One of the hardest things about making fried sweet plantains (maduros) is having the patience to ripen your plantains until they are mostly blackened. Treat them like bananas and throw them into a paper bag to ripen faster. As their skins turn from green to yellow to mostly black, plantains get less starchy and much sweeter, which is essential when preparing this classic Cuban dish.
Trim both ends of the plantains, then use a paring knife to make 3 lengthwise cuts through the skins (try to avoid cutting into the flesh). Space the cuts evenly apart across each plantain. Gently peel away the skins, using the cuts as guides. Slice the flesh on a slight bias into 3/4-inch pieces, for about 24 pieces total.
Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, dip the edge of 1 plantain piece into the oil. It should immediately start to bubble vigorously. If not, allow the oil to heat up for another minute. If the oil is ready, carefully add half of the plantains in an even layer. Cook until browned in spots on the first side, about 2 minutes, then use a slotted metal spatula to flip. Cook on the second side until browned in spots, about 2 minutes.
Flip the plantains again, immediately lower the heat to medium and continue to cook the plantains until they are very tender and deeply browned, 4 to 8 minutes, flipping every 2 minutes to ensure even cooking. The cooking time will depend on the ripeness of your plantains and some pieces may cook faster than others, but you can just remove them as they finish cooking.
Transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Season generously with salt on both sides. Repeat the cooking process with the remaining plantains, adding more oil if needed to maintain 1/4 inch.
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