Breading is easy. To get started, set up three dishes – shallow bowls or pie plates work well. Fill the first dish with flour. In the second dish, crack an egg and add just a splash of water. Beat with a fork until combined. In the third dish goes the breading. This is where you have options!
Get creative with the breading. Use dried bread crumbs seasoned with herbs, salt, and pepper. For more texture, use panko bread crumbs - coarse Japanese bread crumbs that produce a thicker, crunchier coating. Add a little parmesan cheese or garlic to your bread crumb mixture for even more flavor. To make your own fresh bread crumbs, take any leftover pieces of bread and buzz them in a food processor until they are very fine. Use them right away or freeze them to prevent spoilage. Mix some ground nuts (like pecans, walnuts, or almonds) into the bread crumb mixture for a different flavor profile. In a pinch, you can use crackers or corn flake cereal as a nice coating, too. Just place them in a freezer-weight plastic bag and crush them with a skillet or a rolling pin. It is a great way to use up those last few crackers in the box.
Now that you have your breading station set up, it’s time to start coating your food. First dip the item you are breading into the flour, then into the egg, and lastly into the bread crumbs. Make sure you shake off any excess coating at each step. To avoid breading your own fingers, use one hand to transfer the item from the flour to the egg, and another hand to transfer from the egg to the bread crumbs. (However, you’ll still get a little messy.)
You can bread items up to an hour ahead of time. Place them on a rack on a sheet tray and keep them cold in the refrigerator. Chilling the breaded items will make sure the breading doesn’t fall off when you cook it.
And remember that breading doesn’t have to just mean meat. Try breading zucchini slices, eggplant slices or green tomatoes for a simple side dish.
Once your items are breaded, you can cook them a couple different ways. For thinner items, pan frying is the best way to go. Fill a skillet with about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil and place over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully add your items to the pan in a single layer. Cook until golden brown on the first side and then carefully flip to cook the other side. (Be sure to flip items away from you to avoid getting splashed with hot oil.) Once golden brown on both sides and completely cooked through, drain on paper towels to remove excess oil and sprinkle with a little salt.
For larger pieces of meat or for a healthier alternative, try baking instead. Lay your breaded items on a sheet tray and place in a pre-heated oven. For thin items (such as zucchini slices), use a 450 degree F oven. For slightly thicker items (such as a slice of beef or veal), try a 400 degree F oven. And for very thick items (such as a thick-cut pork chop), use a 350 degree F oven. Cook until golden brown and completely cooked through, making sure to turn the items over once during cooking to brown both sides.
Whether you pan fry or bake, serve your breaded items while they are still hot and the breading is at its crispiest.