100 Techniques

Technique #23: Oven-Fry for Crisp, Golden Crumb Coatings

Here’s how we made oven-frying approachable and even more appealing.

Published Oct. 9, 2023.

This is Technique #23 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

Each technique is broken into three sections: why it works, key steps, and recipes that use it. Learn these recipe building blocks and you'll be set up for a lifetime of cooking success.

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The concept of oven frying holds plenty of appeal.

Crunchy, golden-crusted food without having to deal with a pot of seriously hot oil that threatens to splatter everywhere? Sign us up.

But oftentimes the oven method doesn’t live up to its potential. Typically, the delicious, crunchy-crust element is sacrificed for the convenience of being able to use less fat and the oven, and the food ends up tasting, well, baked rather than fried. And after all, isn’t fried food all about that great crust?

Success means achieving a golden, crispy, “fried” coating at the same time that the food within said coating is perfectly cooked—tender and moist and not dried out and overdone.

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Ingredient Size Matters as Much as the Ingredient Itself

To achieve oven-fried perfection, you need a game plan. First consider the size and thickness of the food you want to oven-fry. With fish, for example, thicker fillets or larger shrimp are best to avoid overcooking; if you want to make onion rings, thicker, larger circles of onion will cook more evenly than smaller rings. For denser foods like chicken, smaller or thinner pieces may be best.

slice white fish into thick pieces
These thick cuts of white fish are ideal for oven-frying. They hold their shape and maintain moisture in the oven.

Creating a Crunchy Coating That Sticks

The exterior crumb coating needs to form a thick shell, so that the food inside steams to moist perfection while the shell simultaneously turns golden and crunchy. In order to create a crunchy exterior coating, you need to pay attention to every layer of the coating.

Dredging the food in flour first helps give the the egg wash layer something to cling to. A thick egg wash ensures that the crumb coating will stick really well, so we like to thicken the usual egg-water mixture with flour and mayonnaise or buttermilk. This egg mixture also forms a barrier between the moist food and the dry bread crumbs, keeping the moisture in the food and thus preventing the crumbs from getting soggy.

For the outer coating, crumbs stick much better than a thinner batter-style coating. Coarse bread crumbs like panko or super-crunchy ingredients like crushed potato chips are ideal. Pack on as many crumbs as possible (pressing down gently will help them adhere), because a thicker crust is a crunchier crust.

Watch our test cook use the triple coating steps to prepare Crunchy Oven-Fried Fish.

Step by Step: How to Fry in an Oven

Here are the key steps to successful oven frying.

Step 1: Assemble Batter Station

Set up first dredging bowl with seasoned flour. Set up second dredging bowl with egg and other moist ingredients.

Step 2: Toast Bread Crumbs

For extra-crunchy crumb coating, toast bread crumbs and oil in skillet until lightly browned. Transfer toasted crumbs to third dredging bowl.

Step 3: Dredge, Then Dip

Using one hand, dredge food pieces first in flour, then dip in egg.

Step 4: Coat

With your other hand, coat food on all sides with crumb coating, pressing gently to adhere. (Using different hands prevents too much coating from sticking to hands instead of food.)

Step 5: Bake

Transfer to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Bake until food is golden brown on all sides.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Use your newfound oven-frying knowledge with any of these recipes.


Oven-Fried Fish Sticks with Old Bay Dipping Sauce

Skip the frozen foods section and make your own fish sticks using firm, meaty, haddock.
Get the Recipe

Oven-Fried Onion Rings

Fried onion rings are the perfect accompaniment to burgers, barbecue, and other casual fare. But who wants the mess and smell of deep-frying? We wanted an oven method that produced tender, sweet onions with a super-crunchy coating.
Get the Recipe

Oven-Fried Shrimp

Oven-frying promises fewer batches and less mess than deep-frying, but often the "fried" crust is forgotten. We wanted the same appealing crunchy crust from the oven.
Get the Recipe

Fiery Oven-Fried Chicken

Crunchy-coated fried chicken is utterly irresistible, but it can be a real pain. We wanted to mimic the best of fried chicken with a minimum of fuss-and bake it, not fry it.
Get the Recipe

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