Learn how to make thin and crispy German schnitzel – veal, pork or chicken. Tips on preparing an entire platter for family gatherings or Oktoberfest parties.
What is 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.
The dish 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.
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. If your meat is more than a third of an inch thick before you cook it, you will not be making a pork schnitzel, you will be making a boneless pork chop.
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.
What Ingredients You Need to Prepare a Schnitzel
- boneless cutlets of pork, chicken breast or veal slices
- a standard breading procedure set up – a shallow bowl with flour, another one with egg mixture (beaten eggs and water) and a third one with breadcrumbs. If you’d like extra crispy schnitzels you can consider mixing Panko breadcrumbs with the regular bread crumbs or use Panko only.
- dried herbs or spices – optional, to flavor the flour (onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, paprika, etc).
- a meat mallet to make the meat cutlets tender
- plastic wrap and a non-slip cutting board (or you can place a towel underneath your cutting board instead)
How to Make Schnitzel
- Place the cuts of meat between sheets of 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 all purpose 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 vegetable oil over medium-high heat to 350 F and for best results fry two schnitzels at a time. The cooking time is about 2-3 minutes per side, depending on how large your pounded cutlets are. When they turn golden brown and crispy remove from the fry pan and place onto a paper towels lined plate or over a wire rack.
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 the cutlet – you are looking for 165 F for chicken and 155 F for pork.
Types of Schnitzel
- Wiener Schnitzel – the most famous schnitzel is known as Wiener schnitzel (Viennese schnitzel) and is made from veal cutlets (also known as scallopini). 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 – has Italian origins, typically veal or 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. Hunter schnitzel is always served with a thick mushroom gravy. Does not have to breaded, just dredged in flour.
- Vegetarian – a thinly sliced eggplant or other suitable vegetable such as squash. Breaded and pan-fried in the manner of a 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).
The breaded cutlets are best when served as soon as prepared. Let 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 cutlets, but not as much if you are making a dozen or more at the same time like I did for this platter. When cooking multiples they can get cold and soggy pretty quickly. What to do in such a situation?
To keep cooked schnitzels crispy and warm turn your oven to about 150 F and place inside a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pan-fry them, drain them on paper towels lined plate for up to a minute and then transfer them to the oven.
Continue to make the rest and repeat the same steps until you are done. Then transfer them all onto a pre-garnished platter with lemon wedges 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; German potato salad, krautsalat or fries go great with it
- Butter and lemon juice based pan sauces are appropriate, whether simply flavored with salt and pepper of with capers or anchovies added
- Mushroom gravy such as the one used for Jägerschnitzel or cream sauces are delicious add-ons for this schnitzel recipe
- Gravies such as this Beer Onion Gravy work well too
The crispy cuts of meat pair famously with a variety of German beer styles. Our favorite are crisp and clean Bavarian lagers such as Munich Helles, Pils, Maibock and Märzen style lagers.
- 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). Turn 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 150 F oven to keep warm and crispy until it is time to serve.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 4 people (2 schnitzel per person)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 391Saturated Fat: 2.8gCholesterol: 130mgSodium: 57mgCarbohydrates: 37.5gProtein: 40.6g