The Bracha for Schnitzel

Generally speaking, a food only has a single Beracha. This means that an item classified a single food will not usually require more than one Beracha, despite the components of the food entailing distinct Berachos when eaten separately.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine whether a dish is a single food or a mixture of multiple foods. The Aruch HaShulchan gives a simple rule of thumb; if every spoonful contains multiple components, it is a single food. If often a single piece will fill the spoon by itself, then each ingredient requires its own Beracha. So for example, a coarse cholent eaten without bread would likely require distinct Berachos on the barley, potatoes and meat; while a more finely cut one might not. This rule is not universally accepted, but is a good starting point for our discussion.

Assuming a compound food is classified as a single item requiring only one Beracha, which one is the correct one to make? The basic factor is that the primary and dominant component is the one that determines the Beracha. Of course, this only begets the next question, how do we decide which ingredient is dominant?

One of the numerous rules is that the 5 species of grain are usually assumed to be of primary importance. Unless the flour is merely a binding agent, as in some recipes for gefilte fish, it is assumed to be the main dietary staple and the primary component. However, the question arises when the grain ingredient is clearly enhancing the flavor of the food and not just binding, but is equally clearly of secondary importance in most people’s minds. A classic example of this would be breaded schnitzel. While the letter of the law would seem to indicate that Mezonos would be the correct Beracha, as it contains bread crumbs that are not merely a binding agent, and it is a single food; however, the common custom and the majority of the Poskim contradict this.

The clearest explanation for this accepted Halacha would seem to be that following the 5 grains is neither an iron-clad rule nor an absolute Halacha; it was merely intended as a general indicator for the primacy of grains. Since grain is the staple of most diets, when in doubt we assume it is primary in this mixture. The exception for a binding agent is a proof that when its primacy is contradicted by facts, we disregard this rule. Similarly, with schnitzel, since the chicken is clearly the main component of the dish, we will ascribe to the breading a supporting role. Hence, the accepted Beracha is correctly Shahakol.

11 thoughts on “The Bracha for Schnitzel

  1. Some also hold that since one first encounters, for example, the breading, when eating the schnitzel, mezonos would be the brocha. Yet others would decide based on how much breading there was in comparison to the meat. So again, maybe not so clear what bracha.

    • I would be very curious who is the first opinion you quote, as it would appear to be inconsistant with the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch of Ikar and Tafel.

      Your second point is an excellent observation that I should have made more clear in my article.
      What I wrote presumes that the apparently primary component is the chicken. However, in an institutional kitchen where they may skimp on the more expensive meat and use a thick layer or cheap bredding be filling, many Poskim hold that the appropriate Beracha becomes Mezonos.

  2. After learning the sugya it does seem clor the beracha on shnitzel is mezonos because the 5 minei dagan are always considered ikar (unless ledabek…), as you state “While the letter of the law would seem to indicate that Mezonos would be the correct Beracha, as it contains bread crumbs that are not merely a binding agent, and it is a single food” that being said, why do the poskim (and minhag) differ? The explanation to say that the rule which in halacha seems very clear is lav davka, to me seems very shver?
    Additionally, could you please expound on your point about cholent, regarding smaller or larger pieces?
    Thank you,

    • I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear enough.
      The main point of may article was to demonstrate that the Minhag and many of the Gedolei HaPoskim understand the rule of primacy for the 5 species is not a Chok, it is merely a general indication of which component is viewed as the most important. When there exist other, more conclusive indicators to which ingredient is the most significant, we will follow them and not the 5 species of grain.
      A similar concept is found relating to another of the general rules of Ikar and Tafel. We generally assume the majority component is the primary one. However, it is clearly true that this is not an absolute rule, and if a minority ingredient contributes more to the final product, it will determine the Beracha.
      I hope this is clearer.

      Which aspect of the cholent would you like me to expand upon?

  3. This subject is covered in many of the contemporary seforim on Brochos, notably וזאת הברכה in Chapter 12, in the name of Rav Moishe Feinstein, and other Gedolei Haposkim (his terminology for Harav Eliyashiv). He makes a distinction between a light coating or a thicker coating. when fish or shnitzel is fried in a light breaded coating as one would usually do when preparing domestically then the ברכה is Shehakol. But if is a thick coating ( for e.g. commercially available ready breaded fish goujons, that can be as little as 50% fish content) then they pasken that one needs to make 2 brochos mezonos on the coating and shehakol on the product.
    ועיין בספר מקור הברכה להגאון הרב גבריאל קרויס שליט”א בסימן כח שמביא בארוכה ומסיק שברכתו שהכל ואינו מפליג בין כיסוי עבה או דקה

    • I am aware that I am not the first one to address this topic, and I am impressed by your command of it. I am familiar with the Seforim you quoted, all excellent resources.
      Nevertheless, I thought that many people would be interested and benefit from a hopefully clear and concise rendition in English.

  4. Perhaps 6 hours after clarifying this matter you could address whether an ice cream sandwich or even a regular ice cream cone can require 2 brachos?

    There is a cereal, possibly a shredded wheat variety, that has 50:50 one side one type and the other side the other type. I recall seeing a warning or a recommendation to not eat this cereal first to avoid.

    • There is a debate whether these foods are classified as a single item or two eaten simultaneously. Therefore, many recommend separating a piece of each to say both berachos. However, an unsweetened cone is merely a means of holding the ice cream and certainly does not require any beracha.

      If both sides are from the 5 grains, there is no question it is mezonos. Also, if the other one is rice the same applies. If the non-grain half is corn, we will always assume the mezonos is of primary importance due to grain being the primary dietary staple. So, I don’t see any need to avoid it. Unless, if it is half corn and half rice; we do not grant rich the automatic primacy endowed in the 5 species of grain, and there would be doubt which is more significant. Ideally, both brachos should be recited on two separate items.

  5. B”H your reply has proven the addage (from the famous joke about the Jewish man on the Russian train) – it was obvious! I am sorry I had forgotten those details.

    Yes, indeed, the particular cereal is 50% corn and 50% rice. So when mixed with a true grain cereal the rice is fine. And the corn is so heavily processed that it I think loses its haadama (like Pringles) and comes along with any other shehakol food. I wonder if eaten dry among true grains if the corn comes along for the ride with the rice that the one of five grains was primary?

    I really didn’t know that the ice cream cone could be eaten without its own bracha. Is that true even if someone starts to eat the ice cream and then all the ice cream falls to the floor leaving a pristine cone? Ahhh, now the halachic concern creates a Religious Accommdation need to have the cone re-filled — as a Constitutional Right to remove that doubt at least in the US! And the chutzpah of demanding this even after having eaten a cookie is a close second to the other famous joke – who pleaded for mercy because he was (now) an orphan.

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