Why does the breading fall off my cutlets?

On Friday, I prepared Veal Piccata following this recipe from the Food Network. The end results were pretty tasty, but I ran into a problem that I’ve had many times in the past: when I sauteed the veal almost all of the breading fell off the the meat, leaving me with naked cutlets and a pan full of orphan breading. What am I doing wrong?

I have had this happen not just with veal, but with beef (chicken-fried steak), chicken and pork chops, any time I use a flour and egg dip technique. If I just coat the damp meat directly in the breading, it works fine. Any ideas on how I can avoid naked chops in the future when I’m using a flour-egg dip?

You have to use plenty of oil in the pan, and make sure it’s hot enough before you put the meat in. Also, don’t crowd your pan–that lowers the temp and increases sticking.

Maybe your saute pan is too cold, so heat up the oil/grease (but don’t drown the food with it) until it’s good and hot then drop your cutlets in the pan. Don’t turn them over until they have a crisp coating on the bottom.

I notice that recipe calls for a flour dip, then egg wash…and then NOTHING! Right into the oil! A proper coating should be a light dredging in flour, then a dip in the egg wash, and then another dredging in flour (or in panko, or seasoned bread crumbs, or what have you.) Just flour and egg is not how to do it.

I really don’t think it’s a sticking issue; even when I use a non-stick pan the coating will just kind of fall off. It’s not stuck to the pan, just floating around in the oil. I was thinking it might be a case of using too much flour or too much egg or not preparing the meat properly.

Uvula Donor: I was surprised by the lacking of crumbs in the recipe, too, but I had prepared veal piccata in the past with simply a dredging in flour, so I thought maybe the egg wash might make it better. Instead, it just made it fall off.

I’m actually surprised to see the egg wash for that dish. I make chicken marsala all the time and only do a flour dredge. I’d lose the egg.

Flour first.

Exactly. He left a step out.

OK, recipe mistakes aside, I still have had the same problem when doing flour-egg-something else. Has anyone else ever had the problem of breading coming off when frying, not due to sticking?

A lot of fried chicken and fried green tomato recipes I’ve seen have called for you to do an egg wash, dredge in coating, and then let your food sit on a wire rack for about half an hour before cooking. I’ve never had a problem with my coating falling off when using one of those recipes, but it does seem more of a problem when I’ve just dipped and fried.

How often are you turning the cutlets? I’ve found (especially when pan frying) that if I turn chicken cutlets too much the breading falls off just due to the tongs.

That could be a factor. I do tend to get impatient.

Well STOP IT! ** Right now**!

Yes, to summarize:

[li]Make sure the meat is dry – dry off with paper towels if necessary.[/li][li]Dip in flour, then egg, then flour/crumbs/nuts/whatever.[/li][li]If you have time, place coated pieces on a rack and allow to dry out a bit. If you are really working ahead, put 'em in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.[/li][li]Make sure pan is hot enough to start.[/li][li]Don’t crowd the pan – leave space between the pieces. Otherwise the food will start to steam rather than crisp.[/li][li]DON’T MONKEY WITH IT. Leave the pieces alone – don’t move 'em, don’t lift 'em up to check every 30 seconds, don’t flip-flip-flip. They should cook completely on one side, then turn ONCE to cook on the other. Done. Depending on thickness and desired degree of doneness, most boneless slabs-o-protein need on average 3 to 5 minutes per side. When I’m cooking thin fish fillets, 2 minutes per side.[/li][/ul]

If you dry off the meat, how does the flour stick? Maybe that’s the problem, I’ve never really dried the meat off.

Claire Beauchamp has the technique that will work everytime. The meat is dry, but not absolutely; it picks up a light dusting of flour. The fridge is the key to adherence; all other parameters being met.

Well, it’s still going to have some moisture on the surface, but it’s going to be slightly tacky instead of slimy. Think about the way a piece of meat feels when you take it out of the package–not wet, exactly, but a little moist and with a slight tendency to cling to your fingers–and compare it to the greased-pig feel of meat that’s been rinsed and not dried. You want it at least as dry as it originally was, ideally a touch drier, before you start breading so the natural texture is clingy instead of slippy.

Just try it- it does. You can’t get raw meat dry enough so that flour won’t stick to it.

I’ll have to do some experimentation this week and see if it works. Maybe fried chicken is in order to give it a proper trial. I’ll report back my findings.

Fried chicken is sort of “advanced” compared to what we’re talking about. Since you’re still learning I’d really recommend sticking to something simpler like boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pork chops, or the like. Master that, then move to fried chicken.

Deep frying is a little different, obviously the timing is different, especially if you are using bone-in pieces, and turning the pieces shouldn’t be necessary. If you are pan-frying, the technique above will work pretty well, but if you are cooking bone-in pieces, you’ll really need to fricassee to get the meat done. That means, cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid during some of the cooking – here you DO want some steam and trapped heat to thoroughly cook the meat. Brown the meat on the first side, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the pieces and cover, cooking another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the lid and cook another couple of minutes to re-crisp. Check for doneness. Large pieces and dark meat may take additional time, but smaller white-meat pieces (wings, pulley bones, small breasts) may be done at this point.