I have heard of panko breadcrumb before. I have heard of it on the food network, I have heard of it all over blogland. The Japanese bread crumb, made to be a breadcrumb, not made from bread that was then crumbed. Or however you would say that. However, in my neck of the woods I’m lucky to find seasame seed oil, people. Coconut milk, we’ve got, and udon noodle, and a double handful of prepackaged sauces, at least half of which are only Asian in the American sense. However, when we went to a larger city, we stopped at a specialty food store to check out their wares. We weren’t thinking specifically of panko breadcrumb at the time, but they had it there, and we picked some up.

Now, obviously it looked different. The chunks were bigger. The crumbs looked nothing like crumbs at all, they actually looked like tiny shards of bread. They were definitely crisper, with a nice bite to them even raw. However, would they be as good as regular? Different can mean bad! An experiment, then: I would “waste” some of them on plain, boring chicken strips. We knew we liked these. We were familiar with them, and we could compare them to our favorites. Also, as further control, I would make some with regular, plain breadcrumb – just in case there was something in my technique that altered the way the chicken tenders tasted.

I picked up the precut tenders from the butcher section, since they were on sale and would save me a lot of work. I came home, rinsed them (can never be too careful!) and then proceeded to dip. All of them went first into plain flour and then for a short rest. (practical purposes, 1) to wash your hands and the board, and 2) the tenders are less squishy and gross that way) Then, all of them went into milk seasoned with ginger, salt, pepper, paprika, and chili powder. Then, finally, 1/2 of them went into the panko, and the other half went into the 75% breadcrumb/25%flour mixture I usually use in breading. normally I season in the breadcrumb mixture, but I wanted to be very sure that the exact proportions of seasoning were correct, and not somehow effected by the panko or breadcrumb dipping process. I would have put it in the first flour dip, but I had already dipped them in the flour and was letting them rest when I thought of not being able to season the breadcrumbs as per normal.

Anyway, so then I pan-fried them, 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness. I served them with a peanut dipping sauce, in honor of the panko, though honey mustard was available for trial. We ended up not using it.

The panko were by far superior in crispness and they also cooked better. The plain breadcrumb variety were easy to either undercook (the breadcrumb never became crisp, not the chicken) or burn, whereas the panko very quickly came to a crisp, golden brown coating, but did not burn until well after the chicken was cooked through. Both tenders were very…well, tender, however, the panko were slightly juicier. The panko variety were also considerably less greasy in our first run.

In further tests on just the panko, I discovered that the heat must be quite high for them to cook properly, as they are very absorbent of oils at a low temperatures. This leads to a greasy, soggy coating that was quite abhorrent. Using less oil was also not an option, as then the panko breadcrumb did burn, and quickly. Use a very thin coating of oil, and keep the heat very high (350) for best results.

Yum!

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