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I've always understood "bound breading" to refer to a three-step process, performed with chicken or other meats that have been portioned and patted dry:

  1. Dredge through (seasoned) flour and shake off the excess;
  2. Coat with beaten egg, slightly thinned (with water, milk, etc.);
  3. Coat with an even layer of desired breading (crumbs, more seasoned flour, etc).

Recently, I came across this web page which describes bound breading as a two-step process, excluding the first step of dredging in flour. It occurred to me that, although I've always done bound breading this way, it seems like the thin layer of flour between the meat and the egg mixture would actually work against the breading sticking firmly to the meat. And yet, this is the way a bound breading is done in all the recipes and cookbooks I've encountered previously.

What is the purpose of that first light coating of flour, structurally speaking? Obviously if you use seasoned flour, you're adding seasoning; but does it really make the breading stick any better through the cooking process?

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5 Answers 5

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The flour as the first dredging step does help the rest of the breading stick. Think traction. It gives the egg something to hold on to, which then holds on to the breadcrumbs. You're right, the vast majority of recipes that call for this kind of breading call for a three step process. That's because it works better. I've done it with and without the initial flour dredge. With is better. Considerably.

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  • (And the rest of the breading won't stick to just the meat.)
    – Cascabel
    Jan 8, 2015 at 1:26
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    Empirically, you're right. It helps the rest stick. But my theory for why it works is different. Meat has a wet surface, and also starts releasing more juice while frying. The liquid layer would separate the egg from the meat, if there isn't flour to absorb it. If you leave a floured piece of meat sit around for some time, you'll see what I mean.
    – rumtscho
    Jan 8, 2015 at 7:27
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    I happened to test this out on Friday evening, using chicken breast, two eggs with a splash of milk, and panko bread crumbs. Not only was the breading successful, it held equally well with or without the flour dredge. I had to look closely, once the chicken was cooked, to tell which pieces had received which preparation. There is clearly more to the story.
    – Air
    Jan 14, 2015 at 0:51
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The last Cooks Illustrated -- America's Test Kitchen -- says the breading sticks better without the initial flour dredge. They fried chicken and exhaustively tested everything and concluded that the egg wash and the bread crumbs works best.

OTOH, i did a recipe that mixed a little flour in with the egg wash -- thinner than a crepe batter -- and thence to the bread crumbs. that works well, too.

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    Are you referring to Crispy Pan-Fried Chicken Cutlets (Sept 2017)? It says, "To streamline the traditional multistep breading process, we ditched the flour and found that we got a more delicate crust." I'm not finding another reference to breading from that or the previous issue online; I would be interested in citing and locating the source material.
    – Air
    Sep 1, 2017 at 22:47
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The initial flour coating is technically known as a "pre-dust". The goal of a pre-dust is to absorb the moisture on the surface of the substrate (e.g. chicken), and reduce the moisture at the boundary between the substrate and the coating. Excessive surface moisture can easily develop through condensation on cold meat, from washing the pieces, and from juices released by the meat during resting and cooking, and that moisture limits how well the coating can stick to the food.

Of course, for the pre-dust to work, it needs to hydrate and gel during cooking. If the pre-dust is too thick it works against you, with residual dry flour preventing adhesion.

Pre-dusting is more important when you plan to coat with starchy batters, than when you plan to coat with beaten egg: Egg proteins adhere to meat pretty well on their own, and cook more quickly than wheat starch gels. So egg/crumbs will work almost as well as flour/egg/crumbs, but batter/crumbs won't work as well as flour/batter/crumbs.

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I have used the two ways and all worked well,thus thinking the purpose of using flour is to coat the marination to avoid it washed away when passing the meat through egg wash.

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Often wondered this myself. It seems totally arbitrary because as soon as you put the meat in the egg the flour is washed off anyway. I tend to think it's one of those emperor's new clothes things, like everyone sees cooks doing it on TV or youtube and just copies them, but the folk you see doing it in videos are probably just doing it cuz they saw other folk doing it, etc, etc. I mean don't get me wrong I still do it myself, I just get the feeling it's probably pointless 🤔

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    Try flouring a piece of meat, letting it sit for a few seconds, rinsing it under the tap for a few seconds, and then feeling the surface. You'll see that the flour is not washed away just because you dipped it in liquid.
    – Sneftel
    Nov 18, 2021 at 14:48

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