The Food Lab's Thanksgiving: Fry Your Brussels Sprouts!

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Before you continue reading, may I kindly suggest that you do the following in order to save yourself some time in the future: drop what you are doing right now, and shoot an email out to all of your Thanksgiving guests informing them of the menu change you are about to make. This year, you will be frying your brussels sprouts.

I apologize for the imperative tone of both the title and the first paragraph of this post—normally I'd strongly suggest or heartily endorse a recipe. In this case, however, the results are incredible enough that not only do I think you should try it, I actually insist that you do. I take full responsibility if you aren't completely blown away by how tasty the results are.


The first time I tried deep fried brussels sprouts was a couple months ago in Austin, first in the form of a salad sopped with aromatics and a fried steam bun at Paul Qui's East Side King, shortly followed by the awesomely addictive and well-loved Fried Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Chili.


When you fry them, brussels sprouts become everything you love about brussels sprouts with none of their downside. The nutty aroma. The mildly sweet flavor. The just-tender-but-still-crisp interior. Couple that with the crisply frizzled edges and tiny pockets perfect for coating in a sweet-tart sauce, and you've got the perfect recipe for a Thanksgiving flavor-bomb.


The key to perfectly fried brussels sprouts is to make sure to use enough oil, and to work in batches. The goal is to get the exteriors to brown and frizzle just as the interiors barely finish cooking. If you try and add too many sprouts at once or you don't use enough oil, the temperature will drop and your sprouts will end up overcooking by the time they crisp properly, leaving you with soft, greasy centers.


But honestly, it's a pretty foolproof technique, especially compared to other stove-top methods like searing or pan-roasting, which require a careful eye and constant attention to ensure that they're cooking at the right rate. With deep fried sprouts, all you gotta do is heat your oil, dump your sprouts in, and wait.


A few minutes later, they emerge. Crisp, golden brown, and glistening. Want to get extra fancy? throw a few sliced shallots in there with'em. They frizzle up in just about the same time, becoming as sweet and aromatic as the best onion ring. You can eat everything as-is with just some salt and pepper, but I like tossing them in a sweet and sour dressing. Depending on my mood, that can range from one made with fish sauce and Thai chilies, to something more Western with honey and balsamic vinegar.

The best part is that deep-frying conforms perfectly to my philosophy of using as many different cooking methods as possible on Thanksgiving day (or any other big meal) in order to make sure that food isn't fighting for oven or pan space. The sprouts fry up easily in the time that the turkey takes to rest.

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