Why Ina Garten Skips The Egg When Dredging Chicken

Not to knock breaded chicken, but sometimes even a classic needs a refresh. Home cooking expert and beloved TV personality Ina Garten is just the person for the task. Garten's recipe taps zingy mustard and dry white wine to replace the traditional egg dredge when making her crispy roasted chicken.

Garten opting for a mixture of white wine and Dijon mustard rather than eggs means the poultry has built-in extra flavor. The clever combination is one of many simple steps the recipe creator takes to bake up a delightfully easy-to-prepare dinner. Her other secrets to success include panko — not to be confused with nor interchanged with breadcrumbs — and a multi-temperature roast.

The idea stands out in part because it's so straightforward. The two pantry staples pack in flavor and also help ensure the coating sticks so you get that nice crispy crunch. Try pairing the dish with a frisée salad for a lighter side or why not make some comforting lemony rice as an accompaniment.

Understanding the egg coating and beyond

Most recipes use egg or buttermilk as the glue to adhere flour or breadcrumbs to proteins and vegetables. For example, cooks drag pounded chicken breasts through a three-step breading station with bowls of flour, beaten egg, and seasoned breadcrumbs (in that order) to make a standard cutlet. (Though be careful. Too much flour can be the reason why your breaded chicken has a soggy crust.)

Ina Garten isn't the only one finding that just egg no longer cuts the mustard. Chefs Alex Guarnaschelli and Emeril Lagasse are mustard fans, too, using the ingredient in dredges for their chicken and catfish recipes, respectively. And it's not just the piquant Dijon that delivers results. Garten also blitzes the panko with garlic, thyme, black pepper, and lemon zest for extra impact.

Busy home cooks will additionally appreciate that there's no brining or advance prepping required. Many breaded chicken recipes, whether baked or fried, count on a marinade or soak before cooking. 

Ina Garten's crispy twists

As for the addition of wine, though Garten doesn't explain her choice, we would guess there are reasons she opts for a dry white to create a Dijon wash rather than using egg. Flavor, of course, would be one reason. And many batters tap the power of fast-evaporating alcohol like vodka, which encourages browning and crisping. Perhaps the wine here works in a similar manner to achieve a crust that looks as good as it tastes.

The "Cook Like a Pro" author also uses fat to bind the panko mixture. A glug of olive oil and a pat of butter enrich the textured breading. The combination of fats offers even more insurance your weeknight bake with finish with a well-browned topping.

Garten suggests adding sliced and dressed potatoes alongside the chicken on the sheet pan for another crispy element. You don't have to stick with starch, though. Cauliflower, broccoli, and whole Brussels sprouts can stand up to the oven and offer even more versatility to your crispy baked chicken dish.