I first discovered panko bread crumbs back in 1999. Please don’t ask me how I know that; I just do. I remember vividly reading a recipe that contained panko bread crumbs, and I remember vividly that I was nursing my second baby, and I remember vividly that I was hormonal and desperate, and the next thing I knew I was ordering panko bread crumbs from some market in Chelsea that the magazine recommended. On the phone, of course, because although I had a computer at the time, I certainly wouldn’t have been cool enough to use it to order panko bread crumbs. Plus, I was nursing. Not enough hands.
Panko bread crumbs, in a word, are delicious. They’re indispensable. They’ve saved the word. And they’ve really burst into the mainstream in the last few years, and are available in most larger supermarkets—even stores in my neck of the woods!
Panko are Japanese breadcrumbs, and are lighter and flakier than regular breadcrumbs. They absorb less oil, too, so after frying they result in an incredibly crunchy texture. I just love panko. They’re a wonderful creation!
When I set out to make a recipe with panko bread crumbs, I started in the direction of something Asian/exotic. But Erika set me straight and said, simply, “Why not just make something simple…like mozzarella sticks?”
So guess what I did? I made mozzarella sticks!
Let me back up: my family LOVES fried mozzarella sticks. Loves them. Even Marlboro Man. I make fried mozzarella quite a bit, but I’ll tell you that without fail, they love the panko version the best. The panko crumbs are so light and incredibly crispy, which is such a necessary contrast to the soft, melted mozzarella inside. Coating the mozzarella adequately is the key; I’ll show you the best way I’ve found to get it all to stay put. And the great thing is, you can use this same method—and same recipe—with lost of other fried items. Zucchini spears would be perfect. I’ll wait till my garden is exploding with them!
Here we go: Panko Mozzarella Sticks!
Grab the panko breadcrumbs.
You’ll need a bunch of string cheese—one string cheese per two fried mozzarella sticks you’d like to make.
You’ll need a bowl of flour…
A couple of eggs…
A little milk…
And some dried parsley flakes.
Add the parsley flakes to the panko crumbs…
And stir them together with a fork. Now, you could certainly sprinkle in a little salt, garlic salt, or other seasoning mix—even a little cayenne pepper—but I wanted to keep things simple. I don’t think the crumbs really need much help.
Next, splash a little milk into the eggs…
And whip it together with a fork.
Finally, unwrap as many pieces of string cheese as you need…
And just slice them in half with a sharp knife.
Now, this is just a great, basic way to bread basically anything with panko crumbs. Use this method for everything from chicken tenders to zucchini spears. In this case, just set one of the pieces of mozzarella in the bowl of flour…
And roll it around to lightly coat.
Next, dip the flour-coated mozzarella in the egg/milk mixture.
Coat it completely…
Then place it straight into the seasoned panko crumbs.
Rather than roll it around and disturb the coating, I just use my hand to scoop panko crumbs on top of the mozzarella so that it’s adequately coated.
Pat it gently to make sure it’s all coated with crumbs, then gently remove from the crumbs…
And place on a clean tray or cookie sheet.
Repeat until all the pieces are coated.
Now—this is an important step: Place the tray, uncovered, directly into the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes. This will flash freeze the mozzarella sticks (at least partly), which will help them stay together better when it’s time to fry, and will also keep the mozzarella from melted too quickly when it hits the hot oil.
When you’re ready to fry ‘em up, heat a good inch to an inch-and-a-half of canola oil over medium heat. Medium high or high, at least on my stove, proves to be a little too hot for panko crumbs. Medium’s about right, but you can sort of gauge your stove and see what you need to do.
Pull the frozen sticks out of the freezer…
And carefully add a few to the hot oil.
Oh! And I always feel like saying this: be careful with pans of hot oil if you have cute little roly poly kids walking around the house. I always, out of habit—even now that my roly poly kids are getting bigger—keep pans on the back burner of the stove (handles far out of reach) if I’m going to fry with oil. It’s just one of those things that crawled into my brain at an early stage of parenting, and something I’m going to keep bugging you about anytime I share a recipe that involves frying with hot oil.
Hope you don’t mind.
Things will move quickly—be ready to roll them over to the other side when the first side gets brown. The trickiest part of making these is getting the oil to just the right temp in order to melt the cheese without burning the crumbs, but it isn’t difficult to get the swing of it right away. Keep in mind that the cheese will continue to soften/melt after you remove them from the oil.
When they’re nice and golden, remove them to a paper towel-lined plate.
Yum! Look at the yummy panko breading. If I took a bite of this, you could hear the crispiness in Yonkers!
Pretty dish filled with marinara sauce.
My kids and husband were gathered around as I was taking these photos. I had to beat them away with my tongs.
Because I wanted to try one first.
The Verdict: Perfection. These are not your typical run-of-the-mill fried mozzarella sticks. The panko crumbs absolutely make them. They add a much-needed crispiness and texture to this widely loved (but sometimes tired) bar-and-grill food. You’ll love them!
Here’s the printable recipe:
And remember: use this flour-egg/milk-panko breading process on any number of things:
raw, deveined shrimp
sweet potato sticks
The list goes on!