How to Get Breading (Crust) to Stick to Chicken or Fish

My Father is the master of a great fish fry – moist piles of fish with a crunchy crusted exterior.  He makes crusting fish look second nature – something I took for granted for most of my youth until I moved on my own and tried to replicate his success only to find out that I was really good at crusting the frying pan and making a giant mess.

I’ve learned that a good crust is something that’s much more fun to eat than scrape from the bottom of a pan.  Here’s what I’ve learned from my Father and others about making a crust stay on your food and out of the pan:


  • Try different crusts.  I usually use flour, panko or cornmeal although a Rob mentioned on the FaceBook group that chickpea flour also makes a great crust and I’m pretty excited to give it a try.
  • Although counter-intuitive, the object you are crusting should be patted dry.  Crust sticks far better to a dry item than  wet.  Case in point: my father often does a light egg batter by dipping fish (which he pats dry with a towel) in flour before dipping into egg.
  • Once dredged, your product can sit for a while – but don’t wait too long or it will get moist and cause a mess.
  • If using egg, keep a dry hand and a wet hand.  This relates to the point above.
  • Warm your pan before adding the oil (we add minimal oil in a cat iron pan).  You’ll need a lot more warmth than you may think – make it uncomfortably hot (but not glowing red).  You don’t want the oil to smoke but it should be close.  When a single drop of water (use care – more than a drop is dangerous and will splatter) dances across the surface of the pan, you’re ready to go.  It needs to be hot.
  • Use a spatula and avoid tongs.  Thomas Keller (one of the best American Chef’s in history) outlaws tongs in his kitchen.  While we use them at time, they will only serve to remove crust in recipes that call for one.  Avoid them.
  • Only flip when ready.  It’s natural for the item you’re cooking to stick to the pan until it’s ready to flip.  Be patient and it will tell you when it’s time to flip (it’s always a bit longer than I think).
  • Flip as few times as possible.  Be brave – it won’t burn as quick as you fear and the longer it cooks, the tougher the crust.

What tips would you add?

  1. I always do Flour, Egg, then Bread Crumbs. Thats how I learned at the CIA and my fried foods, chicken cutlets, and everything else has never been better!

    Also ALWAYS wait till the oil or pan is hot enough!!!! Hold your hand enough it and feel the heat coming off it. Look for movement in the oil itself. It takes on a different look when it’s heated. In a stainless steel pan it is visible, not usually in dark/coated pans.

  2. I think the main issue is people’s fear of heat. Too cool and you’re in for a mess. One issue I’m having with my deep fryer is having the fish sink and the batter cooking around the mesh.

    • Jesse, agreed.

      One thing that may help with your deep frying – when you place the fish in it, hold it for a few seconds before releasing it. This will give the batter a chance to set before contacting the wire and should help a lot; unless of course, you’re already doing so. 🙂 I want a deep fryer (had one in my youth). 🙂

  3. My problem was using that bare minimum of oil. Without enough oil the fish would steam instead of fry and the breading would fall off. More hot oil than I’m normally comfortable with ensures that the breading seals on contact. I use peanut oil for fish frying because of it’s high smoke point. It’s hot enough when I can see it shimmer in the pan. I drop a few wee sprinkles of flour on the oil for a test. Less likelihood of a spit burn! Ok. Now I’m hungry for fried fish and lots of tarter sauce. 🙂

    • Rebecca, great tip again – I like the idea of less chance of getting a burn. 🙂 Using enough oil was a tough thing to learn here to – I was so worried it would make things so greasy when it does the exact opposite. 🙂

  4. Thanks for such a great mix turned out extra crispy and good. Did just what you said Bam Done I fried green tomatoes yummmmmmmyyyyyyyy yums. Thank you Julie from Florida 🙂