for this (and for almost every other cooking job) is cast iron.  No matter how much you pay, and no matter how “pretty” other cookware may be, NOTHING beats cast iron for good cooking.

Anyway, a 9 inch skillet is big enough for cooking 2-3 servings at the time.  For more you will need to step it up to a 13 inch pan.

Place the pan on a stove burner set to medium-high heat and put your oil or lard…remember, pork fat rules!…in the pan.  You want the oil to be about a quarter of an inch deep.

While the oil is heating, let’s get back to the okra.  There are two tricks to cooking good fried okra, and this is the first.

Put the okra in a colander, and…

A colander!  Not a screen strainer!  You want the big holes of a colander!

…as I was saying, put the cut okra in a colander and take it and the bag of cornmeal over by the sink.  You want to have all the things together because you need to do the next three things quickly.

In quick succession, rinse the okra in cold water, turn the water off and while standing over the sink give the colander ONE good shake to knock SOME of the water off, put 2-3 heaping tablespoons of cornmeal per serving in the colander with the okra, and toss gently to coat the okra.  Continue tossing until the okra is coated and the excess cornmeal has fallen through the colander’s holes.

So you’ll know why you need to do it just like that, instead of doing something different that will mess the okra up, let me explain:

(Putting on my “Alton Brown Explaining About Food” cap)…

For good fried okra results the most important thing you can do is have a “just right” amount of cornmeal on the okra.  Too little and you might as well just throw raw okra in the frying pan, and that is definitely NOT good eats.  Too much and two bad things happen…the resulting breading ON the okra is to thick and you taste breading, not okra, and second, a lot of the excess falls off the okra while cooking and burns.  That burnt cornmeal is impossible to separate from the good okra and tastes terrible.

The technique above leaves the okra JUST wet enough to pick up JUST enough cornmeal to make for properly cooked okra.

The oil in your frying pan should be hot enough to almost but not quite smoke.  Dump the colander of okra into the pan and spread it around with a spatula into as close to a single layer as possible.

Here is the second trick to getting good results cooking fried okra.  Once you have a single layer of okra in the pan…WALK AWAY!

You want to do two things here…cook it thoroughly, enough to almost but not quite burn the cornbread, and you want to mess with it ONLY ONCE.  So leave it alone for 2-3 minutes.

After 2-3 minutes carefully turn 1 or 2 pieces of okra over.  You are looking for a beautiful light brown (not tan…brown) color.  If it is there, turn all of the okra over.  Don’t worry about a few pieces here and there that don’t get flipped.  Now…you know this is coming…


The same 2-3 minutes on the second side should finish cooking it.  Do the same check of 1 or 2 pieces as when cooking the first side.

The reason I am so, well…BOSSY…about how to cook it is that the breading on the okra is very delicate while cooking and if you mess with it much the coating will fall off and you will NOT have good eats.

Now…you have a tasty choice.

You can cook your favorite southern style entrée another side, and enjoy, or…

,,,you can be patient and wait while my recipes are added here to complete the meal…mmmm…deep fried chicken done RIGHT, My special mashed potatoes, and my spicy cornbread, all done like you’ve never had before.  That along with the fried okra will have you thinking you were born in rural Georgia even if you’ve never been outside of New York City.

Which of those choices would I pick if I were you?  That’s easy.


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  5 Responses to “How to fry okra…the RIGHT way”

Comments (5)
  1. This sounds really interesting! I’m currently trying to broaden my recipe knowledge and culinary skills in general because my timemate had been trying to eat better goods and has healing ulcers and I’ve been limited by allergies and a diet…But even with that, I know that food is an atty form and should be treated as such…at the very least with respect…I’m planning on surprising him with a healthy yet tasty southern based meal and so far your guidelines for okra sound the best. I’ll definitely be trying this soon and I’ll try to let you know how it turns out.

    Thanks for the tips!

    ~ Robyn Morin

  2. thanks Bob, just made the okra and my husband, who has been eating them his whole life, said he thinks they are the best he’s ever had! I followed your instructions, including only messing with them once after they are in the pan, and the cornmeal stuck like it should, and the okra was tender and oh-so-tasty…such a simple approach but apparently less is more since they were amazingly delicious!

    I see you mentioned deep fried chicken ^ up there…I am going to look for that…if it’s anywhere near as good as the okra, I will be forever in your debt! I have tried many times to make it but just doesn’t come out quite right for some reason…actually sometimes it was quite foul ;p

  3. I just ruined some okra. And Google what did I do wrong. And found this. I’m reading this on my phone. And have I over looked the seasonings?



  4. Hi Kathleen…thanks for stopping by. We are always looking for additions to the JuicyMaters family!

    On the seasonings…if a seasoning is critical to a recipe…a bay leaf in Moroccan Peanut Butter Stew, for example…I include it in my recipes. If its just a matter of preference however, like salt and pepper on fried okra, I usually leave it off and let the reader season to their taste.

  5. This is, for the most part, how my grandma did it, with only one exception: She would ‘presoak’ the okra in buttermilk with a splash of vinegar while the lard was getting hot, rather than using water.

    Other than that…you’ve got grandma’s flawless fried Okra right here.
    Cast Iron pan, lard ‘just below smokin’, cornmeal just-enough-to-coat, single-layer, one flip – simple, quick, tasty, awesomeness.

    My daughter likes it when we strain off the fat, spread it out on a pan, and sprinkle shredded mixed cheese over it.
    That way it can melt/brown in the oven like a batch of Okra-Nachos while other sides are getting ready.


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