Wiener schnitzel (sometimes spelled wiener schnitzel, which translates to "Viennese cutlet" in German) is one of Austria's most traditional and representative dishes. So much so, in fact, that its definition is fiercely protected by Austrian law. It must be made of veal; when made with any other type of meat, it cannot technically be called wiener schnitzel.
Thinly pounded veal is then dredged in bread crumbs and deep fried, traditionally in lard or clarified butter. (Clarified butter, also known as ghee across South Asia, is butter that has been heated to evaporate all water content. The remaining milk solids are then strained out and discarded, leaving only butter that has been "clarified" in taste and texture.)
Although wiener schnitzel is deep-fried, it should be a light, tender, and delicate dish. Several steps are key to this result. Beating the eggs thoroughly, pounding the meat thinly, frying it in enough oil and at a hot enough temperature, and lightly coating it with breadcrumbs (making sure not to press them into the meat) are all important factors.
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Gather the ingredients.
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. This takes about 8 minutes.
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.
Then roll quickly in the breadcrumbs until coated. Do not press the breadcrumbs into the meat, as this will moisten them and not make for a crispy coating. 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. Just make sure to allow enough time between batches to allow the oil to come back up to 350 F.
Fry the schnitzel for 2 to 3 minutes on one side, until golden brown. 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 2 to 3 minutes or until both sides are golden brown and the meat registers an internal temperature of 145 F. Remove from pan and allow the oil to drain off.
Serve in the traditional manner with lemon slices, as well as potato salad, cucumber salad, or French fries. Enjoy.
- As with many simple recipes, the quality of the ingredients is what will make or break your experience. Buy the best quality meat and ingredients that you can afford.
- Even if you can buy or cut a very thin cutlet, it's important to pound your meat before coating and cutting it. In addition to making meat thinner, pounding meat also tenderizes it. This an important step for schnitzel, which should be a very light, delicate dish.
- 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.
- Some people choose to refrain from eating veal due to animal welfare concerns, as calves are commonly confined during production. Schnitzel can also be made from pork (often pork chops, called schweineschnitzel) and chicken (hähnchenschnitzel); both are popular.
- Those seeking a vegetarian option have several substitutions available, including TVP (textured vegetable protein), seitan, or tofu.
- People following a gluten-free diet can use ground Gluten-Free Rice Chex or homemade breadcrumbs in place of the traditional breadcrumbs. These are quick and simple to make by toasting and pulsing gluten-free bread. Be sure to also substitute the traditional flour called for with gluten-free flour. In a pinch, cornstarch will also work, and will have the effect of making your cutlet more crispy.