If you’ve always wanted to learn how to bread chicken, now’s your chance; this simple technique is the key to making pure, delicious breaded chicken magic that wows everyone in the house and keeps the mess to a minimum.
There’s nothing quite as good as a breaded chicken cutlet, served hot and crisp on, well, anything at all. Crispy chicken tenders, or baked breaded chicken, Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Milanese, or Chicken Piccata—they all rely on a coating of breadcrumbs for their mouthwatering, crunchy texture.
Once you get all your culinary ducks in a row and your ingredients organized, known in the culinary world as mise en place, you’ll be breading chicken like a sous chef in no time. This how-to keeps it simple and as mess-free as possible so you can get on with enjoying your night.
The best part about this how-to is that you can make crispy chicken cutlets ahead of time, freeze them, and pop them into the oven for a quick meal any night of the week. Keep reading! It’s all here.
Basics of Breading Chicken:
To start, you need three wide, shallow containers for the breading ingredients. Depending on the quantity and size of food that you’re making, you can use bowls or even baking dishes.
This recipe shows you how to bread chicken with flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Use this how-to for breaded chicken strips, cutlets, basically whatever you feel like breading!
Make sure there’s enough room in each container to move the chicken around freely, but not so much that each coating ingredient gets lost in the bowl.
The dipping and dredging process can get messy, but using large enough bowls helps keep everything contained. Plus, there’s a little trick for keeping at least one hand dry during the breading process….keep reading!
Here’s what to put in each bowl, from left to right, on your work surface:
- Bowl one: Flour. The flour acts as a barrier between the fat in the pan and the moisture in the chicken breast. All-purpose flour is just fine. Use less flour than you think you need-you can always add more.
- Bowl two: Eggs. A couple eggs, lightly beaten, should be all you need. For egg-free breading, there are some good substitutes down below.
- Bowl three: Breadcrumbs. Plain breadcrumbs work just fine, along with any seasonings you might want for your recipe. More about ways to season bread crumbs down below.
How to (neatly) bread chicken without a mess:
Some cooks swear by using plastic bags to bread chicken, shake-and-bake style, but it just makes for messy, gummy chicken and wastes good plastic bags, to boot.
This easy breading technique keeps one hand dry, while the other hand does the dirty work. That way you can still look up something on your phone, or get the door, if you absolutely need to.
- Most importantly, arrange the breading ingredients left to right: flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. Place the prepared chicken at the far left, next to the bowl with the flour.
- Then, using your left hand, which is known as the dry hand, turn the chicken cutlets around in the flour to coat both sides. Pick up the cutlet and gently drop it into the egg bowl.
- With your right hand, which is known as your wet hand, pick up the chicken out of the beaten eggs, give it a wiggle to get rid of any excess egg, and drop it into the bread crumbs.
- Your (left) dry hand can turn the chicken around in the bread crumbs, pressing the crumbs into the chicken cutlets to stick.
- Place finished chicken separated by layers of waxed paper on a plate. Wrap the cutlets up in plastic film and refrigerate for up to two hours before you need them.
What are panko breadcrumbs?
Panko breadcrumbs, also known as Japanese breadcrumbs, is a variety of flaky bread crumb used in Japanese cuisine for fried foods, such as tonkatsu, another type of fried cutlet.
Interestingly, panko comes from bread baked by electrical current, which yields a bread without a crust. The ground crumbs make fried foods extra crispy. They’re available online or at specialty grocery stores.
You don’t have to use them, though—you can make your own breadcrumbs with stale bread or buy plain, unseasoned breadcrumbs at the store.
How to season breadcrumbs:
You don’t have to make do with what your local market or grocery store sells—you can season your own bread crumbs for fried or baked breaded chicken any time you like.
Adding some herbs, spices, and other seasonings to the breadcrumb mixture is a genius way to make flavors pop. Sometimes, all you need for dinner is a really good breaded chicken cutlet with a green salad, so have a little fun with flavor!
Consider these interesting ways to add spice to plain breadcrumbs for the final coating:
- Chicken Piccata: grated Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
- Spicy breaded chicken tenders: cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
- Thai breaded chicken: lime zest, garlic powder, curry powder.
- Basic Italian breadcrumb seasoning: garlic powder, dried parsley, onion powder, dried oregano, salt and pepper.
- Herbed breadcrumbs: chopped rosemary, dried basil, dried thyme, salt and pepper.
- Mexican breaded chicken cutlets: grated cotija cheese, chili powder, and oregano.
How to bread chicken without eggs:
If you need to make breading stick to foods without using eggs, here are some good egg-free substitutes for breading chicken:
- Milk or yogurt: Thick, Greek-style yogurt, thinned out with a splash of milk.
- Olive oil or melted butter: One or a mixture of both makes a rich substitute.
- Vegan (egg-free) mayonnaise: Brush on a thin coating of vegan mayo before dipping in breadcrumbs.
How to bread chicken without flour:
Looking for a way to make gluten-free breaded chicken? Try these alternatives:
- Gluten-free flour (peanut flour, rice flour, chickpea flour)
- Gluten-free panko flakes
- Gluten-free breadcrumbs
- Finely ground coconut meat
- Crushed corn flakes (I love these on French Toast, too)
- Crushed walnuts (such as my walnut-crusted chicken tenders)
What else can you bread?
Try a crunchy breaded topping on these great recipes, too!
Sides to go with Breaded Chicken:
How to Bread Chicken
- 16 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts (2 large)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Zest from 1 lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
- 1 cup olive oil
To bread the chicken:
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup. Top with a wire rack coated with nonstick spray or olive oil.
- Cover a cutting board completely with a piece of plastic wrap. Add chicken breasts. Working with one breast at a time, place your palm on top of the breast and slice in half horizontally so you have two cutlets. Repeat with the second breast.
- Arrange all four cutlets in a single layer on the plastic wrap-covered cutting board. Cover with a second piece of plastic wrap. Pound chicken breasts to an even thickness, about 1/4-inch. Remove top layer of plastic wrap and season breasts with salt and pepper.
- In a shallow dish, add flour. In a second shallow dish, add eggs and beat lightly. In a third shallow dish, combine panko, grated Parmesan, parsley, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir to combine.
- Working with one cutlet at a time, dredge in flour and shake off excess. Dip in eggs and tap gently on side of dish to remove excess. Add to panko mixture and press gently until crumbs adhere. Transfer to a large plate and repeat with remaining cutlets (cutlets can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 hours).
To fry the chicken:
- Line rimmed baking sheet or large plate with 3 layers of paper towels. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat remaining 1 cup oil until shimmering. Add 2 cutlets and fry until deep golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
- Drain cutlets well on paper towel-lined plate and transfer to prepared wire rack in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining 2 cutlets.