basket of squash

Eryn Thornton / EyeEm

In the summer, a stroll through the produce section at your grocery store will showcase big bins of yellow squash and zucchini at a convincing price. Squash plants thrive in Southern summers, they require little attention in the garden, and they’re the primary ingredient in a handful of nearly-sacred Southern recipes. And for some Southerners, all variations of squash dishes take a backseat to the crispy fried squash of our best summer soirees.

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However, the strength of fried squash can also be its weakness—this vegetable has a water content of about 95%. When a battered piece of squash is submerged in hot oil, the outside coating rapidly fries and creates a delicious crust for the vegetable underneath. When done right, the water trapped inside the flesh of the squash is quickly heated by the temperature of the surrounding oil and cooks the vegetable from the inside out, making an irresistibly tender interior texture. However, if there is too much water inside the vegetable, the consistency can easily become mushy and leak water onto your plate after you take your first bite. The good news is that there’s a simple ingredient that cooks have been using for years to remedy this issue: salt.

We’re not talking about adding salt to flavor the fried squash (although that’s an important step after they finish frying), we’re talking about using salt as a chemical agent to remove excess moisture from the squash before you even coat the pieces to fry them. If you cut a squash into rounds, sprinkle kosher salt over them, and put them in a bowl to sit for 30 minutes, you’ll return to find the squash circles sitting in a pool of water. The salt sitting on the vegetable’s surface draws out extra moisture which you can easily discard before frying the pieces. We recommend allowing the salted squash rounds to sit in a colander over your sink so the water goes directly into the drain and so you can easily rinse the salt off of the squash pieces after they have been treated for 30 minutes. Pat the pieces dry once you’ve rinsed them, coat them in your favorite batter, and fry the squash for a savory summer treat.