Welcome back wildcats! The transition back to classroom teaching was a challenge, so we’re simplifying a versatile kitchen technique – breading.
By “breading” we mean the coating of a protein, vegetable or fruit with breadcrumbs for deep-frying or baking. Most commonly found in grocery stores are standard breadcrumbs and panko, which is a type of breadcrumbs. While the standard product is simply stale and ground bread, panko is electricity cooked bread, a practice I wouldn’t recommend at home.
Since bread with an electric charge is cooked from the inside out, it lacks a crust. This allows the inside to be cooked in the same way as the outside, resulting in a crispier coating than traditional breadcrumbs. Plan your breaded recipe accordingly.
The next choice is how to get the crumbs to stick to your food. There are some schools of thought out there, but the right technique will depend on what you’re cooking and how you want your crumbs coated.
While this isn’t my preferred method, using water to bind crumbs to food works when cooking a piece of dense protein like pork chop or chicken breast. This is because, unlike fish or zucchini, the protein fibers don’t let much water in.
Some cooks like to separate an egg and use the yolk as a binder, but that usually means using more than one egg.
I tend to use the entire egg with about a teaspoon of water. Contrary to intuition, the binding agent must not be too sticky because it sticks to itself and not to the food. A small splash of water will help break down the egg proteins for a more even coating.
Next up are the breadcrumbs themselves. Breadcrumbs are boring on their own. Be brave with your breading! When making an Italian dish, consider adding oregano, thyme, and parmesan cheese as finely as possible. When cooking an Asian dish, play around with sesame seeds, garlic powder, or MSG. Regardless, it’s at least difficult to argue with salt and pepper.
You have your binding agent and breading, now what? The technique that works best for me is the wet hand / dry hand method. Let’s say we plan to bread and fry strips of chicken breast. The chicken is cut up on a surface, our binder is in a bowl, the breadcrumbs are on a plate and an empty plate is ready to hold our coated chicken.
Place these items in this order for assembly line-style setup.
If you’re not just breading a few pieces, I recommend staggering the amount of breadcrumbs in the bowl. The egg will drip into the rest of the crumbs, making each subsequent coating wetter and therefore less even. The object is an even coating that is as dry as possible. Adding fresh crumbs will ease this hassle.
I’m right-handed, so I use my right hand as my “wet” and my left as my “dry”. With my right hand, I place a chicken or two pieces in the egg, turn it, and cover it. With my left hand I grab a small handful of breadcrumbs and leave a good amount on the bottom of the plate.
After draining the excess egg from the chicken, I place it on the breadcrumbs plate with my right hand. I drop what’s in my left hand on top, then dab and roll the chicken until all sides are covered with my left hand again. Then it’s on the plate, ready to be fried.
This technique prevents breadcrumbs from penetrating the egg or excess egg from wetting the breadcrumbs. If you are breading more than a few pieces, expect to rinse your hands as they will inevitably get coated.
From there, your food is ready for the fryer or oven. The oven is of course a healthier cooking method, but let’s face it: fried food is phenomenal.
Don’t hesitate to explore the breading options! We’ve talked about chicken, pork, fish, and zucchini, but this world of refining your dish is wide. Cauliflower, shrimp, broccoli, and tofu are all fantastic when breaded. Remember that the more water a food like tomatoes or fish contains, the more sensitive they have to be handled in all steps.
Have fun breading and good luck this semester!