Chicken Schnitzel made this way is the best I’ve ever had. There’s a lot here that may seem excessive, but you don’t have to do each extreme thing. Substitute what seems too much work with easier alternatives and bring in the harder things with successive iterations later, if you want – you’ll gradually get better with each new skill. You can then do variations with the crumb or use different meat, like fish or veal.
Buy a whole chicken
Ideally, get an organic free-range chicken, but it’s not crucial. You can get a regular cruelty-chicken, or you could buy breast pieces pre-butchered.
If you bought a whole chicken, butcher the chicken – remove the legs by first piercing the skin near the hip, push the leg back until the hip breaks, get a knife in the joint and cut it off (both sides).
Do the same with the wings by getting a knife tip into the shoulders (enter the joint from below – the “armpit”).
Then dissect away the breast pieces from the sternum – this takes practice; like a surgeon, you can use traction and with a combination of gentle slices, and your finger (blunt dissection), peel away muscle from its connections. You may have to cut through muscle around the clavicle (wishbone). You’ll be left with a carcass. Wash that under the tap and scrape away the kidneys (unless you like them).
I put the wings, carcass, and skin in a pot and make chicken broth – cover with water (not too much), a couple of garlic cloves, herbs if you want, and boil for over an hour; chicken doesn’t need too long. I then pour the liquid through a sieve and have a broth for various uses. I discard all the solids – they have released all their flavour.
For the two legs (Maryland) I marinate with lemon, salt, garlic, and either herbs or paprika. This can be left a day or more, and BBQ’d or air-fried.
The breast is for the Schnitzel. The skin has already been removed and used in the broth. The breast meat needs to be expertly carved so each piece is roughly the same thickness. I end up with many pieces about 1 cm thick.
You can refrigerate for later, or proceed immediately to the crumbing.
For bread crumbs, I take some stale, dry bread and run it through the blender (I use a Vitamix which works really well). Otherwise, you can use fresh bread, toast it so it’s dry, and blend that. Or you can buy bread crumbs.
Then put the bread crumbs in a shallow bowl. You can season with salt and pepper, or leave that for later when serving. I like to chop some parsley and mix it with the bread crumbs (because my mum always does that ❤️).
In a second bowl, put in some flour.
In a third bowl, beat an egg. You can add a dash of milk if you want. Or you can omit the egg and use milk only. The point seems to be to have some liquid that contains protein (maybe?).
We now have the chicken, and 3 bowls (flour, egg, and bread crumbs).
With only one hand, take a piece of chicken, dip/coat it in flour, then dip it in egg, then pick it up and *drop* it in the bread crumbs. Don’t get bread crumbs on this hand. Then with the other hand, toss the chicken piece around so it coats all over with breadcrumbs, then place it in a tray.
Repeat for all the pieces. I challenge you to not wash your hands before it’s all done.
What to fry in? Not vegetable oils! Learn why they are a poison here.
I like to fry in tallow (beef fat) which I render myself. I’ll have a guide for that one day – you can learn from here for now. Lard or ghee may be fine too.
Frying is a smelly business, so I have a set up outside with a portable high-output gas burner (the ones for serious wok frying) sitting on a table (see image below), connected to a refillable gas tank (hidden from view).
I use a thick copper frying pan lined with stainless steel. This is very expensive and not absolutely necessary, but is great. The advantage is that heat is distributed across the pan very quickly and evenly, and any adjustments to the flame will give you a fast heat response on the pan surface. The steel is there to make a barrier between the copper and food, as copper is not for consumption. Traditionally the lining is tin which has better heat transfer than steel, but tin melts at frying temperatures.
Don’t go an buy one just for schnitzel though! Like most (normal) people, use any regular frying pan you want.
Take a piece of tallow and melt it in the frying pan. It’s fun to watch it melt:
Cooking the chicken to perfection will take practice. The pan must be hot, but not too hot. It may take practice/repetition. It’s important not to undercook chicken – it shouldn’t be pink, otherwise there’s a risk of Salmonella. If you don’t have the heat settings right, the chicken might burn on the surface before the centre is sufficiently cooked. You must learn to dial in the heat correctly. If you have pink chicken on the dining table, return it to the frying pan and use the experience for next time how to judge undercooked chicken.
Flip the pieces when one side is done (careful not to burn). You might need to add more tallaw after the “flippening”.
When done, season with salt and pepper – serve warm. Cold slices in the kids’ school lunches the next day are nice too.
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