Don't settle for soggy crusted food. Here are 6 tips for cooking with panko crumbs

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There is often nothing quite as satisfying as a piece of tender chicken coated with crispy, crunchy panko. Panko has become the preferred alternative to bread crumbs in recent years because panko has bigger granules, which translates into even crunchier coatings. Why then do those bread crumbs often become soggy and mushy however once they hit the heat?
While panko is very close to perfection, there are a few things that can go wrong while cooking with it. You could end up with a bunch of mush clinging to the chicken instead of that deliciously crispy dinner you were looking forward to. To avoid making even one mistake, follow these tips below and get perfect panko every single time.
1. Start with dry food
Of course, chicken may be one of the most popular foods to coat in panko, but you certainly don't have to limit yourself to it. Shrimp, pork chops, and even vegetables such as asparagus are all very tasty when they get a dip in panko, and those still name just a few. But whatever food you start out with, it absolutely has to be dry.
Moisture is the number one enemy of panko. Once moisture hits it, it will quickly turn into a soggy mess. If you're using a traditional breading with eggs and flour, the eggs will already bring some moisture to the mix, but it cooks fairly quickly and unlike other liquids, isn't absorbed immediately into the panko. Panko absorbs moisture such as water or juices from meat. Therefore all food must be patted dry with a paper towel before panko is used to coat them. This will get rid of excess moisture and give you a better chance of getting crispy panko as a result.
2. Cook at a high temperature
Regardless of whether you're frying something in a frying pan or baking it in the oven, panko needs to be cooked at a high temperature. A high heat allows panko to really crisp up, and it does it much faster. As juices from meat leak out, or vegetables start to sweat (which they all do as they begin to cook), that moisture is going to wreak havoc on your panko. If the panko is exposed to high heat however, as it crisps up it will be better able to stand up to all that moisture.
3. Cook the food on a wire rack in the oven
When food sits on a baking tray, there is no way for air to circulate around the bottom of the food and help evaporate any of the moisture that collects there. A wire rack placed over a baking sheet can greatly help with this. The baking sheet will catch any of the drippings from the food, but the space between the baking sheet and the rack will give air plenty of room to move around between the food, and between the panko crumbs that will continue getting crisp.
4. Don't flip the food too much
Messing with food when it's already started cooking can actually really mess with it. It can make it cook unevenly and if pierced, can cause many of the juices to run out so your resulting dish isn't moist and juicy, it's dry and chewy. If that food is coated in panko, it will likely fall off. If you manage to keep the panko on the food, turning it over and over again will cause the panko to become soggy because it won't cook evenly and having utensils pushed against it can also turn it soggy if they are even slightly wet, or push the panko into the food.
5. Use some oil, but not too much
Oil is definitely a necessary basic of cooking, and it's necessary when you're cooking with panko too. If oil isn't used, the panko may still get crispy, but crispy like toast - not that delicious crunch you're looking for. Oil breathes life into panko and can make it even crispier than just drying it out in the oven alone. If you use too much oil on your panko, that will also spell disaster as the excess oil will make it soggy. It can be hard to use a minimal amount of oil while still ensuring that every piece of panko is kissed by it, many opt instead for using a light spray of non-stick cooking spray. Pure olive oil variations of these can be found, and they can definitely be a big help in the kitchen, especially when you're working with panko.
6. Turn it to broil at the end of cooking time
One of the best ways to make sure that your panko turns out crispy, even if something went wrong during the cooking process, is to finish the dish off with the broiler. A broiler will quickly get rid of any moisture that remains on or around the food and if the panko started to go soggy during cook time, the broiler will fix that problem. So once your food is almost done cooking, preheat the broiler and set the food under it for just a minute or two. When it's ready to come out it will be perfectly crispy and deliver that crunch to every person at your table.
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