The schnitzel is easily one of the most recognizable German specialties.
Schnitzels are delicious, go formidably well with beer (which is why they are on most beer garden menus in Germany) and are both easy and cost effective to prepare.
In this post I will show you how to make a thin and crispy schnitzel.
What is a Schnitzel?
A schnitzel is a boneless, thinly sliced piece of meat, tenderized and pounded even thinner with a meat mallet, seasoned and pan-fried in cooking oil and/or butter.
Translated from German the word schnitzel means ‘cut off, torn-off little piece of something‘.
It does not have to be breaded, but must be pounded thin.
Most people assume that a schnitzel must be breaded and cooked until golden and crispy. While this is definitely correct and applies to the most popular schnitzels enjoyed world-wide, the focus (as the name suggests) is on the thin meat rather than the breaded meat.
Suppose you are making a pork Schnitzel.
If your meat is thicker than a third of an inch before you cook it, you will not be making a pork schnitzel, you will be making a boneless pork chop.
It is all about pounding it thin. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. For best results Chris and I try to pound schnitzels to about 1/4 inch thickness.
However, for simplicity, lets assume that you must bread the thinly pounded schnitzel before you pan-fry it.
I mean… who doesn’t like crispy, fried to golden things? Where is that person?
For the platter in this post I made both pork and chicken schnitzels. The step by step pictures below show the process using chicken and in the short video recipe I am using pork cutlets.
What You Need to Make a Schnitzel
To make a traditional schnitzel first and foremost you will need:
- boneless cutlets of meat and
- a standard breading procedure set up – a bowl with flour, another one with eggs (beaten) and a third one with bread crumbs. If you’d like extra crispy schnitzels you can consider mixing Panko bread crumbs with the regular bread crumbs or use Panko bread crumbs only.
By way of kitchen tools you will need a meat mallet to tenderize the meat cutlets as well as plastic wrap and a non-slip cutting board (or you can place a towel underneath your cutting board instead).
How to Make a Schnitzel
Schnitzel is the easiest thing to make besides perhaps skillet pork chops. All you have to do is:
- cover the meat cutlets with plastic wrap and pound them with the meat mallet, then flip them over and tenderize the other side. Season with salt and pepper and then proceed through the steps of the breading procedure.
- First dredge in flour, shake off all the excess and dip in the beaten eggs. Finally dip each side of the cutlets (schnitzels) in bread crumbs making sure they are uniformly coated.
- You are then ready to pan-fry. Be sure to heat cooking oil over medium-high heat to 350 F and for best results fry two schnitzels at a time. About 2-3 minutes per side, depending on how large your pounded cutlets are. When they look golden and crispy remove from the pan and place onto a paper towels lined plate.
NOTE: If you want to make sure the meat is cooked you can use a food thermometer to measure the temperature in the center of a schnitzel – you are looking for 165 F for chicken and 155 F for pork.
- 8 5 oz cutlets (pork, veal or chicken breast)
- 1 tsp each of salt & pepper
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- cooking oil for frying, as needed, start with 1/2 cup
- Place two cutlets (i.e. schnitzels) at a time onto a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Pound with a meat mallet to tenderize and thin out. Flip on the other side, cover again and repeat.
- Season the tenderized schnitzels with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Set up a standard breading procedure of three bowls - one filled with flour, one with the eggs (beaten) and one with bread crumbs.
- Heat the cooking oil in a pan to 350 F.
- Dredge each schnitzel in flour, shake off excess, dip in the beaten eggs, then in the bread crumbs. Make sure each cutlet is nicely covered with bread crumbs.
- Gently ease each schnitzel into the pan (do not overcrowd, two at a time is good) and fry for about 2-3 minutes (depending on how big the schnitzels are). Turn schnitzels over to fry the opposite side for another 2 minutes. Remove when they turn golden.
- Place on a paper towel lined plate and either serve immediately or transfer to a baking sheet in a 200 F oven to keep warm and crispy until it is time to serve.
