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How does shake and bake work?

Shake and bake is a method of cooking meat that involves coating the meat in a seasoned dry mixture, shaking off any excess, and then baking it until fully cooked. This method helps the meat cook faster while also creating a flavorful, crispy coating. Shake and bake emerged in the 1950s and 1960s as a quick and easy way to bread and bake meat, especially chicken, at home.

What Is Shake and Bake?

Shake and bake refers to a product made by the food company Kraft that consists of a packet of dry seasoning mix and breadcrumbs. To use shake and bake, you coat the raw meat with a thin layer of egg or milk, then shake the meat in the packet to coat it in the breadcrumb mixture. Excess coating is shaken off before baking the meat in the oven. This method of cooking was marketed as a fast, simple way to recreate the taste of fried chicken without deep frying.

The original Kraft shake and bake mix contains ingredients like:

  • Breadcrumbs
  • Flour
  • Spices and seasonings like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Dried milk

When you coat the meat in egg or milk, the breadcrumb mixture sticks to create a crispy exterior coating. As the meat bakes, the coating helps seal in moisture while the spices and seasonings add big flavor. Shake and bake provides a similar taste and texture to fried chicken but without the work of dredging and frying.

How Did Shake and Bake Originate?

Shake and bake was invented by the food scientist Ruth Siems in the 1950s while she worked at Kraft. At the time, new boxed convenience foods were gaining popularity among American home cooks. Kraft wanted to develop an easy baked chicken product that could approximate the crunch and seasoning of fried chicken without the labor of frying. After testing various recipes, Siems landed on the formula of using powdered breadcrumbs that adhered to chicken coated in milk or egg.

Kraft first introduced shake ‘n bake chicken flavor in 1965. It was marketed as a quick shortcut for home cooks to prepare boneless chicken portions with a crispy coating. An early slogan for the product was “so crispy critters never had it so good.” Over the years, Kraft expanded the shake and bake line to include pork, fish, and pizza flavors.

The convenience, versatility, and kid-friendly flavor of shake and bake made it popular in American households. Competing brands also released their own versions of the breaded breadcrumb coating mix. It became a go-to easy weeknight dinner throughout the 1960s, 70s, and beyond. While Kraft shake and bake remains one of the most recognizable brands, there are now many store-brand options as well.

How to Use Shake and Bake

Using shake and bake to cook meat is a very straightforward process:

  1. Pat the meat dry and generously season it with salt and pepper.
  2. Place the shake and bake breadcrumb mixture in a bag or bowl. The bag makes it easier to shake off excess coating.
  3. Dip the meat in milk, egg, or buttermilk to lightly coat on all sides.
  4. Transfer the meat to the breadcrumb mixture. Shake until it is thoroughly coated.
  5. Shake off any excess coating and place the meat on a baking sheet.
  6. Bake at 375-400°F until the internal temperature reaches 165°F for chicken and pork, or 145°F for fish.
  7. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Tips for the best results:

  • Use boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs for even cooking. Pound thicker pieces to an even thickness.
  • Let the meat sit 5-10 minutes after coating to help the breading adhere before baking.
  • Spray the baking sheet lightly with oil or line with parchment for easy release.
  • Bake in the middle of the oven, flipping halfway through, until deep golden brown.
  • Broil for 1-2 minutes at the end to get an extra crispy crust.

Shake and Bake Ingredients

While you can buy pre-made shake and bake mixes, you can also make your own from scratch with pantry staples:

Breading Mixture

  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper

Wet Mixture

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon milk

For the wet mixture, you can beat together the egg, water, and milk. Alternatively use buttermilk for a tangy flavor. Combine all the dry ingredients for the breading mixture in a plastic bag or shallow dish. Coat the chicken as directed above. Feel free to customize the seasoning blend to your tastes!

Shake and Bake Variations

While shake and bake is commonly used on chicken, the breading technique works well with many types of meat and seafood:

  • Pork chops – Use boneless or bone-in chops pounded to an even thickness.
  • Fish fillets – Try flaky white fish like tilapia, cod, or haddock.
  • Shrimp – Peel, devein, and pat dry before coating jumbo shrimp.
  • Turkey cutlets – Use thin sliced turkey cutlets or pound breasts to 1⁄2 inch thick.
  • Meatloaf – Form your meatloaf, then coat with shake and bake before baking.
  • Chicken nuggets – Coat cubed chicken breast in shake and bake then bake until crispy.

