Why Jacques Pépin Recommends Using Fresh Breadcrumbs Instead Of Dried

If you're faced with any sort of cooking debate, it wouldn't be the worst idea to take Jacques Pépin's word as law. After all, the legendary French chef, cookbook author, and erstwhile co-host to none other than Julia Child has made a career of educating professional chefs and home cooks alike. Pépin has no shortage of tips for home chefs, including one that may answer one of your most frequently asked questions: Is it better to use dried breadcrumbs or fresh?

According to the star chef, fresh is always best when it comes to breadcrumbs, and it's not just due to their flavor. As Pépin explains in an episode of his "Cooking at Home" series, grinding up some fresh slices of bread will get you way more breadcrumbs for your buck as compared to dried versions. In the clip, Pépin begins his recipe for crab cakes by popping two slices of white bread (pre-cut into smaller squares) into his food processor, and extols their merits. "If I were to [use] croutons ... I would have two or three tablespoons of breadcrumbs," he says, before demonstrating that his fresh slices resulted in over a cup of fluffy crumbles. He's nothing if not economical. In fact, in Tasting Table's own interview with Pépin, the famous foodie maintained that eating fresh, seasonal food is "the first thing that [he] would tell people to save money."

Fresh breadcrumbs win in other ways, too

While Jacques Pépin's reasoning is certainly good enough for us, there are quite a number of ways fresh breadcrumbs trump the dried stuff. Of all the different types of breadcrumbs you can use in your cooking, fresh breadcrumbs are denser and moister than dried (read: dehydrated) options, which are typically reduced to a finely ground powder. This moistness makes the fresh crumbs an excellent binding agent in dishes like meatloaf, meatballs, or Pépin-approved crab cakes, since they won't just keep the meat stuck together, but also create a thicker, more tender mouthfeel with every bite.

Fresh breadcrumbs also work great when used as a crust or coating on baked or pan-fried meat and fish dishes. Again, they keep the meat underneath nice and moist while it cooks, all while supplying an extra bit of heartiness in the form of thick golden brown crumbles. Since the fresh crumbs absorb more oil than their dried counterparts (including store-bought Italian breadcrumbs or Japanese panko), you can also get away with using less oil while you're cooking with them.

Finally, you just can't beat the flavor of freshness. With the warm nuttiness of, well, a loaf of bread, the fresh crumbs instantly elevate the taste of your meal. You can also season them with herbs (fresh, of course) to pack a punch. No wonder Pépin wants as much of the ingredient on hand as possible.