A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that sister Erin had stumbled across a listing at an online grocer for Shake ‘N Bake – the retro-classic Chicken and Pork coating mix. After my surprise (that it’s still around) wore off, I remembered it’s just as easy to make SNB yourself…
Who in the Boomer demographic can honestly say they never saw the iconic TV commercials with the little girl in the kitchen holding up a piece of breaded chicken, saying, “It’s Shake ‘N Bake! And I helped!”
What she did was shake the provided plastic bag containing the chicken and breading mix to effect the coating process. But she helped, nonetheless.
What it was… Er, is
The mix of fine bread crumbs and seasonings is one of a number of products that kicked off the craze for convenience in early Boomer times. Remember Dried Soup mixes? Sloppy Joes Mix? Hamburger Helper? And of course, Kraft Instant Mac ‘N Cheese?
Anyway… The big thing about Shake ‘N Bake was, you could create a general approximation of fried chicken without the fuss and inherent risks of deep frying. And baking was trumpeted as healthier, which it is. A separate mix was available with herbs and spices tweaked to complement Pork.
The coating was also claimed to help keep flavour and juices in the meat. But I was always skeptical about that.
Shake ‘N Bake today
I think the stuff cost all of a dollar or so originally, for a box containing two pouches of coating mix. Today, the same 2-pouch box goes for $4.99, occasionally found on special for $4.69.
Why so expensive? That’s a question Googlers ask frequently. The best answer the search engine could find: “Considering that it is essentially bread crumbs and seasoning, the box is expensive. […] Making your own homemade shake and bake is very simple and way cheaper. You likely have all the ingredients in your pantry right now!”
Speaking of which…
I have long used my own recipe for breading meats to bake in the oven. And like Shake ‘N Bake, I tweak the herbs and spices to suit the item being baked. My repertoire of baking mixes includes variants for chicken and pork, of course, but also for certain veggies. Call it poor-girl’s Tempura.
But the most comprehensive treatise on home-formulated Shake ‘N Bake I’ve yet found comes from chef Steve Cylka at theblackpeppercorn.com .
Far from my approach, which involves little more than throwing together salt, pepper, rosemary and a little sage (for chicken), Steve has analysed the entire coating mix phenomenon, and provides many helpful tips and insights.
Steve takes the stage
Steve’s recipe is somewhat more complex than mine
- breadcrumbs (unseasoned)
- vegetable oil
- minced onion
- black pepper
- cayenne pepper
- garlic powder
- dry parsley
- white sugar
But he has his reasons. And please note that his recipe gets a solid 5 stars from those who’ve rated it.
Use a salvaged bread bag to shake the mix and the meat. Or use a large-sized zip-seal bag.
“Switch up the spices to give a bit of a different flavour like Mexican, Cajun/Creole, Curry and much more.”
“Make sure there is plenty of air in the bag when twisting the opening. This will allow the breading to shake around more and makes the coating easier.”
Line the baking sheet with a silicone sheet or parchment paper to ensure the food does not stick.
Store in a mason jar or plastic tub with a tight-fitting lid for up to 2 months. Frozen, it will last a year.
Just one more thing
A couple, actually…
Commercial Shake ‘n Bake no longer supplies a shaker bag in the package. They say it was a sustainability decision. Claim it saves an estimated 900,000 pounds of plastic from entering the environment each year.
The commercial product probably qualifies as a highly-processed food. It contains a bunch of additives, preservatives and ‘modified’ ingredients.
But… According to the Walmart website, the original Shake ‘n Bake has a 4.5 / 5.0 rating from faithful customers. Go Figure.
~ Maggie J.