Pork is traditional for German Schnitzel, the traditional dish of crispy, breaded cutlets. But there’s more to this quick and easy dish than meets the eye.
What Is Schnitzel?
At its most basic, schnitzel is a simple way of preparing thin cutlets of meat by breading and frying.
When you think of Schnitzel (pronounced SH-nit-sel), you probably think of Wiener-Schnitzel or Jäger-Schnitzel. However, these two are only a few of the dishes prepared in the schnitzel way.
The History Of Schnitzel
“Wiener” (pronounced VIEN-er) means “Viennese” or “from Vienna” in Austria.
The process for making Wiener-Schnitzel was perfected by the Austrians, and so it gained their name.
However the act of making schnitzel can be traced back to the Byzantine Empire in the 7th century!
The legend goes that Kaiser Basileios I, in the late 800’s AD, liked his meat to be covered in sheets of gold. This practice soon become popular with the wealthy, but it was also very expensive. (As you could imagine!)
So, an alternative “yellow gold” was created.
Bread crumbs are much cheaper than sheet of gold!
Using breadcrumbs to coat meat quickly became a widely used preparation method.
In the 1800s, an Austrian general was served a dish of bread crumb-coated veal cutlets while in Milan. He brought the idea back to the Austrian Kaiser, and it was in Vienna that Wiener-Schnitzel was perfected and became famous.
What Kind Of Meat Is Used For Schnitzel?
As we mentioned, there are many variations of schnitzel.
- Wiener-Schnitzel must be made with veal
- Schweine-Schnitzel is made with pork
- Puten-Schnitzel uses turkey
- Hänchen-Schnitzel is made with chicken
How To Make German Schnitzel
No matter what meat you choose, schnitzel is incredibly easy to make.
- Start with thin cuts of meat
- Pound them even thinner
- Coat in breadcrumbs
- Fry them
What looks like a fancy meal comes together in about 30 minutes.
The thinner the cuts of meat you start out with, the less pounding they need. Remember, the goal of pounding them thin is to tenderize them and get them to a thickness that will cook all the way through in the time it takes to turn the breading to a nice golden brown.
What Sauce Is Served With Schnitzel?
While not all schnitzel is served with sauce, there are some very common variations that do.
- Jäger-Schnitzel (hunter’s schnitzel) is topped with a mushroom sauce
- Zigeuner-Schnitzel (gypsy schnitzel) is topped with a tomato-based sauce that includes peppers and onions
- Käse-Schnitzel (cheese schnitzel) is topped with melted cheese
What To Serve With German Schnitzel
Schnitzel that does not have a sauce is traditionally garnished with lemon slices and parsley. The lemon adds a nice acidity that cuts through the fat from the frying.
A green salad also makes a nice addition to round out the meal and add a nice, light complement.
Traditional German Schnitzel
- 4 pork chops, (roughly 1 lb total) cut roughly ½ inch thick
- Salt and pepper
- 4 Tbsp salted butter
- Peanut oil or vegetable oil (for frying)
- ½ c unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ c plain breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs, beaten lightly
- Lemon slices and fresh parsley (to serve)
- Lightly salt and pepper the pork cutlets. Place them between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound them to 1/8 inch thick using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Set the cutlets aside.
- Melt 2 Tbsp of butter in a medium sauté pan and add enough oil to fill the pan to 1/8 inch. Heat the oil and butter over high heat. Toss a little breading into the hot oil, if it crisps up nicely, but doesn’t burn, then you know your oil is ready.
- Place the flour and breadcrumbs each in their own shallow dish. Place the beaten eggs in a shallow bowl.
- Dip a pounded cutlet in flour, covering it completely.
- Then, dip the cutlet in the beaten eggs, moistening it entirely. Let any excess egg drain off.
- Finally, dip the cutlet into the breadcrumbs, covering it completely, but not pressing the breadcrumbs into the cutlet. Let any excess breadcrumbs fall off.
- Immediately transfer the breaded cutlet to the hot oil. Fry the cutlet for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Transfer the cutlets to a paper towel lined platter or wire rack.
- Repeat with another cutlet.
- After 2 cutlets, add the remaining 2 Tbsp butter and additional oil if necessary. Heat your oil/butter and continue with the remaining cutlets.
- To serve, garnish the hot schnitzel with lemon slices and parsley. Serve immediately with spätzel, fries, or German potato salad.