Improvisation, and "making do" with the ingredients at hand, is one of the most important skills in cooking. For example, if you're making breaded pork chops and you find you're out of flour, you can usually substitute any other flour or flour-like product in your cupboards. Depending on your cooking and baking habits that might include masa, cornstarch, or even pancake mix. Pancake mix works especially well, either to hold your breading or on its own.
What Pancake Mix Is
Most of the eye-watering, six-syllable ingredients in your pancake mix are preservatives and antioxidants, which keep the mix from clumping or prevent it from developing off flavors while it sits on the shelf. The main ingredients are flour and some form of oil or shortening – usually, with a hint of salt and sugar to round out the flavors. Complete mixes or "Just add water" mixes add dehydrated eggs and milk or buttermilk powder. These are all innocuous ingredients and they are appropriate for breading pork chops or other meats, such as chicken.
The Breading Process
The classic breading process uses three separate dishes. The first contains flour, the second has milk or beaten eggs and the third holds your breadcrumbs. You pat your chops dry and then dip them in each dish successively. The flour clings to the surface of the meat, the milk turns it into a sticky paste and the paste holds the breadcrumbs in place to form a crust around the meat. Replacing the flour with pancake mix makes an equally sticky paste on the chop, and has the benefit of adding extra flavor to the breaded coating.
In fact, the added ingredients in pancake mix make it perfectly suitable as a coating all on its own, without the breadcrumbs. For a thin coating, dredge the chops in pancake mix or shake them with the mix in a plastic bag. For a thicker, crunchier coating, use the traditional three-dish method with pancake mix in the first and third dishes. The added oil and sugar, as well as the egg and dairy ingredients in a complete mix, all contribute to making the crust crisp, golden and beautiful.
A Few Pointers
The pancake mix will add a hint of sweetness to your chops. This sweetness is not enough to make your chops taste strange, but to compensate, you might add savory seasonings such as salt, pepper, paprika or even onion and garlic powder to your mixture. Pancake mix also browns more quickly than breadcrumbs, so if you opt to coat your chops with mix alone, reduce your cooking temperature slightly to allow for that. You can also sneak extra fiber and nutrition into your pork chops by using a multigrain pancake mix and by choosing whole-wheat breadcrumbs.
- The Professional Chef; Wayne Gisslen
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.