Cooking Tips

How to Achieve the Crispiest, Puffiest Schnitzel Crust

There are three keys to getting the perfect puff.

Published Apr. 20, 2021.

Most recipes for breaded and fried cutlets are engineered to keep the breading suffused to the meat. But for Viennese schnitzel, it’s all about the separation between the two.

As it fries, schnitzel’s breading puffs away dramatically from the chicken cutlet (or pork, veal, or any other thinly pounded protein of your choice), forming an airy, wrinkly shell. When it settles, you’ve got a juicy, tender piece of meat encased in a golden-brown, delicate-yet-crisp coating.  

So how do you get that perfectly light and crisp puff? For his Chicken Schnitzel recipe, Cook’s Illustrated Test Cook Steve Dunn spent weeks finding the best technique. Here’s what he found.

1. Add oil to the beaten eggs. Steve’s recipe uses the standard three-step breading procedure of flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs. But the eggs include an unexpected ingredient: vegetable oil.

Whisking oil into the eggs for the coating helps make the breading more elastic. The oil lubricates the proteins so that they don't bind to each other as readily, increasing the eggs' pliability for a crust that puffs but doesn't break.

2. Use fine bread crumbs. While we normally reach for coarser panko bread crumbs for a coating, finer conventional bread crumbs—the ones that you can often find in a canister on grocery-store shelves—form a more compact, cohesive coating that traps steam and puffs. (Make sure to buy the unseasoned ones.)

Chicken schnitzelChicken schnitzel
Left: schnitzel made with conventional bread crumbs. Right: schnitzel made with panko.

3.  Swirl oil over the cutlets as they fry. Cook the cutlets in a Dutch oven in 2 cups of oil, shaking the pot continuously to wash hot oil over the meat, which quickly sets the breading, traps steam, and puffs the crust.

Shaking pot when cooking schnitzel
Gently shaking the pot as the schnitzel cooks results in a puffier crust.

Shaking a pot with hot oil might sound like a recipe for disaster, but in this case, it’s not. With so little oil and a gentle—and we mean gentle—shaking motion, there’s no danger of the oil splattering over the sides of the pot. The oil should lap over the cutlets, not cause an oil wave pool.

Watch Julia Collin Davison cook through the recipe in the segment below, and get the full recipe here. (Not a member of our websites? Start your free trial today.)

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