Know Your Schnitzels
Wiener Schnitzel – the most famous schnitzel is known as Wiener schnitzel (Viennese schnitzel) and is made from veal meat. It is also the most expensive. It is traditionally breaded and baked. In Austria they take great pride in pounding the veal schnitzels so thin that they spread out quite large and pretty much take up the entirety of an entree plate.
Pork Schnitzel – possibly the most frequently eaten schnitzel, made with pork cutlets which are significantly cheaper than veal. In Germany it is the schnitzel of choice. It is traditionally breaded and pan-fried.
Chicken Schnitzel – chicken cutlets, pounded thin, breaded and pan-fried.
Schnitzel Cordon Bleu – this is a pork schnitzel, stuffed with ham and cheese then breaded and pan-fried.
Holstein Schnitzel – this variation is a breaded veal schnitzel served with fried egg, smoked salmon, sardines, anchovy fillets and capers.
Piccata Schnitzel – has Italian origins, typically chicken cutlets dredged in flour and pan-fried with added chicken stock, lemon juice and capers.
Jägerschnitzel – originally made with venison or wild boar cutlets or duck breasts and translates to “hunter’s cutlets” from German. It is always served with a thick, gravy-like sauce with mushrooms. Does not have to breaded, just dredged in flour.
Vegetarian Schnitzel – a thinly sliced eggplant or other suitable vegetable such as squash. Breaded and pan-fried in the manner of pork schnitzel. Just like the eggplant schnitzel below I dished up recently. I love to drizzle it with a vinaigrette of finely chopped parsley, minced fresh garlic, salt and pepper, red wine vinegar and olive oil (all to taste, I go heavy on the vinegar because it beautifully cuts through the crispy fried coating and soft inner flesh of the eggplant).
Schnitzel is best served as soon as it is prepared. Let it sit on a paper towel to drain for a minute and then serve immediately.
This is great advice if you are cooking two to four schnitzels, but not as much if you are making a dozen or more at the same time like I did for this platter. What to do in such a situation?
When cooking multiple schnitzels they can get cold and soggy pretty quickly.
To keep cooked schnitzels crispy and warm turn your oven to about 200 F and place inside a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Pan-fry your schnitzels, drain them on paper towels lined plate for up to a minute and then transfer them to the oven.
Continue to make the rest of the schnitzels and repeat the same steps until you are done. Then transfer them all onto a pre-garnished platter and serve with your choice of sides.
Sauces that go well with Schnitzel
- Typically a schnitzel is flavored with just a squeeze of lemon juice and a bit of finely chopped fresh parsley
- Butter and lemon juice based pan sauces are appropriate, whether simply flavored with salt and pepper of with capers or anchovies added
- Mushroom cream sauces or gravies such as the ones used for Jägerschnitzel are very popular
- Gravies such as our Beer Onion Gravy. work well too
Schnitzel & Beer Pairings
Schnitzels pair famously with a variety of German beer styles.
Our favorite are crisp and clean Bavarian lagers such as Prost Brewing Co. Helles and Pils. And if their Maibock or Märzen style lagers are in season you bet we’ll be having one of them.
This post is part of our Oktoberfest Bash 2018 series. Every year, we partner with other bloggers to bring you a veritable feast of Oktoberfest recipes.
Check out the fabulous creations from our talented blogger friends:
Bratkartoffeln (German-Style Pan Fried Potatoes with Bacon) made by Annie from Ciao Chow Bambina
I encourage you to enter the Oktoberfest Bash contest for a chance to win a whole case of Oktoberfest beer brewed and provided by Prost Brewing Co. in Denver, Colorado. You can learn more about their incredible commitment to brewing authentic tasting German beer in this post.
The prize will be shipped directly by the brewery to the winner of the giveaway. The winner will be announced on September 28th!
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open to residents of the 48 contiguous states only. Must be 21+ years old to enter. Good luck!