A Southern Favorite
What evil genius came up with the idea for chicken-fried steak? Just when I’m trying to be good, eating my greens, avoiding sweets, the notion to make chicken-fried steak takes hold in my brain and doesn’t let go until the deed is done. Dear brain, what are you doing?
Chicken-fried steak, if you are unfamiliar with the dish, is a Southern favorite—tenderized beef cutlets, dipped in egg and flour and fried, much like fried chicken, but with steak.
What cut to use to make chicken fried steak
Chicken fried steak is made most often with cube steak, or steak that has already been tenderized, or a cheap cut like round steak, which you have to pound thin with a meat mallet.
Tips for making the best chicken fried steak
- Pound the steak thin. We use a meat hammer for this, but you could use a rubber mallet, a rolling pin, or even an empty wine bottle. A thin steak will cook more quickly and be less chewy
- Press the flour into the meat. We dredge the steak cutlet in flour twice, first before, then after an egg wash. The first time you dredge the steak into the flour, use the heel of your hand to really press it in. That way the coating will adhere better.
- Spoon hot oil over the steaks in the pan. You don’t need to deep fry the chicken-fried steaks. You can easily shallow fry them. Help firm up the coating on top by spooning hot oil over the top before flipping the steaks.
- Use a warming oven. As you fry the steaks one by one, and then make the gravy, keep the finished steaks warm in a 200°F oven.
Use the drippings in the pan to make gravy
Isn’t is all about the gravy? Chicken fried steak is usually served with a creamy country gravy, made with some of the drippings from the pan. After you cook the steaks and while you are keeping them warm, remove all but a few tablespoons of fat from the pan. Add an equal amount of flour and cook for several minutes, until it turns a warm brown color. Then stream in milk and cream to finish the gravy.
Of course, as is the case with almost any regional dish, variations abound. If you make chicken-fried steak at home, what is your favorite way to prepare it? Please tell us about it in the comments.
How to make chicken fried steak (video)
Chicken Fried Steak Recipe
- 4 quarter-pound cube steaks (pre-tenderized) or round steaks
- A sprinkling of salt for pre-salting the meat
- 2 cups of flour for breading
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt for breading
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup milk
- Canola oil, peanut oil, extra virgin olive oil, or other fat for frying
- 3 Tbsp pan drippings
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 1/4 cup whipping cream
- 1 3/4 cups milk
- Freshly ground black pepper
1 Pound steaks to an even thinness: If you are using round steak instead of the pre-tenderized cube steak, you will need to pound the steaks thin or they will be way too chewy. (Already tenderized cube steaks can also use some meat mallet attention to get more thin.)
Place each steak between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, rubber mallet, rolling pin, or empty wine bottle, beat the steak until it is very thin, less than 1/4-inch.
As you beat the steak, you will want to turn over often, and spread out the plastic wrap which tends to wrinkle as you work.
2 Salt meat, preheat warming oven: Sprinkle a little salt over the meat. Preheat the oven to 200°F. In the oven put a wire rack over a baking sheet. This will keep the finished steaks warm and dry while you cook the gravy.
3 Dredge steaks in flour, egg, and flour again: Prepare two wide, shallow dishes such as a pyrex casserole dish. In the first whisk together the eggs and milk. In the second, whisk together the flour, salt, cayenne, and garlic powder.
Working one at a time, dredge a steak into the flour. Using the heel of your hand, press the flour into both sides of the steak.
Lift up the steak, shake off the excess flour and dip the steak into the egg wash, coating it on both sides.
Lift the steak out of the egg wash, shake off the excess egg wash, and then dredge the steak again in the flour. Again, press the flour into the steak on both sides.
Set aside on a plate. Repeat with remaining steaks.
4 Fry the steaks: Pour enough oil in a large frying pan to cover the bottom by 1/4-inch. Heat the oil to 350°F or when you drop a little flour into the oil it sizzles. If the oil doesn't sizzle it isn't ready, if it burns, the oil is too hot, reduce the heat.
Working one at a time, lay a flour-egg-coated steak into the hot oil. Gently shake the pan a little to wash a little hot oil on the top of the steak. Or you can use a metal spoon to spoon some of the oil over the steak. This sets the coating.
Fry until you see the edges of the steak turn golden brown, about two minutes. Carefully turn the steak over in the pan, and fry for two more minutes.
Once both sides of the steak are golden brown, tip the steak up with a metal spatula to drain the excess oil. Remove it from the pan and place if on the wire rack in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining steaks.
5 Make a roux with fat and flour: Turn off the heat of the pan. Pour out all but about 3 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of flour and turn the heat on to medium.
Let the flour mixture cook until it's the color of milk chocolate, about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
6 Stir in milk and cream to make gravy: When the flour fat mixture is smooth and a lovely milk chocolate color, slowly add the milk and cream, whisking constantly. Note that the mixture will seize up initially, and will loosen as you whisk in more liquid.
Add milk to your desired thickness for gravy. If the gravy is too thick for you, add more milk. If it's too thin, let it cook longer.
Season with salt to taste. Season with lots of black pepper, to taste.
Serve chicken fried steak with the gravy and a side of mashed potatoes.
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