Since the Wiener Schnitzel (or Wienerschnitzel) remains at the epicentre of Viennese cuisine, learn all about it, including the best Schnitzel recipes and local insider tricks for preparing it.
From a culinary point of view, Schnitzel stands for our love for all things breaded and fried: from meat to fish, mushrooms, celeriac, cauliflower, and even cheese.
What Makes A Great Wiener Schnitzel?
Essentially, Wienerschnitzel is a thinly hammered and breaded veal or pork cutlet. While chicken schnitzel are good, too, the best Wiener Schnitzel are made from tenderloin pork or leg of veal. To prepare the classic Wiener Schnitzel use the veal’s super tender lean topside, alternatively the fricandeau or the thick flank. Since the cutlets should be four to six millimeters thin ask your local butcher to cut them for you.
The other top ingredient are the breadcrumbs: To prepare the perfect schnitzel take old and stale white bread or a baguette and grind it in a food processor. Some people also use a mixture of white and dark breadcrumbs for a stronger flavor.
To ensure your schnitzel is really crispy use a technique called soufflieren: When frying the cutlets (don’t deep fry though the schnitzels need to swim in the vegetable oil or butter fat) toss the pan in a circular movement to let the oil run across the upper sides. This ensures the coat of breadcrumbs inflates a little.
When you visit Vienna take this shortlist of the best Wiener schnitzel in Vienna restaurants with you.
Wiener Schnitzel’s History
Like all legendary dishes, the Wienerschnitzel’s history has been controversial. Some say it is a cultural import from the Italian Costoletta a la milanese in the 19th century. Although many historians say this is a myth.
Ultimately, the most convincing theories state that the Schnitzel is a bourgeois invention of 18th century Vienna. At that time, the upper class Austrians already breaded their chickens, dressing up the fact of devouring dead animals. For sure they had plenty of pork fat to fry, and loads of breadcrumbs from the vast amounts of white bread consumed.
If you are a history buff you can find the earliest reference to breaded cutlets in the ‘Kleines Österreichisches Kochbuch’ from 1798, called Gebackene Schnitzeln.
How To Prepare Wiener Schnitzel
Ingredients for 4 people:
4 pieces of cutlets (between 130 and 200 gr)
4 table spoons of flour
5 table spoons of breadcrumbs
a little milk and salt
- Put a few drops of vegetable oil on the cutlets. Then put them in between two sheets of cling film and flatten the cutlets with a meat tenderizer. If you don’t have one, you can use a heavy pan instead.
- Make a few short cuts into the outer areas of the cutlets to prevent them from rolling up in the pan.
- Prepare three plates, one with flour, one with two eggs lightly battered with a little milk and a pinch of salt, and one with bread crumbs. Instead of the eggs, some people use water or milk, though I have no experience with this.
- Lightly coat the cutlets in flour on both sides, then pull them through the eggs (water/milk), and cover them with breadcrumbs. Make sure the breadcrumbs cover the entire cutlets.
- Start frying the cutlets immediately in a pan with pork fat (original method) or vegetable oil. Add sufficient fat or oil to make the cutlets swim, and heat it. To get the right temperature, add a few breadcrumbs into the pan. If the oil foams, the temperature is right. Keep moving the cutlets to generate an even goldbrown colour. Turn them at least once until they are golden brown on both sides.
- Put the Schnitzel on a sheet of paper kitchen towel which will absorb the oil.
Wiener Schnitzel are usually served with a wedge of lemon on top, and with warm or cold potato salad, and lettuce.
Here are the most popular varieties in Vienna and Eastern Austria.
A popular Austrian variety, the Surschnitzel uses salt pork cutlets in brine instead of normal pork or veal for the Wiener Schnitzel. You can try them at many Lower Austrian and Vienna wineries and taverns.
Some Viennese taverns and restaurants, such as Schnitzelwirt in the 7th district of Neubau serve rolled Schnitzel. These are usually rolled pork cutlets, filled with spinach and cheese.
Though likely of Swiss origin, the Cordon Bleu is hugely popular of Eastern Austria, especially of Vienna. It is prepared like a Wiener Schnitzel, but has a layer of ham and cheese on one side underneath the breadcrumbs.