I usually toss the flour and chicken in a bag and shake it up. The problem is that pieces of chicken will often stick together and not get evenly coated. Is there an effective way to bread my chicken evenly without getting clumps of chicken?
I dump the chicken in a large plastic container and (as ferronrsmith) sieve the flour on top of the chicken. Then, I put the lid on and give it a good shake.
It helps if the chicken is dry. (Dried with paper towels after washing.)
I don't use the bag method to bread chicken, or other foods. I prefer the slightly more manual, but very effective traditional method:
- Put the breading mix (for example, seasoned flour) into a shallow dish, such as a pie plate or a shallow casserole
- Place one or several (as many as comfortably fit) pieces of chicken into the breading mix, then turn them over and place back down. You might need to do the sides too, for large pieces. You can pick up some mix with your fingers and put it onto any uncovered spots, too.
- When you remove the chicken, shake it slightly above the mix to let extra come off and be reusable.
This method is also extensible to more complicate breading techniques such as flour, then egg wash, then breadcrumbs. You simply have three pie plates, one for each layer in the breading, and move the foods through the layers.
If you are doing this sort of dry/wet/dry breading, it helps to use one hand only for the dry stages, and the other hand (or tongs) for the wet stage.
In comparison to the bag method, this technique has the following advantages:
- You can directly control and monitor the breading on each piece of food
- No reasonable way for the pieces to stick together during the breading process
- It scales up to any amount of food easily in an assembly line
- You can do multiple layers, including wet layers, conveniently
- There is no danger of a bag splitting and and getting flour all over the kitchen
... and the following disadvantages:
- For the small quantities of food, it may be a little more work
- The pie plates have to be washed, whereas the bag can probably be discarded
- Your hand(s) get mucky unless you use tongs at every stage
Note: this answer assumes small quantities, as in home cooking. Restaurant production also uses this method, but scaled up in a couple of ways. I have never heard of nor seen a commercial kitchen use the bag method. Now, at industrial scales, they have some cool devices.... :-)
If you're going to use the bag method, you may want to use a clear plastic bag, and only drop in between 1 and 3 items at a time (exact number depends on the size of the items relative to the size of the bag).
If you do end up getting two items stuck together, just grab one of the items through the bag, and shake until the other item falls away.
If you're still having problems, set up a regular breading station
It helps to sift the flour. I use a colander for breading. I just did this with pickles and then again with chunks of chicken and it works great, just make sure there is a pan under the colander when you are breading. Put whatever you are breading in plastic bag first, shake it up, don't use a lot of flour, dump into the colander, shake it up and bam, no mess no fuss.