Classic German Schnitzel: Crispy, Tender, and Irresistibly Delicious
Most Americans associate Schnitzel with German or Wiener Schnitzel. “Wiener Schnitzel” is actually a geographically protected term in Germany and Austria and can only be made with veal.
Wiener Schnitzel is a classic Austrian dish that has been enjoyed for centuries. It’s made from thinly pounded veal cutlets, breaded and fried to a crisp golden brown. The dish is so popular in Austria that it has even been declared a cultural heritage food. The origins of Wiener Schnitzel can be traced back to the 15th century, but the dish really took off in the 19th century. Today, it’s one of Austria’s most famous dishes, and it’s enjoyed all around the world.
The traditional German Schnitzel is prepared the same way as the Austrian Wiener Schnitzel. The only difference – German Schnitzel is made with pork instead of veal.
To make Wiener Schnitzel, you’ll need to start with thinly pounded veal cutlets. The cutlets are then dipped in flour, then in egg, and finally in breadcrumbs. They’re then fried in hot oil until they’re crispy and golden brown. The result is a tender, juicy cutlet with a crispy, crunchy coating.
But whether it’s a German Schnitzel or a Wiener Schnitzel, when it’s perfectly breaded, fried, and crispy, practically everyone loves a good Schnitzel! And now you can make it – perfectly – in your own kitchen!
Different 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 entrée plate.
- German Schnitzel (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. A healthy-ish option.
- 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 a fried egg and capers. The schnitzel is served with roasted bread, smoked salmon, sardines and anchovy fillets. This variation is originally from the northern part of Germany.
- Piccata – has Italian origins, typically veal or chicken cutlets dredged in flour and pan-fried with added chicken stock, lemon juice and capers.
- Schnitzel Hunter Style (Jägerschnitzel) – originally made with venison or wild boar cutlets or duck breasts and translates to “hunter’s cutlets” from German. Nowadays it’s a typical schnitzel served with a thick mushroom gravy. Does not have to breaded, just dredged in flour.
- Schnitzel with Gypsy Sauce (Zigeunerschnitzel) – traditional German schnitzel served with a spicy red pepper sauce.
- Vegetarian – a thinly sliced eggplant or other suitable vegetable such as squash.
What you need to make the Best German Schnitzel
- Cut of meat: Use boneless cutlets of pork, chicken, veal or even vegetables like eggplant or squash
- Pound the meat: For a tender and even schnitzel, pound the meat thinly and uniformly using a meat mallet or rolling pin. This helps it cook evenly and makes it easier to bread. Use plastic wrap or a zip-top bag to reduce clean up afterwards.
- Seasoning: Don’t forget to season the meat with salt and pepper before breading. This ensures that the schnitzel is flavorful throughout.
- Breading station: Set up a breading station with three separate shallow dishes or plates: one for flour, one for beaten eggs, and one for breadcrumbs. This keeps the process organized and efficient.
- Use the right breadcrumbs: You can make your own bread crumbs by drying sliced sandwich bread in the oven and then transferring it to a food processor, and processing it until fine. 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.
- To expert tricks ro create extra fluffy breading: Brush a little bit of vodka onto the Schnitzel before flouring them. The alcohol will evaporate and make the breading more fluffy. Another tip is to add 2 tbsp. of unsweetened whipped cream under the egg mixture to make the breading more airy.
- Frying temperature: Heat the oil to around 330-350°F (165-175°C) before frying the schnitzel. Maintaining the right temperature is crucial for achieving a crispy crust without overcooking the meat.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan: Fry one or two schnitzels at a time to avoid overcrowding the pan, which can cause the oil temperature to drop and lead to soggy schnitzel.
- Use the right oil: Use a neutral oil with a high smoke point, such as vegetable or canola oil, for frying. This ensures that the schnitzel gets crispy without any unwanted flavors. I prefer clarified butter (e.g. Ghee) or mix of butter and oil to achieve high temperatures and a buttery flavor.
- Keep the schnitzel moving: Gently shake the pan (in German soufflieren) or use a spatula to lift the edges of the schnitzel during frying to help create an even, crispy crust.
- To avoid burnt bread crumbs on your schnitzel use a fine-mesh strainer to remove as many stray bread crumbs from the fat as possible when you fry your cutlets.
- Drain excess oil: After frying, place the schnitzel on a wire rack or a plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess oil before serving.
- Serve immediately: Schnitzel is best enjoyed hot and crispy, so serve it immediately after frying. If you need to work in batches keep the Schnitzel warm in the oven at 200°F
What to pair your German Schnitzel with?
One of the keys to making a great Schnitzel is to use high-quality ingredients. The veal or pork should be fresh and tender, and the meat should generously seasoned with salt and pepper. You can also add herbs, spices or even grated parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs to give the dish extra flavor.
Wiener Schnitzel is traditionally served with a side of potato salad or roasted potatoes. It’s also often served with a wedge of lemon, which can be squeezed over the cutlet to give it a tangy, citrusy flavor. Some people also like to serve it with lingonberry jam or cranberry sauce.
I personally like my Schnitzel with French Fries, but my German potato salad or my Country Style Pan Fried Potato recipe taste delicious as well. You can serve your Schnitzel with different sauces, like a mushroom gravy (Hunter style) or a spicy red pepper sauce (Gypsy sauce) or enjoy it like it is with just a squeeze of lemon.
Best German Schnitzel
- 4 Pork Cutlets boneless, use as an alternative chicken or veal, veal cutlets would make it an authentic Wiener Schnitzel, see blog post
- 2 cups Bread Crumbs store bought or self made, see blog post
- 1 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour
- 4 Egg beaten with a fork until roughly homogenous
- 2 tbsp Heavy Cream whipped, optional
- Salt & Pepper
- Clarified butter use alternative ghee or equal amount of butter and vegetable oil for pan frying
- Lemon Wedges for serving
- Place a cutlet between two layers of plastic wrap or in a heavy-duty zip-top bag. Pound with a flat mallet or the bottom of a skillet or saucepan until about ¼ - ⅛ inch thickness. Do not pound so aggressively that the meat tears or frays. Transfer to a large plate or tray, season lightly with salt and pepper, and repeat with remaining cutlets.
- Set up a breading station next to the stove with three rimmed baking sheets or dishes large enough to fit one cutlet with plenty of space around it. Add flour to the one farthest from the stove, beaten eggs to the middle, and the bread crumbs to the one closest to the stove. (optional: you can gently fold the whipped cream under the beaten eggs, that makes the crust extra puffy)
- Working one at a time. Dip the cutlets in the flour, the egg, and the breadcrumbs, coating both sides and all edges at each stage. Be careful not to press the breadcrumbs into the meat. Gently shake off the excess crumbs.
- Heat up your cooking oil in deep walled frying pan (about 350 degrees F) as you don't want the Schnitzel to sit around in the coating before frying. Use enough oil so that the Schnitzels "swim" in it. You can use clarified butter or a mix of butter and vegetable oil.
- Carefully lay the cutlet onto the hot fat. Then, start carefully swirling the pan, allowing the fat to splash over and around the cutlet for 60 seconds. Carefully flip the cutlet. Keep cooking while swirling until the cutlet is golden brown and crisp, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
- Take the cutlet out of the pan and transfer it to the rack on the rimmed baking sheet. Blot the top very gently with an extra paper towel. Schnitzel can be kept warm in an oven at 200 degree F
- Serve cutlets immediately with lemon wedges.