Sometimes jokingly referred to as “Southern Popcorn” fried okra can be served up like popcorn as a snack or an appetizer, but it is most often served as a side dish with meals.
Thinly sliced and properly prepped prior to breading and deep frying — as well as frying only when the oil is at the proper temperature — ensures that it will be crispy, not slimy, nor absorb too much grease.
Whenever frying anything that is breaded, if the oil temperature isn’t correct not only does the food end up soggy from absorbing more grease, but also the breading becomes so soggy that it simply falls off.
Oils and fats vary not only in the taste imparted to foods, but also in the quantity of temperature and the amount of time required before they begin to scorch and burn — or even catch fire.
The type of frying being done (i.e. saute, stir-fry, standard frying, deep frying) and type of pan as well as the size and kind of food also makes a difference as to the temperature, time, and depth of oil needed.
So whenever frying consider not only the flavor that will be imparted to the food, but also the frying temperature needed as well as the total amount of time required when deciding which oil or fat to use.
Otherwise, seemingly fried to perfection foods can still end up tasting scorched or you could even end up with a dangerous grease fire.
It is normally recommended that you stick with oils and fats that can withstand 375 F to 450 F degrees for frying foods — especially when pan frying, stir-frying, and even when using a temperature controlled deep fat fryer for any frying temperatures of 360 F and above — for the best results as well as for safety reasons.
Simply attempting to lower the cooking temperature to accommodate a lower temperature oil is going to result in any food — meant to be cooked at a higher temperature (for a reason) — to take longer to cook as well as absorbing far more oil. Use lower temperature oils only for foods intended to be sauteed or fried at 350 F degrees or less.
4 cups high heat deep frying oil, lard, or Crisco (hydrogenated vegetable oil)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6-1/2 to 7 teaspoons salt, divided (2 Tbsp. plus 1/2 to 1 tsp.)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, to taste
2 pounds fresh okra, sliced into 1/4 to under 1/2 inch thick slices (about 7 cups)
Frozen okra may be substituted for fresh okra but it must be fully thawed and then allowed to rest until it comes to room temperature before starting.
For spicy okra: ground cayenne pepper and/or Tabasco sauce (optional), to taste
In large mixing bowl, toss sliced okra with 2 Tbsp. salt and let sit 30 to 60 seconds. Cover with tap water and let soak for 20 minutes. Pour into a to colander. Rinse thoroughly and allow to drain until ready to coat. Pat with paper towels right before coating to remove any remaining excess water if required. This helps reduce the slime. If you don’t mind the possibility of a little okra slime then you can skip this step.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet — until temperature on instant/quick read thermometer reads between 360 to 375 degrees; or, when a wooden spoon handle dipped into the oil causes it to bubble steadily (hot) but it is not rapidly and vigorously bubbling (too hot); or, when a 1 inch square of bread browns in 60 seconds.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk (including Tabasco sauce if using) until they are well combined.
In a medium bowl, sift together two or three times the cornmeal, flour, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper (including cayenne if using).
Add the okra to a large bowl and pour the egg mixture over top and toss until it is evenly coated.
Sprinkle half the seasoned cornmeal dredge over the okra and toss to coat.
Sprinkle the remaining seasoned cornmeal dredge over the okra and toss again.
Fry okra in about three to four batches, don’t over crowd the pan, turning as necessary, until the slices are golden brown on all sides, roughly about 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 minutes per batch depending upon the thickness.
Using a slotted spoon or wire strainer, transfer the okra to a plate lined with three to four layers of paper towel. Allow to drain and rest for 3 to 5 minutes (to prevent any serious scalding injuries) before transferring to another dish to serve.