Schnitzel is an iconic breaded and fried cut of meat or vegetables, iconic to German and Central European cuisine and omnipresent in most German-style restaurants all over the world. And it’s a household favorite as well.
The word derives from the word “Schnitt” (cut) and means that a lean cut of meat (cutlet) from veal, pork, beef, chicken or turkey is pounded flat, breaded and fried in a pan. Schnitzel can also be baked in the oven.
There is no distinct historical source to prove the origin of this popular dish. Schnitzel-like dishes reputedly originated in the Ottoman empire more than 800 years ago, made it’s way through the city-states of Northern Italy int Austria and Germany. It is said that famed Austrian field marshal Joseph Radetsky von Radetz (immortalized by the Radetzky March of Johan Strauss) discovered the breaded meat dish in Milan in the 1860s (he was probably served cotoletta alla milanese) and loved it so much that he asked his military chefs back in Vienna to create their own versions. Soon after, towards the end of the 19th century, Wiener Schnitzel can be found in cookbooks around households in Austria. The Wiener Schnitzel gained in popularity all over Central Europe, spawning offshoots like the Hunter Schnitzel, Puszta Schnitzel and Holstein Schnitzel.
The key to make the breading stick is to dip the raw cut of meat first in flour then raw eggs, then in finely ground bread crumbs, called Panat in German.