I'm looking for something that crisps reliably for chicken fingers/cutlets/etc that can also be used in meatballs if needed...what's your go-to brand?
I am totally happy with either Ian's or Trader Joe's for my purposes - mostly as an ingredient in meat loaves or stuffed peppers and for breading.
Just buy one with as few additives as possible - and store in an airtight container or vacuum-saver bag. As I recall - Roland makes a nice Panko that's made in the USA. I think Trader Joe's label also makes a respectable Panko. There are myriads more Japanese labels if you go to a Japanese grocer, but be careful to look at the ingredients because some are panko mixes for special recipe purposes and not the plain type.
we bake a lot of bread here...so we occasionally cube a stale ciabatta or sourdough loaf from 3 days ago... bake at 300+/- until dry and crunchy. bag some for the next caesar salad and toss in the cuisanart processing until as fine or coarse as desired. store in freezer. always have some on hand. running out of bread crumbs is almost a crisis. sometimes we toss the cubes in some olive oil and herbs before roasting.
To me, Japanese panko tastes a lot like Pepperidge Farm white bread, turned into crumbs in the food processor and baked. It's not quite the same texture, but will do as a substitute if need be.
I keep a bag of Panko on hand, but mostly I make my own crumbs from whatever stale bread is on hand.