Nothing is more frustrating than needing ¼ cup of one ingredient for a whole recipe. Do you buy it? Do you skip it? I often find myself in this minor dilemma with bread crumbs. (Especially when making meatballs—most recipes call for less-than-a-cup.) Instead of having a carton of store-bought crumbs take up room in the pantry, you can make just enough bread crumbs at home in a flash.
Here are my tricks for easy homemade bread crumbs:
Don’t Toast Your Bread
The first step in most homemade bread crumb recipes is to toast the bread before crushing or crumbling. The misleading word in this advice is, “toast.” True, you’ll put the bread in an appliance used to toast like a toaster oven or broiler, but the goal here isn’t to see a golden brown hue on your bread. You’re really looking to dry out your bread.
The best bread crumbs have all the moisture completely evaporated from their centers, which is why they’ll keep in your pantry for what seems like far too long for anything labeled “bread” to survive.
When drying the bread, keep your temperature super-low: 200-225 degrees is perfect. It will take slightly longer to ready your bread, but this temperature will heat the bread to sufficiently vaporize moisture but not enough to trigger the Maillard reaction that darkens bread’s surface and alters its flavor.
Use Any Bread in the Kitchen
For bread crumbs, sliced sandwich bread or some kind of Italian loaf usually comes to mind. But don’t limit your crumb-making possibilities! Any bread, in any form will work. The hot dog buns in the freezer? Yep, crumb ’em. The baguettes on top of the cabinet? Start the drying, they’ll be crumbs soon. Leftover croissants? Crumb time!
You get the idea. All breads sweet, savory or otherwise will make a perfect bread crumb as long as you get them nice and dry before crumbling.
Forget the Food Processor
Your bread should be slightly hard to the touch and dry and crispy all the way through. Now is the time to drag out another piece of equipment, the food processor. Or at least, that’s what you’ve been told! A food processor will work just fine for crumb making, but I also like to use two other, less involved, methods:
- The simple hand crunch. Wrap your bread in a paper towel and squeeze and pinch it until it has made your desired crumb texture. Then, pour the crumbs from the paper towel into the bowl and gently shake the paper towel to make sure you get every last crumb.
- The box grater. Place the grater in the center of a large bowl and swipe your bread down its sides like you would a block of cheese. The bread is so ready to crumble that you have perfect crumbs in just a few swipes—no corded equipment required! (Here’s why a box grater is a kitchen essential.)
Use Crackers Instead of Bread
The last secret to making the bread crumbs your recipe desperately needs, is not using bread at all. Crackers, bagels, Goldfish, potato chips, almost anything dry and crunchy can fill the role of bread crumb in your dish. Most recipes use bread crumbs as a way to disperse moisture and bind ingredients together. If they aren’t a binder, bread crumbs act as a crunchy topping or breading. The dryness and crunchiness of crackers perfectly fulfill these needs!
Pro Tip: One thing to watch when using non-bread bread crumbs is salt levels. Chips and other crunchy snacks come pre-seasoned, so if the recipe calls for extra salt in the breading, skip that step.
Now that you know the best way to make your own bread crumbs, try these ridiculously good breaded chicken recipes!