How to cook a chicken schnitzel (properly)

Go for gold: Flatten chicken fillets out to ensure the meat is cooked and the crust golden.
Go for gold: Flatten chicken fillets out to ensure the meat is cooked and the crust golden. Photo: Natalie Boog

I try to make chicken schnitzel, but the outside is brown and the meat is uncooked. P. Duncan-Jones

This is why God invented the chicken parma. It allows unskilled cooks to cover undercooked chicken schnitzels with tomato sauce, ham and cheese and finish the whole lot off in an oven until the bottom of the schnitzel is overcooked, the top layer of crumbs soggy and the cheese hot enough to burn human mouth tissue. Apart from lowering yourself to making parmas, you could flatten the chicken out until it is quite thin, which will allow the meat to cook as the crumbs brown. You could turn the heat of the oil down so it doesn't cook as fast - but you do risk getting the crust more oil-laden.

Or you could preheat the oven to 180 degrees and fry the schnitzels until just golden, place them on absorbent paper and finish them in the oven on an ovenproof plate for 10 or so minutes until the flesh is cooked through.

Why does beef mince clump together during the browning process? P. Kakulas

We ate a lot of minced meat when we were growing. When you butcher your own steers, you quickly realise there are only so many steaks you can get from one cow. The rest was stewing steak and mince. I remember bloody bags defrosting on the sink. Inside that liquid is a whole lot of meaty proteins that form into a solid when heat is applied. Just like egg white. When you rapidly heat mince, that liquid acts like glue making the mince clump. To avoid this, I break my mince into small pieces in a bowl and then, when browning in the pan, I quickly break it up with a heavy-duty whisk or spoon. The alternative is to make the most of mince's sticking power and make little meatballs. I mix about a cup of breadcrumbs to a kilo of mince, several tablespoons of parmesan, a little chopped parsley and seasoning and mix the lot together with clean hands until sticky. I form this mix into very small balls, brown them and cook these in the tomato sauce and serve with pasta.

I like the taste of cabbage but do not like the smell it makes when I cook it. V. McMahon

I love the smell of cooking cabbage. Reminds me of mum's stuffed cabbage rolls. She would cook the bejesus out of them and compounds in the cabbage would combine to create sulphurous chemicals leaving the old farmhouse smelling like Rotorua, but making delicious rolls. By cooking cabbage less, perhaps adding it later if you're using it in braises, you will reduce the production of the sulphurous smell. The compounds that combine to cause the smell are incredibly good for you and are produced by cabbages and their cruciferous cousins to stave off pest attack. To get the most out of the fresh flavour and health benefits of cabbage, slice it very finely and dress with a little salt, lemon and extra virgin olive oil and leave for a few hours to soften the cabbage. It is delicious.

I want to make mayonnaise, but I am worried about using raw egg yolk because of salmonella. K. Puteri

I make raw egg yolk mayo at home and have never had a problem. Yet. Salmonella is ever-present in the poultry industry globally. There is a nasty type of salmonella called enteritidis that gets inside the egg. Thankfully, it hasn't been detected in Australia since testing began in 1996. Because of it, raw egg dishes have been banned in other countries. In Spain, where mayonnaise is integral to many dishes, many restaurants use milk as the emulsifier. About 100 millilitres of very cold milk is blended in a food processor with a small squeeze of lemon juice, a small clove of garlic and little white pepper and a pinch of salt. Added to this very slowly, with the blender still running, is about 190 millilitres of vegetable oil, a few drops at a time until it starts to thicken. This makes a paler, lighter tasting mayo that can be stored in the fridge for a few days. However it is not nearly as tasty as raw egg mayo. In Australia, the risk from salmonella in eggs comes from salmonella bacteria in the poo on the outside of dirty eggs. Because of this the egg industry washes the eggs. If you have backyard hens, wash the eggs in very warm water before you use them in raw dishes such as mayo.

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