Wiener schnitzel is a Middle European dish consisting of veal thinly sliced (a veal “scallop”) dredged in flour, dipped in seasoned egg and milk mixture, coated with fresh bread crumbs and fried in butter.
The veal cutlets are cut about as thick as a finger when starting, then they are pounded flat.
Recipes will vary, of course. Some use plain egg dip, some don’t dredge the cutlets in flour, some fry in oil instead. Hungarians tend to cook theirs in lard.
Fans say not to press the cutlets down into the bread crumbs, or the bread crumbs will become hard when fried.
Because veal is expensive, many restaurants in Germany and Austria use pork instead. When not made with veal, the dish technically is called “Schnitzel Wiener Art”, “Art” in German means “in the manner of”, so, pork prepared in the style of Wiener Schnitzel. By Austrian law, if Wiener Schnitzel is not made with Veal in restaurants, it is “Art.” If made with pork, it must say also say “vom Schwein.” If made from Turkey cutlets, it must also say “von der Pute.”
Wiener Schnitzel is so popular in Hungary that some believe it is a Hungarian dish.
You need to fry up the veal cutlets as soon as they are coated in bread crumbs, or the bread crumbs may draw moisture out of the meat.
Cook each side only once: don’t turn and fry a side again.
When using oil to fry in, it should be about 1/2 inch (1 cm) deep, or the sides of the Schnitzel may stay raw.
Wiener Schnitzel is usually served with potato salad or French fries. It can also be served cold in buns.
Since the 1980s, serving it with rice has also become somewhat popular.
Wiener Schnitzel is based on the Italian dish, costoletta alla milanese , first made in Milan in Lombardy, Italy.
Wiener Schnitzel was being made in Vienna by the 16th century, but then it was repopularized in the late 1850s by a Field Marshal named Radetzky who became enamoured of it while in Austrian-ruled Milan.
The name of Wiener Schnitzel only seems to have become common since the start of the 1900s.
Literature & Lore
The Wiener Schnitzel Waltz
Do you remember the night I held you so tight,
As we danced to the Wiener Schnitzel Waltz?
The music was gay, and the setting was Viennese,
Your hair wore some roses (or perhaps they were peonies),
I was blind to your obvious faults,
As we danced ‘cross the scene
to the strains of the Wiener Schnitzel Waltz.
Oh, I drank some champagne from your shoe.
I was drunk by the time I got through.
For I didn’t know as I raised that cup,
It had taken two bottles to fill the thing up.
— Tom Lehrer
Wiener Schnitzel means “Vienna Schnitzel.”
In German, it’s a neuter noun, so it’s “das Wienerschnitzel.” The American fast food chain called “Der Wienerschnitzel”, in addition to having the definite article wrong, does not actually serve Wienerschnitzel: it serves wieners.
The word “Schnitzel” comes from “Schnitten”, which means to cut. A Schnitzel is a cutlet.