Whenever I attempt a recipe that involves frying, e.g. goujons covered in breadcrumbs or meatballs, the mixture does not hold together. I end up with bits of mixture floating around in the pan and either the breadcrums or crumbled meatballs create a mess in my frying pan. I then have to really scrub the pan to remove the mixture from the bottom and am left with barely anything edible to eat. This seems to happen everytime I attempt it. What could I be doing wrong?
It sounds as if you are referring to shallow frying rather than deep fat frying. With a crumb coated cut of meat or fish, such as goujons or a breaded veal scallopini, the first thing to look at is the way you coat the meat or fish. It is best to dust any meat or fish with plain (all-purpose) flour before dipping it in egg and rolling it in breadcrumbs. The initial flour coating gives a dry surface for the beaten egg to adhere to. Beaten egg will just slide off a wet or slippery surface and any crumb coating will not stay on will if you skip the dusting of flour. For meatballs it may be that the mixture is too dry and needs a little beaten egg to help it to hold together. Alternatively if the meatball mixture is very wet then it may need a dusting of flour to help prevent the meatballs from sticking to the pan.
The other cause of food sticking to the bottom of a frying pan is that the oil is still too cold when the food goes into the pan. If the food goes into cold oil then it will not sear immediately, instead the centre of the food will start to heat up and release liquid before the outside has sealed properly. These juices will tend to seep out and cause the food to stick to the pan. You should let the oil heat up in the pan for a couple of minutes, you want to see the oil "shimmering" slightly in the pan before you add the food, and if you aren't sure then drop a few breadcrumbs in the pan first and see if they sizzle. Once you are frying watch carefully as you may need to turn the heat down once the food has gone into the pan, to prevent it from burning. Also if frying in batches it is best to wipe out the pan between batches and add some clean oil, any crumbs left in the pan will tend to burn and add a bitter flavour to the new batch of food.