You can also give the shake and bake coating more flavor. Some ideas include:

  • Italian seasoning and grated Parmesan
  • Ranch seasoning
  • Lemon pepper
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Taco or fajita seasoning

The shake and bake method is highly adaptable to just about any type of protein you want to prepare with a flavorful, crispy crust.

How Does Shake and Bake Get Crispy?

There are a few secrets that make shake and bake deliver such crisp, crunchy results:

  • Panko breadcrumbs – Panko crumbs have a lighter, flakier texture than regular breadcrumbs, which creates a crisper coating.
  • Double dip – The wet milk/egg dip followed by the seasoned dry coating ensures maximum adherence.
  • Letting rest – Letting the coated meat sit for 5-10 minutes helps the breading set up before baking.
  • Even baking – Good air circulation and flipping halfway through prevents soggy spots.
  • Broiling finish – A quick broil at the end browns and crisps the coating.

The egg and milk create a glue-like layer that makes the breadcrumb mixture stick tightly to the meat. Baking then dehydrates and crisps this outer layer. Follow the tips above for the absolute crispiest, crunchiest shake and bake possible.

Shake and Bake Nutrition

The nutrition information for shake and bake depends on the specific ingredients used. However, in general shake and bake chicken or pork contains:

  • Calories: 110-200 per serving
  • Protein: 15-25g
  • Carbs: 15-30g
  • Total fat: 3-8g
  • Sodium: 500-800mg

Shake and bake provides lean protein from the chicken, pork, or fish. The breading adds carbohydrates, sodium, and a small amount of fat. To lighten up your shake and bake, here are some tips:

  • Use whole grain panko breadcrumbs
  • Coat all sides rather than double dipping
  • Use Greek yogurt instead of egg and milk
  • Flavor with spices instead of salt
  • Bake instead of frying

Overall, shake and bake can be a healthier alternative to deep fried chicken when prepared properly. Just watch your portion sizes!

Storing and Reheating Shake and Bake

To store shake and bake:

  • Allow to cool completely, then refrigerate in an airtight container up to 4 days.
  • Freeze cooked shake and bake up to 2-3 months.
  • Store uncooked shake and baked coated meat in the fridge up to 24 hours before baking.
  • To reheat, place on a baking sheet in a 375°F oven until heated through, 5-10 minutes.
  • Microwave leftovers in 30 second intervals just until warmed through.

The baked breadcrumb coating may lose some crispiness when stored. You can recrisp it by baking or broiling the leftovers before serving.

Dry shake and bake mix leftovers can be stored in an airtight container up to 3 months.

Common Shake and Bake FAQs

Does shake and bake need egg?

The egg or milk in shake and bake helps the breading stick to the meat. For best adhesion and crispiness, it’s recommended to coat the meat in egg, milk, or buttermilk before the dry shake and bake mixture.

Can you bake shake and bake without egg?

You can bake shake and bake without egg, but the coating may not adhere as well. Make sure the meat is very dry before coating. You can also use Greek yogurt or mayonnaise instead of egg.

What is the best chicken for shake and bake?

The best chicken cuts for shake and bake are boneless, skinless breasts and thighs. Whole bone-in pieces also work well. Pound thicker breasts to an even 1⁄2 inch thickness so they cook evenly.

How long do you bake shake and bake chicken?

Bake shake and bake chicken at 375-400°F for 15-25 minutes per side depending on thickness. Chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Check temperature and adjust time as needed.

Can you freeze shake and bake chicken?

Yes, you can freeze baked or raw shake and bake coated chicken for 2-3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before baking frozen raw chicken. Reheat fully cooked frozen chicken in the oven.

Shake and Bake Tips

Take your shake and bake to the next level with these helpful tips:

  • For ultra crispy chicken, dredge in flour before the wet milk mixture and breadcrumbs.
  • Use buttermilk instead of milk for extra tangy flavor and tender meat.
  • Flavor the breadcrumbs with Parmesan, ranch seasoning, lemon pepper, or other spices.
  • Cut slits on thicker pieces so the coating cooks through.
  • Chill coated pieces in the fridge 10 minutes before baking if you have time.
  • Broil for 1-2 minutes at the end to get the coating extra crispy.

With creative flavors and proper technique, you can achieve restaurant-quality oven fried chicken and more with shake and bake!


Shake and bake revolutionized weeknight cooking by providing a fast, easy way to bake flavorful, crispy chicken and other meats at home. With just a few pantry staples and a simple process of coating and baking, you can whip up crunchy, delicious family dinners any night of the week. Experiment with different proteins and spice blends to put your own signature twist on this classic recipe.