Food 101: How to Dredge Chicken
You’ll see a lot of recipes calling for you to “dredge” your meats prior to cooking them. Of course the word dredge brings to mind imagery of large industrial machines scooping out mud, garbage, and dead whales from the bottoms of harbors. Yes, that is what dredging technically is, but fortunately it has an alternate meaning in the cooking world.
When it comes to meats and foods, dredging actually refers to coating in flour prior to cooking it, and typically seen in any pan-cooked chicken dishes. This seems like a miniscule enough step, possibly even skipable in some people’s minds, but nooooo no no. Dredging can actually make or break the dish completely. Considering this is the first layer of anything that’s going to be touching your meat, it’s important to do it right, since it lays the basis for the rest of the recipe. Think of it as raising a puppy. Housebreak them early, and your dog will learn to crap outside like a civilized human being. Skip that step early on, and you shall be doomed to a future of endless feces and piddle spots. Think about that next time you wanna cook chicken.
Notably, one of the better benefits of knowing how to dredge properly is that chicken generally looks pretty badass after it’s been cooked after. Know how grilled chicken looks like grilled chicken that anyone could make, and chicken piccata looks like something you’d pay premium exclusively from restaurants with at least four syllables in their name? That’s from the dredging. It makes everything look fancy. It gives your meat a nice, little coating around it, ranging from tender to crisp, depending on how much you use and how you cook it.
So here’s some chicken, and there’s some flour. You’re off to a great start. It’s simple enough, so don’t worry too much about messing up. There’s no sense in measuring since the flour is relative to how much food you’re cooking. Use your best judgement, and bear in mind that if you don’t have enough in your pan, you can always add more. If you don’t have any, get off of PCFG immediately since this isn’t the place for you.
Add your flour in, and then grab whatever spices you’re in the mood for. Obviously, and most importantly, start off with a few palmfuls of salt and pepper. This is another example of “seems unimportant, why bother.” As mentioned, this is the first taste getting put onto your food, so don’t think you can get away with using nothing. “Flour” is not a flavor, so even the most hypertensive among us should be adding at least a little bit of salt into the flour. Beyond this, you’re free to throw in any dry spices to create a base coating for it. Paprika, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, etc, are all solid choices.
As far as the actual dredging goes, make sure your chicken, or whatever meat you happen to be using (but always use chicken, srs guys), isn’t too wet/slimy, since this is gonna make the flour clumpy and gross. Simply place the chicken in the flour mixture, pat it down, flip it over, do the same, and that’s it. Make sure it’s completely coated, then moved it to a plate, and you’re done. Congratulations, you now know what dredging is. Repeat with all your chicken, and then it’s on to cooking.
Beyond this, the door opens up to a million different options. After cooking, you’ve a myriad of different gravies and sauces you can whip together to serve on the cutlets. Interestingly enough, with the right seasoning in your flour, plain, cooked chicken pieces can taste good enough on their own and may not even need a sauce to go with them.
Additionally, unlike baking which involves careful, scientific measurements that can be ruined by the slightest deviation from its recipe, dredging is nothing really complicated. It’s important, but not rocket science. As such, Celiac sufferers can rest easy knowing that this will work using any type of flour/fine grain, such as corn flour or rice flour. As far as costs go, you’ll still be taking it up the ass with regards to the overpricing of non-wheat flours, but hey, it’s easy and accommodating.
As Meg mentioned in her article on herbs you can easily whip together formidable dishes using various fresh, homegrown herbs. Many, if not all, of these recipes are gonna call for dredging your meats beforehand, so stock up on flour, and get good at it.