The perfect schnitzel: tips and tricks to make Israel's national dish

The seasoned judges of the "Chef Games" tackled our dream task (and theirs), and came back with life-enhancing insights

Schnitzel 270 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Schnitzel 270
(photo credit: Courtesy)

We know, you also have a homemade schnitzel method. It could be that it has been working for years, that you don't need to improve and that everyone is happy all around, stealing straight from the pan or waiting only a few seconds after the chicken pieces go down - and pounce.

You may have memorized our legendary schnitzel guide, or you actually went, like most of us of course, to the "Cafe Noir" master. It's okay, we're there too. Flattened meat and mashed potatoes waiting patiently, breadcrumbs and panko, flour and egg, batter with mustard and neutral batter. The oil is also treated, temperature gauge and everything. Not to mention what happens next, above (and below) the metal mesh.

It is clear to us that your schnitzel - or grandma's schnitzel, or mother's, or father's of course - is the tastiest there is, but now we are dealing with experts.

What do the schnitzel experts say?

"Fresh schnitzel that just came off the pan is one of life's pleasures."

Tamar Cohen Tzedek
Israeli schnitzel with pasta (credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/AVIAD BUBLIL)Israeli schnitzel with pasta (credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/AVIAD BUBLIL)

The judges of the "Chef Games" together have decades of restaurant and catering experience, but they too will admit that at the end of the day, most of them focus on hot schnitzel at the end of the work day. Monday night, everything will come together into a particularly complex escape mission, in what is surely one of the most blue-and-white episodes out there.

And so, just before the drama, we asked for some tips and a little more recommendations, some kind of professional spotlight on common mistakes and also a personal preference from someone who knows. They agreed, we wrote, then we ran to the stove and started implementing. Now it's your turn, bon appetit!

"Fresh schnitzel that just came off the pan is one of life's pleasures," admitted Tamar Cohen Tzedek, the chef and owner of the Cucina Hess 4 restaurant, "the taste is what made it such a beloved dish that is found in almost every kitchen in Israel. I will add that in my opinion, the 'national dish' is not Falafel, but schnitzel in a pita with hummus and pickles."

According to her, "Many people fry schnitzels and place them on a plate with absorbent paper to absorb the oil. This action makes the schnitzels wet and soft because the paper absorbs the oil, becomes moist and the schnitzels stay soaked in it.

"My tip is to take a strainer or an oven rack and spread the schnitzels on top of them immediately after frying. That way the oil drips and oozes from the schnitzels, which come out crispy, just as schnitzels are supposed to be."

"Schnitzel is an accessible and cheap food, which has the perfect texture - crispy on the outside and soft on the inside," explained Tomer Agai, the chef of the Santa Caterina and Cena restaurants, "so the schnitzel actually cracked the perfect meeting with the mouth, just like falafel, chips and ranch Yani".

According to him, "To prepare the perfect schnitzel, the schnitzel must be floured first. Before coating the schnitzel with egg and breadcrumbs, the schnitzel must first be dipped in flour, no matter what kind. The flour actually separates the coating from the schnitzel and creates air, so you get a shell of coating and not a schnitzel that sticks to its coating. With the help of the flour, the schnitzel evaporates during frying and the perfect taste is created."

"As far as I'm concerned, chicken schnitzel is an Israeli dish, almost like flakes," said Raz Rahab, the chef behind OCD and the Tirzah wine bar, "as you know, around the world schnitzel is mostly prepared from beef and the Jewish cuisine turned it into chicken schnitzel. This, along with the fact that it's tasty and cheap, has become same for being so common."

According to him, "To make the schnitzel perfect, squeeze a lemon over it immediately when it comes out of the fryer. This action makes the schnitzel naturally sour, in a good way. The sourness is absorbed and fixed and the schnitzel becomes refreshing and surprising."