Classic Pork Schnitzel is wonderful, authentic German comfort food! I'm sharing all my tips and tricks for making schnitzel perfectly at home.
Schnitzel and I go way back! You see, I went to university in the Kitchener-Waterloo area of southwestern Ontario. And Kitchener-Waterloo happens to be home to the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Germany. So needless to say, some time was spent knee deep in the world of beer, Oktoberfest sausage and schnitzel during my time there.
Easy, crispy classic Pork Schnitzel is one of the all-time great comfort foods!
I picked up a few tips for schnitzel making back then, that have served me well over the years of making schnitzel at home. And I'm going to share all the little tips and tricks with you. So don't be put off by my wordiness. Schnitzel is easy, I just take my schnitzel seriously :)
What type of pork should you use for pork schnitzel
While pork schnitzel can be made from a variety of cuts, the easiest for home use are boneless, centre-cut pork chops. They usually have a thin strip of fat along one side, but no fat marble in the meat. To prepare the pork, trim any visible fat away, pound very thin and using a sharp knife, cut a couple of 1/4-inch slits evenly along that edge. This will help keep the schnitzel flat as it cooks (for even cooking), as this area may shrink up as it heats and curl, otherwise.
What type of breadcrumbs should you use for Schnitzel
I always use store-bought dried breadcrumbs for schnitzel. Fresh breadcrumbs will not work at all and I feel like homemade dried breadcrumbs are likely to be both not dry enough or not uniformly fine enough for great schnitzel.
Store-bought, plain dried breadcrumbs are what I generally use, and I season them myself with seasoning salt. Seasoned breadcrumbs will also work. As they are already seasoned, you can skip any additional seasoning. Avoid Italian seasoned breadcrumbs however, as they are seasoned with special herbs and spices best suited for Italian dishes and not schnitzel.
How Thick Should the Pork for Schnitzel be?
Not thick at all. Schnitzel needs to be thin. Really thin. So you will need to pound even thin pork chops thinner. Hopefully, you have a meat pounder to do the job, if not, grab your cast-iron skillet and use it to pound the pork. Do this on a cutting board. Keep pounding until it is as thin as it can possibly be without tearing or falling apart. I can't stress the thin thing enough. When you cut into schnitzel, the pork shouldn't be obviously visible. If it is, it's a breaded pork chop, not schnitzel! The thickness of the pork should be no more than the combined thickness of the top and bottom cooked breading. That's a schnitzel :)
How to keep the breading on the Schnitzel
This is the single best tip for the perfect schnitzel right here!
Top Tip! The single best tip for cooking schnitzel at home is to allow the breaded pork to rest in the fridge for one hour before frying. Simply bread the pork, then lay on a cooling rack in a single layer. Place into the fridge, uncovered, for one hour before cooking. This step dries the breading and ensures it will stick perfectly to the meat during the frying process.
How to get schnitzel perfectly crispy
The absolutely best way to perfect schnitzel is to shallow-fry them in neutral-tasting cooking oil (Vegetable, Canola, Peanut, Sunflower). Heat about 1/4-inch of oil in a heavy, high-sided skillet (the depth of the oil should be about 1/2 of the height of your breaded schnitzel, so if your schnitzel is on the thicker side, add more oil).
Heat oil to medium-high heat. Test the oil by dropping a tiny speck of the schnitzel breading into the oil. If it doesn't almost immediately sizzle and then rise to the top of the oil, your oil isn't hot enough yet. When oil is ready, add 2 or 3 pieces of breaded pork. Do not crowd the pan and do not overlap them. They need to lay flat with a nice bit of space between. You will probably need to cook in batches.
Using tongs, check the browning of the underside regularly and lower/raise the temperature if it seems to be browning too quickly or slowly. It should take about 3 minutes to brown the underside.
Cook until the underside is very golden brown, then flip and cook the other side until golden. Remove to a cooling rack with a sheet of paper towel underneath it to catch any drips. (If making a lot of batches, you can also place on a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200F oven)
Ingredient Notes for Classic Pork Schnitzel
Breadcrumbs: Again, as noted above, I find store-bought, dried plain breadcrumbs to be the best option and I season them myself. Alternately, start with seasoned dried breadcrumbs and skip any additional seasoning. You can certainly make your own, but they will need to be very dry and very uniformly fine for the best results. Steer clear of the typical Italian seasonings and stick with the basic seasonings.
Eggs: Any egg size is fine. You will need to thin your egg wash with a bit of water, milk or even cream. Any of those options is fine.
Flour: Use unbleached all purpose flour if you have it on hand, otherwise regular, bleached all purpose flour is fine.
Oil: As noted above, use a neutral-tasting cooking oil. Vegetable, canola, peanut or sunflower oil are all good choices.
