A plate of traditional austrian schnitzel with accompanimentsA plate of traditional austrian schnitzel with accompaniments

If you’ve ever visited Austria, you’ve probably come across Schnitzel – a signature dish that’s both delicious and easy to prepare. Schnitzel is a thin slice of meat, typically pounded to tenderize it, breaded, and fried until golden brown. This simple yet flavorful dish has become a staple in many households worldwide. In this article, we’ll explore the history of Schnitzel, the traditional Austrian recipe, tips on preparing the meat, and more. So let’s get started!

What is schnitzel and where did it originate from?

Schnitzel is a thin slice of meat, typically pork or veal, which is coated with breadcrumbs and pan-fried until crispy. The dish originated in Austria, and its name comes from the German verb “schneiden,” which means to cut. The thin slice of meat is pounded to tenderize it and make it thinner, resulting in a large surface area that soaks up the breadcrumbs and forms a crispy crust after frying. Schnitzel can be traced back to the 19th century, where it was first mentioned in a culinary journal in Vienna. Today, Schnitzel is a beloved dish in Austria and other parts of Europe and has become an international staple.

There are many variations of schnitzel, including chicken, turkey, and even vegetarian options made with eggplant or tofu. In some regions of Austria, schnitzel is served with a side of potato salad or lingonberry jam. In Germany, schnitzel is often served with a side of spaetzle, a type of soft egg noodle.

Despite its popularity, schnitzel has faced criticism for being a high-calorie and high-fat dish. However, many chefs have adapted the recipe to make it healthier by using leaner cuts of meat and baking instead of frying. Regardless of its variations, schnitzel remains a beloved dish that has stood the test of time.

The traditional Austrian recipe for schnitzel

Preparing Schnitzel involves a few straightforward steps, but if done right, it can taste phenomenal. Here’s a traditional Austrian recipe for Schnitzel that you can follow:

  1. Take a piece of boneless pork or veal and cut it into thin slices.
  2. Pound the meat slices with a kitchen mallet to tenderize them and make them thinner.
  3. Season the meat slices with salt and pepper on both sides.
  4. In a shallow bowl, whisk together two eggs until well beaten.
  5. On a separate plate, add breadcrumbs, paprika, and herbs like thyme and parsley. Mix well.
  6. Coat each meat slice in the egg mixture and then in the breadcrumb mixture. Press the breadcrumbs onto the meat, so they stick well.
  7. In a shallow pan, heat some oil over medium-high heat.
  8. Carefully add the breaded meat to the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides.
  9. Remove the Schnitzel from the pan and place on a paper towel to remove excess oil.
  10. Serve hot and enjoy.
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While the traditional recipe for Schnitzel is made with pork or veal, you can also use chicken or turkey as a healthier alternative. Additionally, you can experiment with different types of breadcrumbs, such as panko or seasoned breadcrumbs, to add more flavor to your Schnitzel.

Traditionally, Schnitzel is served with a side of potato salad or fries and a wedge of lemon. However, you can also serve it with a side of vegetables, such as green beans or roasted carrots, for a more balanced meal.

Choosing the right cut of meat for your schnitzel

Choosing the right cut of meat is essential for preparing the perfect Schnitzel. Pork and veal are the most commonly used meats for Schnitzel, but you can also use chicken, beef, or even tofu for a vegetarian option. The meat needs to be tender and easy to pound thin to ensure that it cooks evenly. Thinly sliced pork or veal from the tenderloin, loin, or leg works best for Schnitzel.

When selecting your meat, it’s important to look for cuts that have a good amount of fat marbling. This will help keep the meat moist and tender during cooking. Avoid cuts that are too lean, as they can become tough and dry. Additionally, it’s best to choose meat that is fresh and of high quality, as this will greatly impact the final taste and texture of your Schnitzel.

Another important factor to consider is the thickness of the meat. While it’s important to pound the meat thin, you don’t want it to be too thin, as it can easily overcook and become dry. Aim for a thickness of around 1/4 inch for the best results. If you’re unsure about how to properly pound the meat, you can ask your local butcher for assistance or watch online tutorials for guidance.

Tips on preparing the meat for schnitzel

Before getting started on the breading and frying, it’s essential to prepare the meat correctly. Here are a few tips:

  • Place the meat in a plastic wrap and pound gently to thin it out, being careful not to create any holes.
  • If the meat is too thick, you can also use a sharp knife to cut it in half or butterfly it before pounding it.
  • Season the meat with salt and pepper before breading it to ensure it’s well seasoned to taste.
  • Refrigerate the meat for at least 30 minutes before breading to help the flour and breadcrumb mixture adhere better to the meat.
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Another important tip is to use the right cut of meat for schnitzel. Traditionally, veal is used, but you can also use pork or chicken. It’s important to choose a cut that is tender and lean, such as the top round or the loin. Avoid using cuts that are too fatty or tough, as they won’t cook evenly and may result in a chewy schnitzel.

