Fried foods are probably best enjoyed in moderation, but the crunch and texture they offer can give a simple dish added excitement. A classic breading is often what creates the crispy coating, and if done correctly, you won't notice any oil underneath the crunchy exterior. However, there is more to the process than tossing some bread crumbs on a piece of chicken and frying it.
The Breading Station
Sometimes called a "classic" or "standard," a breading station consists of flour, eggs and bread crumbs. To set it up, place three pie plates or trays with a lip around the edge beside each other on the counter. Fill the first tray with white flour, the middle plate with an egg wash and the third with bread crumbs. Season the bread crumbs and flour with salt and pepper and use a splash of milk, cream or water with the beaten eggs if desired. Coat the chicken on both sides with flour, before dipping it in the egg wash. The flour helps the egg stick to the food. Once it's well-coated with egg, press it into the bread crumbs until they stick and the outside is dry again and ready to fry.
The flour, egg and bread crumb method of frying works for a variety of different foods. Use it with meats like chicken and fish and vegetables, cheese or any deep-fried dessert, from candy bars to cookies. Naturally, you won't add salt and pepper to dessert breading, but you may sprinkle some sugar over the top when they finish baking. If you prefer a crispier coating on your meat or vegetables, try Japanese panko bread crumbs. They are more coarse and add more crunch. You can also make your own bread crumbs with stale bread.
Deep frying refers to submerging food completely under hot oil. Get your oil up to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit before you put in the breaded food to form a protective barrier that prevents the oil from penetrating the coating. Don't use salt when you set up the breading station for deep frying; it draws out moisture and might splatter the oil. If desired, add salt after the food comes out of the oil.
Pan frying food breaded with flour, eggs and bread crumbs is just as effective as deep frying, although it takes a little longer. Pan frying works for breaded chicken cutlets, veal cutlets, pork cutlets or fish fillets. When pan frying, use an oil with a lower smoke point, such as olive oil, to get some extra flavor in the coating. Add a bit of butter to the oil for even more flavor. Pan fry cutlets or fillets over medium heat and flip once, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the meat is cooked through.
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