Seasoning: If starting with plain dried breadcrumbs, you'll need some salt, pepper and seasoning salt for seasoning the flour and breadcrumbs.
Cook's Notes for Classic Pork Schnitzel
If you're cooking many batches of schnitzel, you may need to top up the oil level after a few batches. Allow it to re-heat thoroughly again before proceeding. If cooking a lot of schnitzel, it's probably worthwhile to replace all the oil and reheat it part way through, as it will start to get "dirty" and affect the finished quality of the schnitzel.
Don't fear the shallow frying, but do shallow fry safely. Use a deep, heavy-bottom pan/skillet. Keep a lid (or a baking sheet large enough to cover the entire top of the pan) handy. In the very unlikely event that the oil ignites, you can immediately extinguish it by placing the lid on top. Keep kids out of the kitchen when hot oil is happening on the stove.
Don't be tempted to deep fry schnitzel. Schnitzel should not be that crispy and it's way more work than is necessary.
What to serve with (and on top of) Classic Pork Schnitzel?
Traditionally, schnitzel is served with potatoes - either potato salad, fried potatoes or sometimes boiled potatoes. I think mashed are a fine side, as well. Add a salad or a veg to round it out, if you like.
As for what to put on your schnitzel, there are a number of options. A simple squeeze of lemon is the perfect foil for the fried schnitzel. A mushroom gravy makes it a Hunter's Schnitzel. A local restaurant with an Austrian chef who makes the most fabulous schnitzel serves his with Lingonberry sauce and it's absolutely delicious. You may recognize that name from the Swedish jam that you can buy at Ikea. The Ikea jam might do nicely with schnitzel or I think a cranberry sauce would be a similar flavour profile and easier to make at home.
Classic Pork Schnitzel
- 6 boneless, centre-cut pork loin chops
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (unbleached recommended)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper (just use a bit if using seasoned bread crumbs)
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbsp water
- 2 cups dried plain or seasoned breadcrumbs (plus more as needed.)
- 1/2 - 1 tsp seasoning salt (omit if using seasoned bread crumbs)
- Vegetable, canola, peanut or sunflower oil (for shallow frying.)
- Lemon slices (for serving)
- Trim the pork of any fat along the edge and using the tip of a knife, cut about three 1/4-inch slits along the edge where you trimmed the fat. Pound each piece of pork with a meat pounder/hammer until it is VERY thin - almost, but not quite to the point that it will tear and fall apart. Using the tip of a sharp knife, cut small nicks every 2-inches around the outside edge. Set aside.
- Set up a breading station with 3 shallow plates (large enough to lay a piece of your pork flat). Add the flour to the first plate, spreading it into an even layer. Season with some salt and freshly ground pepper. On the second plate, use a fork to whisk together the eggs and water. Scatter the breadcrumbs on the 3rd plate and add the seasoning salt. Stir to mix in well. To bread your pork: first press the pork into the flour, flouring both sides and shaking off any excess. Next lay the floured pork into the egg mixture and swirl it around a bit. Flip over and do the same on the other side. Lift and let excess egg drip off back onto the plate. Finally, lay the pork onto the plate with the breadcrumbs. Use your fingers or a spoon to move some of the breadcrumbs onto the top of the pork. Press down gently so that the underside gets nicely coated in crumbs, then flip over and press down again. Make sure you have an even layer of crumbs covering the entire piece of pork on both sides. If there are bare spots, sprinkle breadcrumbs over that area and press down onto the meat with the palm of your hand.
- Place the breaded pork onto a cooking rack set on top of a baking sheet. Repeat with each piece of pork, placing onto the cooling rack without overlapping at all. Place the baking sheet/cooling rack with the breaded pork into the fridge, UNCOVERED, for one hour.
- When it has been almost an hour, start heating your oil. Add oil to a heavy-bottomed, high-sided skillet to about 1/4-inch (or about 1/2 the height of your breaded pork). Heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Test by taking a few crumbs from the pork and dropping them into the oil. They should immediately sizzle and quickly float to the top.
- Add 1-2 pieces of pork to the hot oil. Don't crowd the pan or overlap them. The schnitzel should lay flat and have a nice bit of space between. Allow to cook for about a minute, then use tongs to regularly check the progress of browning on the underside. You may need to adjust your heat down if they seem to be browning too quickly or up a notch if they aren't browning quickly enough. It should take about 3 minutes per side with the right temperature of oil and the proper thinness of the schnitzel. Once the underside is a deep golden brown, flip and brown the other side. Remove to a cooling rack with a piece of paper towel under it to catch drops (not directly under the meat, under the cooling rack). Repeat with remaining pork pieces. *If making lots and you want to keep them warm, place on a baking sheet in a 200F oven to keep warm and crispy.
- Serve with lemon slices or try lingonberry jam (my favourite!).