The perfect breading technique for crispy schnitzel

The secret to making crispy Schnitzel lies in the breading technique. Here’s how to do it:

  • Use a shallow bowl to whisk together eggs and other ingredients like milk or mustard for added flavor.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together breadcrumbs, paprika, and herbs like thyme and parsley.
  • Coat the meat slice evenly with the egg mixture, then place it in the breadcrumb mixture and coat thoroughly, pressing the crumbs onto the meat.
  • Shake off any excess breading by tapping the meat against your hand.

But there are a few additional tips to keep in mind to ensure your schnitzel turns out perfectly every time. Firstly, make sure to use thin slices of meat, as thicker slices can take longer to cook and may not cook evenly. Secondly, use a neutral oil with a high smoke point, such as canola or vegetable oil, to fry the schnitzel. This will help to create a crispy crust without burning the breading.

Finally, once the schnitzel is cooked, place it on a wire rack to cool slightly before serving. This will help to prevent the breading from becoming soggy and will ensure that the schnitzel stays crispy for longer. Serve with a wedge of lemon and your favorite sides, such as potato salad or sauerkraut, for a delicious and satisfying meal.

Frying vs baking: Which method is best for cooking schnitzel?

The traditional way of cooking Schnitzel is by frying it in hot oil until crispy. However, you can also cook it in the oven for a healthier alternative. Here are the differences:

  • Frying: Frying your Schnitzel is the traditional way to prepare it and results in a crispy, golden crust. To fry, heat some vegetable oil in a shallow pan over medium-high heat and fry each side of the breaded meat for about 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  • Baking: To bake your Schnitzel, preheat the oven to 400°F, place the breaded meat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil, and bake for 15-20 minutes until crispy and golden brown.

While frying may result in a crispier crust, baking your Schnitzel can be a healthier option as it requires less oil. Additionally, baking allows for a more even cooking of the meat, ensuring that it is cooked through without burning the crust. However, it is important to note that baking may result in a slightly drier Schnitzel compared to frying. Ultimately, the choice between frying and baking depends on personal preference and dietary restrictions.

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How to make a delicious schnitzel sauce to accompany your meal

A delicious sauce can make a Schnitzel even more mouth-watering. Here’s a traditional Austrian recipe for Schnitzel sauce that you can try:

  • In a pan, melt some butter over medium heat.
  • Add flour and whisk until golden brown and bubbly.
  • Slowly add beef broth or chicken broth and whisk continuously to avoid lumps.
  • Add a tablespoon of mustard and Worcestershire sauce for added flavor.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until you get a thick and creamy sauce.
  • Serve alongside your Schnitzel to enjoy.

Traditional side dishes to serve with your schnitzel

Schnitzel often comes served with a variety of side dishes to add texture, flavor, and nutrition to the meal. Here are some traditional Austrian side dishes that go well with a schnitzel:

  • German potato salad
  • Sautéed red cabbage
  • Potato pancakes
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Rösti (Swiss-style potato pancakes)

Variations on the classic schnitzel recipe to try at home

If you’re open to trying new flavors and ingredients, there are many variations of Schnitzel that you can make at home. Here are some ideas:

  • Vegetarian Schnitzel – Using tofu or portobello mushroom instead of meat
  • Chicken Schnitzel – Using chicken breast instead of Pork or veal
  • Katsu curry schnitzel – adding curry powder and serving with rice and curry sauce
  • Cordon Bleu Schnitzel – stuffing your schnitzel with ham and cheese before breading and frying it

Common mistakes to avoid when making schnitzel

Here are some common mistakes that you should avoid when making Schnitzel:

  • Using meat that is too thick
  • Using low-quality meat
  • Using stale breadcrumbs
  • Not seasoning the meat enough
  • Not pounding the meat thin enough
  • Overcrowding the pan or using too little oil for frying

Frequently asked questions about making schnitzel from Austria

Here are some frequently asked questions about making Schnitzel from Austria:

How long should I pound the meat for schnitzel?

It’s best to pound the meat until it’s about 1/4 inch thick or less; be careful not to overdo it, or the meat may tear or become too thin.

What kind of oil is best for frying schnitzel?

Any vegetable oil with a high smoke point like canola, sunflower, or vegetable oil works best for frying Schnitzel in a shallow pan.

Can I make Schnitzel in advance?

It is not recommended to make Schnitzel in advance, as it can become soggy over time. The best way to enjoy Schnitzel is to make it fresh and serve it hot and crispy.

How long should I bake schnitzel?

Bake Schnitzel for 15-20 minutes at 400°F to achieve a crispy crust and cooked interior.

Can I use pre-made breadcrumbs?

While it’s best to use fresh breadcrumbs for optimum results, you can use pre-made breadcrumbs as well. Just make sure they’re not too seasoned or flavored, or it may overpower the taste of the meat and breading.

Are there vegetarian options for schnitzel?

Yes, you can replace the meat with tofu or portobello mushrooms to create a vegetarian schnitzel.

What other sauces besides traditional schnitzel sauce can be served with schnitzel?

You can serve Schnitzel with a variety of sauces, such as mustard sauce, mushroom sauce, or gravy.

That’s it! Now that you have a comprehensive guide on preparing Schnitzel, go ahead and try making it at home. With the right cut of meat, breading technique, cooking methods, and sauces, you can prepare a Schnitzel that’s crispy, golden brown and delicious. Enjoy!

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