Panko, which simply means ‘breadcrumbs’ in Japanese, are different than the breadcrumbs Western cuisines are familiar with in a few ways. When making panko, the crust is removed from the bread first, or it’s baked without a crust altogether. Panko starts out as much softer bread than Western breadcrumbs, which are typically completely stale before they’re ground up. As a result, the panko crumb is larger and more airy than its western counterpart.
There are two ways to make panko at home. The first is the more traditional method (a tradition that stretches back seventy years…), the second a more convenient method. Then there’s a third, but you’ll have to read on.
Start with day-old whole white bread. Baguettes work very well. Shifon, my local bakery has half-price items after 7:00PM.
Cut the crusts off the bread. Reserve the crusts for regular bread crumbs.
Dry the bread in a very low-heat oven for an hour.
Grate the dried bread on a grater.
Pulse the bread in a food processor.
Air dry the crumbs on a sheet pan.
Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Method 1 is available the same day, gives you a consistently smaller crumb, but it also creates more panko ‘dust.’ Method 2 takes longer and you get larger pieces that have to be further crumbled once they’re dry, but you get more volume of panko when you’re done.
What I’ve done is to combine the two methods by drying the crumbs in a low-heat oven after they’re processed. That way, I get the pieces the right size and they can be ready in a relatively short amount of time.