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How-To: Breading

Everyday Food, March 2009

Whenever we bread and fry anything in our test kitchen, the food disappears almost immediately. We all crowd around and dip the crunchy, salty bites into hot sauce, ketchup, and chili sauce, or simply squeeze lemon over the top. No one can resist! The best part is, there's no trick to breading, just three steps and careful frying in hot (but not too hot) oil. Once you see how easy it is, you'll have a new dinnertime favorite.

Get the Recipe for Breaded Chicken Cutlets

Customize Your Coating
Zesty Cheese
In step 1 for the breadcrumb mixture, reduce breadcrumbs to 1 3/4 cups and salt to 1/2 teaspoon; stir in 1 3/4 cups finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano.

Savory Herb
In step 1, stir 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme or rosemary leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried) into the breadcrumb mixture.

Crunchy Nut
In step 1 for the breadcrumb mixture, briefly pulse 1 cup pecans, almonds, or hazelnuts in a food processor; add 2 1/2 cups breadcrumbs and 1 teaspoon salt, and pulse until fine crumbs form.

More Helpful Hints
Pick Your Protein
For a change of pace, fry turkey or veal cutlets or firm white fish fillets such as flounder or tilapia -- just make sure the meat or fish is evenly and thinly sliced so it cooks through in the same time it takes for the breading to brown.

How It All Comes Together
Each component in the breading is essential: The flour makes a dry surface for the egg to cling to and the egg coating helps the breadcrumbs to stick. It all adds up to a crunchy crust when fried.

Ways and Means
A heavy skillet, such as cast iron, distributes heat evenly, helping cutlets cook through without burning. Test the oil's temperature by dropping in a few breadcrumbs; they should sizzle and turn golden brown in 15 seconds.