Whether you're celebrating Oktoberfest or just looking for some serious comfort food, you'll love this beer-brined schnitzel with creamy mushroom gravy! Ultra moist, tender and flavorful, this German schnitzel is coated with panko breadcrumbs to make a perfectly crisp coating while the creamy mushroom gravy adds a decadent finishing touch.
What Is Schnitzel?
Schnitzel is a boneless piece of meat that has been pounded thin and then pan fried. While schnitzel doesn't necessarily have to come with a crisp breadcrumb coating, it usually does. And let's be honest -- when we're talking about a pan fry, breading is always the more delicious choice, so in this recipe, that’s exactly what you'll find.
As far as the type of meat, you can use pork, chicken or veal for your beer-brined schnitzel. In this recipe, I use pork, which is the most common type of German schnitzel. Use what you like but I'm a big fan of pork.
Why Brine Meat?
Traditionally, schnitzel isn't brined, but I say it's time to change that. Brining meat is the simple process of submerging our protein in a salty liquid, resulting in a more tender, moist and flavorful schnitzel. Essentially, the meat absorbs some of the brining liquid, which helps it stay moist during the cooking process, while the salt breaks down the proteins to improve a cut's tenderness.
On top of producing superior results, a brine is super easy to make and takes little time. If we can cook a much more delicious, satisfying cut of meat without a ton of effort, it's definitely worth our time to take a few minutes to prepare a brine.
Brines are also great because we can add flavorings to give our meat more complexity. In this case, we use a German hefeweizen, fresh lemon wedges and peppercorns, but feel free to use this as a starting point. You're more than welcome to add garlic or your favorite fresh herbs.
How to Make Beer Brine
Now let me show you how truly simple it is to prepare this beer brine. We start by boiling water, salt, sugar, lemon wedges and peppercorns. As the mixture comes to a boil, we give it a stir every so often to help the sugar and salt dissolve. Once it comes to a boil, we pour the brine into a large bowl and stir a bit more to finish dissolving the salt and sugar.
From here, we add our cold hefeweizen and ice. Since our meat goes into the recently boiling brine, we need to cool it down, and the cold beer and ice take care of that. We give it another stir to melt the ice. By now, our brine should be nice and cold and ready for our meat.
How to Make Schnitzel
Before our pork goes into the beer brine, we need to pound it to make it nice and thin. We want to take care of this step first to preserve the brine. To do this, we place our pork between two sheets of plastic wrap and use a meat mallet to pound the meat until it measures about ¼-inch thick. If you don't have a meat mallet, you can use a rolling pin to pound the meat.
Now the pork goes into the brine for two to three hours. Because our meat is so thin, we don't want to brine it longer than that. At a point, our meat will start to degrade. Two to three hours is plenty of time to give our pork optimal tenderness.
After brining, we dry our pork with paper towels and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. This helps ensure our pork cooks evenly. Once the pork comes down in temperature, we're ready to dredge.
For dredging, we first dip the pork in flour, then beaten eggs and finish with a layer of panko breadcrumbs. We can also use regular breadcrumbs, but panko gives an even crisper coating. If you like a good crunch, panko breadcrumbs are the way to go.
You'll notice in the recipe card that I don't season the flour. That's because the brine gives the pork plenty of flavor, and then we have the mushroom gravy on top of that. If you really want to season your flour, have at it, but I don't think it's necessary.
With our pork dredged, we're ready to fry our schnitzel to crispy perfection. For this step, I recommend a cast-iron skillet. We fill the skillet with oil and then heat it to the point that it sizzles upon adding a pinch of panko breadcrumbs. That lets us know the oil is hot enough for pan frying.
Now our pork goes into the skillet for a quick fry on one side and another fry on the other side. After pounding the meat, schnitzel ends up becoming a large piece of meat, so you may very well have to fry one schnitzel at a time, depending on the size of the skillet. If we overcrowd the pan, we won't get that nice browning. I used a 12-inch skillet, and it was still too small to fry more than one schnitzel at a time.
But don't worry. Our beer-brined schnitzel won't get cold. As we finish frying each piece, we place it on a wire rack over a baking sheet in a 200-degree oven, and that will keep our schnitzel perfectly warm.
