Few foods are more evocative of Austrian cuisine (even though the dish originated in France) than the humble wiener schnitzel, which is German for "Viennese cutlet."
Traditional recipes are made with veal cutlets, but chicken or pork cutlets can be used instead. As with many simple recipes, the quality of the ingredients is what will make or break your experience with this golden fried treat.
Avoid old oil or less-than-perfect meat and watch your schnitzel carefully to avoid burning. Eating it fresh also is important. This is not a dinner that gets better reheated the next day.
- 4 (5-ounce) veal cutlets (or chicken or pork cutlets, pounded to 1/4-inch thickness)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or brown rice flour)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs (large and well-beaten)
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Even if you can buy or cut a very thin cutlet, it's important to pound your meat before coating and cutting it. Of course, pounding makes the meat thinner, but it also tenderizes it. This an important step for schnitzel, which should be a very light, delicate dish. While a properly tender schnitzel is delicious when improperly prepared it can be, in the words of the New York Times' Kurt Guttenbruner, "like a piece of lead."
- To pound meat thinly, place the cutlet between sheets of plastic wrap for easier washing up. Use a heavy, flat-surfaced pan to pound if you don’t have a meat mallet.
- Pound the meat evenly to 1/4-inch thickness for best results.
- To bread the schnitzels, set up 3 shallow dishes.
- Place the flour and salt in one dish, the eggs in the second dish and the breadcrumbs in the third dish.
- In a large skillet, heat at least 1/4 inch of oil to 350 F.
- Working one at a time, dredge cutlets first in flour until the surface is completely dry.
- Dip in egg to coat, allow the excess to drip off for a few seconds, and then roll quickly in the breadcrumbs until coated. Do not press the breadcrumbs into the meat. The crust should not adhere completely but form a loose shell around the schnitzel.
- Immediately place meat in the pan with the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Cook the schnitzel in batches, if necessary.
- Fry the schnitzel for 3 to 4 minutes on one side. Make sure the breaded meat “swims” in fat. Contrary to instinct, the breading will take on less oil than if the meat is sticking to the pan. Also, the breadcrumb topping has a chance to puff up a little, and your clean-up is easier! You may want to swish them around a little with your fork to make sure they are not sticking to the pan.
- Turn them over once and fry an additional 3 minutes or until both sides are golden brown. Remove from pan, allow the oil to drain off.
- Wiener schnitzel traditionally is served with lemon slices and a green salad, potato salad or cucumber salad and sometimes with french fries.