How Does Breadcrumbing Work?
How Does Breadcrumbing Work?
Chicken goujons, mozzarella sticks, fish fingers, potato croquettes, and even breaded oysters all have one very obvious thing in common – a crisp, delicious coating of fried breadcrumbs on their exterior. But have you ever asked yourself how does breadcrumbing work?
So exactly how does breadcrumbing work? If you’re unfamiliar with the process, it’s super simple:
- Coat the food in flour
- Then coat the food in beaten egg
- Cover completely with breadcrumbs
- Deep or shallow fry until crisp and golden
So why does this order of coatings work? The main dynamic of this process is that flour + water = edible glue. Flour contains gluten and starch, which when mixed with water, forms cross-bonds that start off as a sticky thick paste, and then set solid when cooled, just as you’d expect from other adhesives. Egg is full of water (and is also tasty), so this is our water element. The order of flour > egg > breadcrumbs is simply the best method for getting an effective coating all over.
This does raise some very interesting questions:
Can we substitute the egg to make this vegan? Can we substitute the flour/breadcrumbs to make it gluten free?
The answer to both is a resounding yes! There are many workarounds that including using vegan milk or butter instead of egg (even water would work), using hundreds of different ingredients instead of breadcrumbs (including cornflakes, which works really well if you want to oven bake instead of deep fry!), and using other starches instead of flour.
So what breadcrumbs should I use? Pretty much any, but do think of the end product when making your decision! I use whatever I have to hand – ideally, it will be homemade breadcrumbs from a fresh loaf I’ve baked. But I’m not much of a baker, so often this is either store bought bread, or even pre-bought breadcrumbs already made.
Although homemade breadcrumbs give the very best flavour, they’re also likely to hold the most oil after deep-frying unless you can blitz them super fine. This makes them more calorific.
However, making your own breadcrumbs means it’s really easy to add extra flavours to the crumbs. Try adding dried herbs, paprika, grated parmesan, or even blitzing a chicken stock cube in with the breadcrumbs.
I’m a huge fan of wholemeal breadcrumbs as well, and find these go amazing with cheese (both in the breadcrumbs, and to breadcrumb cheese itself).
If your local store has them – panko breadcrumbs are very crispy and come well recommended. They’re harder and larger than normal breadcrumbs, so give a noticeable crunch that would be difficult to imitate with fresh made breadcrumbs.
Should I deep or shallow fry? To keep things simple, your best bet is to deep fry where possible. Deep frying coats the food entirely with oil, giving a very even coating throughout. The temperature of the oil is also consistent across the entire food (frying pans will almost always have hot and cold spots). This makes everything easy to control and monitor.
While shallow frying will work, bumps and holes in the food will give a very uneven fried coating, and may even miss the cooking process completely and remain raw. I only use frying when absolutely necessary - like when cooking a chicken schnitzel which is far too big to fit in the deep fryer.
I'm Martin! This blog is me asking food and cookery what's going on, while sharing some of my creations and ideas. I'd love to hear your own 'why's?' so please share every question you have!
Search the site!