TIDBIT Food is breaded before being cooked to give it a crispy coating. Most breaded food is fried or deep-fried, although it may also be baked.

? For fail-safe breading, first dry the food by blotting it with paper towels. Have three shallow bowls or pie plates ready for the process?one to hold seasoned flour, one for the beaten eggs (which can be lightened with a tablespoon of water) and a third for the bread or cracker crumbs. Place a piece of waxed paper on the third plate, then add crumbs (you?ll see why shortly). Use one hand to dip the food in the flour, shaking off any excess. Use your other hand to dunk the floured food in the egg mixture, coating both sides and letting the excess drain (you can also use tongs for the ?wet dip?). Then lay the food on the crumbs and, with your dry hand, lift the waxed paper slightly to toss the crumbs onto the egg-dipped food (that way, your hand won?t get messy). Coat both sides of the food with crumbs, using your fingers if necessary to pat the crumbs over any bare spots.

? Milk can be used instead of egg for a dipping mixture, but doesn?t provide as much ?glue.?

? Save on cleanup by tossing egg- or milk-dipped food in a plastic or paper bag filled with crumbs and shaking until it?s well coated.

? Breading will stick better if you refrigerate the breaded food for 30 to 60 minutes before cooking.

? Besides bread and cracker crumbs, many unsweetened cereals (like corn, wheat or rice flakes) can be crushed and used for breading. Three cups flakes yield about 1 cup crumbs.

? When frying breaded foods, use a pancake turner to flip them so the crust doesn?t break.