How to Make Creamy Mushroom Gravy
The creamy mushroom gravy is optional, but it gives this beer-brined schnitzel the perfect decadent touch, so I highly recommend it. We start by caramelizing mushrooms in a good dose of butter. As the mushrooms cook, we don't want to stir them around too much. This allows the mushrooms to get that caramelized outside, which adds a nice depth.
Once our mushrooms are ready, we make a roux, which is the base of our gravy. This is as simple as whisking together equal parts butter and flour. I also like to add a little fresh garlic for flavor.
Now we pour in some chicken stock and a splash of heavy cream and whisk to smooth out the mixture. From here, we let it cook until thickens, stir in our mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. And that's all it takes.
See? This gravy is ridiculously simple, so there's really no reason not to make it.
Now smother your perfect schnitzel with that wonderful gravy and enjoy some serious German comfort food. A little smoked bratwurst on the side isn't a bad idea either.
Bonus: And if you love comfort food, don't miss these favorite dishes.
You see that German hefeweizen you used for the beer brine? Right there, you have your perfect pairing. Since we're dealing with a lighter cut of pork, we don't want anything too heavy, and I love the way the citrusy notes enhance the pork and cut through the creamy mushroom sauce.
Looking for a wine instead? To keep with the German theme, I like a dry riesling from the Rhine region in Germany. While most people think of riesling as a sweet wine, the dry variety isn't so. A dry riesling is acidic and crisp with apple notes, which are delicious with pork.
For the perfect Oktoberfest meal, I hope you try this beer-brined schnitzel with creamy mushroom gravy.
Looking for More Oktoberfest Recipes?
- Soft beer pretzels with Oktoberfest cheese dip
- Spaetzle with bratwurst, sweet potatoes and caramelized onions
- Gouda and chorizo pretzel bombs with bourbon honey-mustard sauce
- German pan-fried trout
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Beer-Brined Schnitzel With Creamy Mushroom Gravy
- Large mixing bowl
- Large skillet
- ½ cup water 1 lemon
- ¼ cup salt
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 1 lemon cut into wedges
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
- 2 cups cold hefeweizen
- 1 cup ice cubes
- 4 boneless pork chops 2 eggs
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
- Vegetable or peanut oil for frying
- Lemon slices for garnish, optional
- Freshly chopped parsley for garnish, optional
Creamy Mushroom Gravy
- 6 tablespoons butter divided
- 8 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 garlic cloves minced or grated
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Bring the water, salt, sugar, lemon and peppercorns to a boil, stirring to help dissolve the salt and sugar. Once it boils, pour into a large mixing bowl and continue to stir to dissolve. Add the beer and ice. Stir to help melt the ice cubes.
Schnitzel and Mushroom Gravy
- Place one pork chop between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, pound until about ¼-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining pork chops. Submerge in the brine and refrigerate for two hours — three at the very most. Do not overbrine. It can ruin the meat. After brining, pat dry with paper towels and do not rinse off the brine. Let the pork sit in room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Right before breading, make the gravy by melting 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat the mushrooms. Allow to cook until browned. Don't stir too much to allow some caramelization.
- Remove the mushrooms. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Once melted, add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Whisk in flour. Cook about three to four minutes, whisking constantly. Pour in chicken stock and heavy cream and whisk until the mixture smooths out. Continue to cook until thickened, whisking frequently. Stir in mushrooms and season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn to low to keep warm and whisk every so often. Alternatively, you can make the gravy after frying the schnitzel and keep the schnitzel warm in a 200-degree oven as the gravy cooks.
- Dredge the pork in flour and shake off excessive flour. Dip into beaten eggs and then dredge in panko breadcrumbs and shake off excessive crumbs. Repeat with the remaining pork.
- Add enough oil to a large skillet so that it comes up about ¼ inch and heat over medium-high heat. The oil is hot enough when it sizzles after adding a pinch of breadcrumbs. Carefully add the schnitzel and fry until golden brown, about three minutes. Turn and cook for another three minutes. Remove and place on a wire rack over a baking sheet in a 200-degree oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining schnitzel. Serve with mushroom gravy, lemon wedges and parsley. Enjoy!
- For full tips, please see blog post.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.