You've Been Breading Your Chicken All Wrong

When you want to impress your loved ones and serve up a meal anyone can love, nothing does the trick like fried chicken. However, anyone who's fried at home has most likely encountered the major mistakes any frying novice runs across, like not brining your chicken, using too much batter, overcrowding the pan, and much more. While each of these mistakes could be discussed for days on end, one of the most common mistakes we face when making the perfect home-cooked fried chicken comes when we bread our poultry incorrectly. 

Luckily, Perdue Farms Executive Chef Chris Moyer has arrived to help lead us back to the path of delicious and easy-to-make fried chicken. Moyer's expertise in making the perfect fried chicken stems from his experience creating new chicken sandwich recipes for Perdue associates, including restaurants who currently engage in the fried chicken sandwich wars. According to Moyer, our main mistake lies in how we bread our chicken.

The perfect chicken breading method

While breading a chicken seems easy, really perfecting this step takes some time, especially because it's such an integral part of the cooking process. "A very important element of making the perfect fried chicken sandwich is the breading," Moyer said. "It gives you all the things you love with your first bite: a solid crunch and an addicting salty, spicy flavor. To achieve optimal coverage, breading adhesion, and crunch, I follow a three-stage breading system." 

This system boils down to pre-dusting, using an egg wash, and finally, breading. "Pre-dust, which is typically a combination of flour, garlic and/or onion powder, and salt and pepper, is the first step and helps with breading adhesion," Moyer explained. "The protein in the gluten mixes with the meat protein and creates a "glue" to help keep breading on the product. It also dries the chicken out a bit, which helps the egg wash stick to the protein. Egg wash will slip off a wet piece of chicken."

After the pre-dust comes the aforementioned egg wash. "Coat your chicken in an egg wash using eggs mixed with milk or water," Moyer continued. "The egg wash helps with adhering [to] the final breading layer. It will also cook up, helping the breading to be crispy. If you cannot use eggs, I suggest using a buttermilk or maybe a mustard of some type."

With these steps in the bucket, we can finally bread our chicken!

The ultimate crispy-breaded chicken method

With the prep work all done, we can now get down to work and bread our chicken pieces. "There are all types of breading: flour, bread crumbs, cracker meal, corn meal, or cereal," Moyer revealed. "Some work better than others, depending on the cooking technique. Flour breading is an uncooked coating that cooks up nicely in the fryer. Some cooked breading can also work well in the fryer if it isn't the fryer for long, such as bread crumbs, panko, cracker meal and corn meal. When it comes to the oven, you can use pretty much anything. A little bit of pan spray will also help!"

Getting this breading just right requires a bit of care, according to Moyer. "Making sure that the chicken is dried before pre-dust is crucial," he explained. "Additionally, make sure that there is complete coverage of pre-dust before egg wash or batter. When placing the chicken breast in the final breading, make sure it is completely covered and press down on the top to make sure the breading is firmly packed before shaking off the excess."

You also want to make sure you season your breading before you dip your chicken in. If you feel iffy about using too much salt or using the wrong spices, Moyer recommends using a "highly seasoned breading for fried chicken."

A foolproof breading technique anyone can use

Once you master the basic breading technique, you can experiment with breading new styles of fried chicken. "There are a lot of topicals that can be placed on the outside of the chicken breast," Moyer shared. "The Nashville hot chicken is where the breast is dipped into a spicy oil, usually used fryer oil. You can also do a post seasoning, maybe something spicy, smoky, or tangy like a tajine. Sauces can also be used, such as BBQ, Bulgogi sauce or even a fruity glaze. We are also seeing the hot honey glaze for a sweet heat. Korean fried chicken is especially popular right now and that takes the fried chicken and refries it to make it extra crispy."

With a little practice and a big appetite, anyone can master this integral step that helps dish out the perfect fried chicken. Don't give up — after a few attempts and the advice of an expert like Moyer, you can make some home fried chicken that can put any chain to shame!