What is Schnitzel?

What is Schnitzel

Schnitzel is a fried, thin, boneless slice of meat. The cutlets are breaded before frying. Different recipes use a variety of meats, including turkey, beef, pork, chicken or veal.

The perfect schnitzel is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. To achieve the perfect texture, the oil temperature should be just right. A little hotter and you end up with burned, undercooked meat. If the oil is not hot enough, your schnitzel comes out soggy and boring.

German Schnitzel

Schnitzel is famous in Germany. And migrating Germans always carry their recipe wherever they go.

Traditionally, Germans made schnitzel with veal. However, as veal wasn’t readily available in places like Texas, to which they moved in the 1800s, beef conveniently became a substitute. Beef isn’t as tender as the meats used in schnitzel recipes. So, pounding with a meat tenderizer (mallet) became part of the cooking process to tenderize it. It needs to be soft because of the short cooking time.

Today, there are different types of schnitzels in German homes and restaurants. You can use meats of your choice. But here are some favorites in Germany.

  • Wiener-Schnitzel must use veal (calf meat)
  • Schweine-Schnitzel is made with pork
  • Jäger-Schnitzel (or hunter’s schnitzel) with thick rich mushroom gravy
  • Puten-Schnitzel made with turkey
  • Hänchen-Schnitzel is made with chicken

Wiener, as the name suggests, originated in Vienna, Austria. Some people say that schnitzel has its roots in Austria, while others argue that the Germans invented this tasty dish. However, coating slices of meat in crumbs and frying them existed as early as 1 BC. And once you taste the yumminess, we promise you won’t care much about its origin; you will just want the next plate.

As for which part of the meat you need, use veal chops for Wiener, boneless pork chops for Schweine, chicken breasts for Hänchen and turkey breasts for Puten.

Israeli Schnitzel

Today, it isn’t easy to convince a child growing up in Israel that schnitzel isn’t a traditional Israeli dish. History has it that schnitzel came to Israel from Europe. The Ashkenazi Jews brought the recipe with them after the persecution period. Israelis loved it.

Of course, as with every migrated recipe, there were a few alterations. Because veal wasn’t readily available, chicken or turkey replaced it. That has largely remained the case to keep it kosher. Cooking oil replaces the butter used in wiener to keep the dish kashrut (in line with Jewish religious laws regarding foods).

You can find this delicacy at Miriam Restaurant, a Mediterranean restaurant with locations in Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Brooklyn’s Park Slope.

How to Make Schnitzel

How to Make Schnitzel

Making any schnitzel follows the same basic procedure. You can use your choice of meat and twist it to your liking. We love our authentic Israeli dishes at Miriam, so we’ll keep it kosher for this recipe.

We’d want to say that this recipe serves four people, but we’ll excuse you if just two of you clear the plate. You’ll need:

  • 2 halved boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • All-purpose flour (½ cup)
  • 2 lightly beaten eggs
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • Parsley, paprika, ground black pepper, garlic and salt to taste

Steps

Check the notes at the end for keys to the perfect schnitzel.

Step 1: Prepare ingredients. Put the flour, the beaten eggs and breadcrumbs in separate shallow bowls.

Step 2: Sprinkle the spices onto the breadcrumbs and mix.

Step 3: Pound (beat) the chicken breasts to flatten – you should end up with pieces not thicker than ¼ inch.

Step 4: Dip the first piece of meat into the flour and cover all sides. Shake off the excess flour.

Step 5: Dip into the eggs, coating all around.

Step 6: Coat with a thin layer of breadcrumbs on all sides.

Step 7: Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pan.

Step 8: Fry the chicken breast until golden brown on both sides.

Step 9: Remove and place on a plate lined with a paper towel.

Repeat steps 4-9 until you cook all four pieces of chicken breasts. Serve with a side of your choice. We suggest Israeli salad and mashed potatoes.

Notes

  • Fry the meat immediately after coating to get the crispy crunch on the outside
  • Don’t press the flour, breadcrumbs, or eggs into the meat when coating. You want just a light coating.
  • The secret to perfect schnitzel is cooking at the right temperature – 330°F is just about right.
  • Fry the pieces for approximately two minutes on each side
  • Serve immediately after cooking. With schnitzel, freshly cooked is best.

At Miriam Restaurant, we take pride in our schnitzel. Our experienced hands and insistence on perfection produce the best chicken schnitzel you’ll ever have for brunch or dinner in NYC.