How to Dredge Chicken and Other Foods for the Crispy Coating You Love

Dredging is an easy technique with delicious payoff! Get the basic dredge definition and learn how to dredge chicken (and anything else) in flour, cornmeal, or breadcrumbs for a crisp, golden coating.

If you want crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, fried chicken, pan-fried fish, air-fried pickle chips, and classic onion rings, they all start with the same simple cooking technique: Dredging. It's a straightforward process. "Dredge" means lightly coating food with a dry ingredient, such as flour, cornmeal, or breadcrumbs. Often, you'll dredge foods before frying.

Note: Many recipes call for food to be dredged, then dipped in a liquid (such as eggs or buttermilk) followed by a seasoned coating. This process is breading—more on that below.

how to dredge chicken legs in flour
Andy Lyons

How to Dredge Food

Here's how to dredge chicken or other food.

  • Spread the coating in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate.
  • Roll the food around in the coating until the food is coated on all sides. Shake off excess. Continue as directed in your recipe.

IIt's simple to do with kitchen tools you already have on hand, or you can use a flour dredger to help evenly coat your food with flour. Additionally, you can find breading trays to minimize dredging and breading messes.

Advantages to Dredging

You dredge chicken or any other food before pan-frying to help give it an enticing brown crust. Food dredged in flour or another coating will also gain flavor and texture and get an extra punch from the oil or butter you use to cook the food.

Dredging onions
Mike Dieter

How to Dredge Vegetables

The basic definition of dredge applies to vegetables, too. For example, before frying, you generally prep the sliced onion with a light dredge in flour and seasonings for crisp-coated onion rings.

"Dredge" versus "Bread"

Breading food takes dredging a couple of steps further. Think of it as dredging 2.0. Like dredging, breading calls for coating food with cornmeal, breadcrumbs, or another dry coating. However, the food is first dredged lightly in flour, then dipped into a liquid (such as milk and/or beaten eggs), and finally dredged a final time in the outer coating.

There are several reasons to bread your food before sautéing or frying:

  • The coating keeps the food from sticking to the pan while cooking.
  • The flour and other dry ingredients seal in moisture to prevent the food from becoming tough.
  • The coating helps to brown the food and provides a crunchy layer.
  • The seasoning in the coating adds flavor to your food.
Prepare coatings in shallow dishes
Blaine Moats

How to Bread Food

Follow these simple steps for breading food:

1. Prep the Ingredients: Prepare the coatings for dredging and place them in separate shallow dishes. This allows you to dredge in flour, dip in the liquid mixture, and coat the food with the outer coating in an assembly-line fashion.

Dip chicken in flour
Blaine Moats

2. Dredge in Flour: Dredge meat like chicken or fish in flour first. The flour will help seal in moisture to protect the food from the high cooking heat.

Dip chicken in beaten egg
Blaine Moats

3. Dip in Liquid: Dip both sides of the meat in whatever liquid(s) your recipe calls for. Often this is an egg beaten with milk or water, but it can also be another liquid, such as buttermilk or beer. The liquid provides a sticky surface for the final coating to cling to. To keep your fingers from getting more coating on them than the food, use one hand to dip the food into the liquid and the other to dip into the breading.

Dip in coating such as seasoned bread crumbs
Blaine Moats

4. Dredge in Outer Coating: Create a thicker coating by dredging the meat in seasoned bread crumbs, cornmeal, crushed crackers, or whatever coating your recipe calls for. Use your hands to pat the coating gently onto both sides of the food. Set each finished piece on a platter until you're ready to fry or cook. Remember that perishable food should not be left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature (or 1 hour when the temperature is more than 90°F). Don't return cooked meat to the unwashed platter. Dredged meat is still raw and should be handled accordingly.

Put your dredging and breading skills to work in recipes like our Lemon Butter Chicken Breasts, various air-fryer recipes, and all your favorite fried (including oven-fried) recipes to create meals the entire family will gobble up quickly.

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