You don't have to "deep-fry" squash to call it Southern-Fried. I'll show you how to fry yellow squash without a lot of oil. Simple. Easy. Whether you call it yellow squash or summer squash, I call it yummy!
Summer cannot end until I have had at least one mess of fried yellow squash or summer squash as I've always called it.
What is a "mess of squash"?
In Southern speak, it means just enough for one meal. How much squash is that? It depends on how many are in your family. There are four in my family until if they are all home from college. So, a mess for us is about 4 squash- but we LOVE fried squash so we often cook extra!
Frying cornmeal-coated squash is quick and easy. If you read my post on Perfect Every Time Fried Green Tomatoes, you saw that it took 3 plates to coat them in flour, milk/egg mixture, and cornmeal/flour mixture. Totally worth the effort!
With this recipe, it can be as simple as pressing the sliced squash into cornmeal and frying them!
I did a side by side visual poll on my Instagram story a while back to see if anyone could tell the difference between fried squash coated in plain cornmeal and fried squash coated in a mixture of flour and cornmeal.
They looked almost exactly the same but the cornmeal-only slices were slightly darker. That could have been the dappled sunlight and how I fried them because they tasted exactly the same and my family couldn't tell them apart.
How do you coat the squash in cornmeal?
It's as easy as slicing the squash and pressing the squash into the salted cornmeal immediately. The little bit of moisture produced on the cut sides of the squash is enough to make the cornmeal stick to the squash. That's it! No messy batter.
How much oil do I need to fry squash?
I recommend using just enough vegetable oil to reach a depth of 1/4 inch in the bottom of a high-sided skillet or large saucepan. Any more oil than that is wasted unless you are frying a large volume of squash. I like to bring the temperature up to between 360 and 375 degrees because the squash browns quickly. If the oil is too low, the coated squash starts to absorb more oil and the texture is soggy rather than crisp.
Check the temperature right after adding the squash and adjust the heat to make sure it comes back to 375 as quickly as possible. I usually keep the heat on medium-high. I probably could have added fewer squash to this batch and it wouldn't have dropped to 337 degrees. Medium high heat is a good average heat to start with, adjusting as needed.
How does a digital laser thermometer work?
One of the absolute most valuable tools in my kitchen now is this digital laser thermometer gun! It measures the surface temperature of hot oil and candy mixtures. Just point and click!
Disclaimer: I realize it doesn't measure the internal temps of things like meat but I have found that it is pretty acurate when it comes to gauging oil compared to a candy thermometer.
No more trying to secure a candy thermometer to the edge of a pan or adding more oil than I need to the pan just so it will be high enough to reach the bulb on my candy thermometer.
Keep in mind, though, this thermometer will not register correct temperatures on humans. It is meant for surface temperatures and does not replace a meat thermometer or instant read that measures the internal temperature of food.
What kind of cornmeal should I use?
I like to use yellow cornmeal for almost everything but especially for frying yellow squash. It just seems to enhance the yellow in the squash and doesn't mute it like white cornmeal.
This easy, shortcut recipe works with any cornmeal: yellow, white, stone ground. Make sure you are using cornmeal and not cornbread mix or cornmeal mix. Those have leaving (baking powder) in them. They will work in a pinch, though!
How thick do I slice the yellow squash?
Slice the squash somewhere between 1/8-inch and 1/4-inch thick. It depends on your preference. The thinner you slice it, the crispier it will be like a chip. The important thing to remember is to slice them all evenly. If some are thin and others are thick, you will have to babysit it to see which ones need to come out first because the thinner ones will cook faster.
If you are unsure of your knife skills or just want to slice a lot of squash quickly, I recommend a hand-held mandolin. (See picture below, too) They are inexpensive and fit in any drawer. I use mine to slice cucumbers for my Crunchy Kosher Dill Pickles.
Tip: If you have a bumper crop of zucchini and no yellow squash-fry it just like summer yellow squash!
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More squash recipes you may love
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Southern Fried Yellow Squash
- Digital laser thermometer (optional)
- 2 cups vegetable oil This varies with pan size
- 6 small yellow squash straight or crookneck
- 1/3 cup cornmeal I prefer yellow
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (optional) Optional: Many people like to add flour
- Pour enough oil in a high-side skillet (not nonstick) or large saucepan to reach a depth of about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Bring temperature up to 375 degrees over medium high heat. I use a digital thermal thermometer you can buy online and at hardware stores for a quick and easy way to measure the heat.
- Meanwhile, combine the cornmeal and salt on a paper plate. Cut the squash into 1/4-inch-thick slices and immediately press the cut sides into the cornmeal. If you choose to add the flour, simply stir the two together on a paper plate for easy clean up. I find that the flour prevents some of the cornmeal from sticking to the squash.
- When the oil is at 375 degrees and all the squash is coated, gently drop them into the oil one by one. Be sure they are not touching each other. If there are too many slices in the pan, the temperature may drop too quickly and take too long to come back up to 375 degrees.
- Cook the squash about 1 minute on each side or until lightly browned. Turn the slices over with tongs and cook a little less than 1 minute on the second side. Drain on paper towels.