Don’t Be Boring with Your Breading
Let’s be honest, breaded anything is fantastic. Especially if it is deep-fried. Even if you go with the baking option, it is still just plain yummy.
But, it could be even better if plain old bread crumbs were not the go-to option.
There are so many different options that work great and will add better crunch and flavour. Win, win.
For those with food allergies, knowing different breading options may also put this culinary delight back on your menus. Win.
Dressed Up Bread Crumbs
If you have old stale bread, or leftover breadcrumbs that you want to use up, give them a bit of a makeover before coating your food:
- Add dried herbs
- Add grated cheese
- Add dried coconut
- Don’t forget salt and pepper to taste
What the Heck is Panko Anyway?
Panko is all the rage right now. It makes a crispy coating that just can’t be achieved with bread crumbs.
Panko is a Japanese-style bread crumb that comes in two varieties “white” and “tan”. White panko is made from white bread with the crusts removed. Tan panko uses the entire loaf.
When recipes say to use panko to get the crispiest crust, this is why it works so well:
- Panko is more like a flake than a crumb. This creates greater surface area to bake or fry.
- The flat flakes do not absorb oil like regular bread crumbs, which helps maintain crispiness.
- Panko does not compact like regular bread crumbs
Panko has next to no flavour, and is very light coloured. To create a flavourful and beautifully browned crust:
- Season the panko before coating the food (see suggestions for flavouring bread crumbs)
- If you are baking instead of frying, panko will not brown very well. To make sure it has some nice colour: spread panko on a baking sheet and bake for 10 – 15 minutes in a moderate oven (350 °F) to brown the crumbs first. Stir the panko around to make sure it is all thoroughly browned. Remove from oven and cool before coating the food.
For those who need a gluten free alternative, I have seen them in grocery stores. Not cheap, but so good.
Cereal is Not Just For Breakfast
The only time I actually buy boxed cereal is when I want an interesting breading alternative.
Any cereal can be ground up and used as a breading. But, I would steer clear of heavily sugared cereals. I don’t see me breading chicken with Fruit Loops any time soon. Here are some great options:
- Rice Krispies
- Corn Flakes
To create crumbs, whirl in a food processor or place in a sturdy zip top bag and bang with a rolling pin or heavy pan. Be sure to create a fairly fine crumb.
Using cereal can really behave a lot like panko. Crushed cereal has an uneven texture that is more flat and will not absorb oil like bread crumbs do.
If using crushed cereal, season like you would bread crumbs.
Ground nuts are a great breading option. But beware, nuts can burn quickly. The easiest way to avoid burning or bitter flavour is to mix nuts with other breading.
I rarely use just nuts as a breading. Aside from the burning issue, nuts can add a lot of fat and calories. I like to use nuts to add extra flavour and texture to my base breading option.
Some great nut and seed options include:
- sesame seeds
- pumpkin seeds
Hard nuts like almonds are difficult to grind without a food processor or high powered blender. Just be careful not to over grind or you may just end up with a nut butter.
Chips Aren’t Just for Dipping!
Over the years, the potato chip isle has grown incredibly. You can now find “chips” that are made from potatoes, corn, vegetables, and other grains.
There seams to be no end to the types and flavours available.
These are awesome candidates to use as a breading alternative. When considering seasoning your crushed “chips”, pay attention to the flavours already present. Then add whatever you think would go nicely.
Pretzels and Crackers, Oh My!
Pretzels and crackers fall into the same category as cereal and chips. Crushing these add so much crunch and are a great option.
Again, it is important to consider the flavours already present in whatever you choose use. To make sure you get the flavours you want, purchase plain crackers or pretzels and add the seasoning yourself.
As you can see, there are so many options when breading food for baking or deep frying. Whenever you have a craving for that little extra crunch, look to your pantry. There are so many choices.
Don’t just use “bread crumbs” for baked or fried chicken or fish. There are lots of different ways to incorporate this crunch:
- Coat french fries
- Sprinkle on casseroles before baking
- Coat fish cakes or mashed potato cakes
- Toast your choice of “bread crumbs” in a pan and season. Then sprinkle on any finished dish
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