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Chicken-Fried Steak

Chicken-fried Steak 1

If you have never heard of a ‘Chicken-fried Steak’ before, you may quite likely be as mystified as I was when I came across it for the first time. For the uninitiated, this particular culinary delicacy, originating in the American South, consists of a steak that is battered, or breaded, and then deep-fried (or pan-fried in lots of fat) much the same way as is Southern-fried Chicken.

My first, and thus far only, experience with this dish was at a roadside restaurant in Virginia during a road-trip to Florida my wife and I undertook a year or so before we were married. It was served, as I recall, with some sort of potato (whether mashed or fried I can no longer say) and a veggie of some sort. It was also topped with a creamy, white gravy that is more or less traditional in the south. The steak, I thought was pretty decent, but I really didn’t care for the gravy at all and, for this experiment, I think I will give that particular addition a miss…

While I was thinking about trying this dish, I had a hard time deciding on battered or breaded, and I decided to go with a process that lies somewhere between the two. My idea was to use an egg wash, as one would for breading, but give the steaks a double dredging nicely seasoned flour to yield an extra thick coating somewhat like a batter.

As for the frying, I briefly considered the deep-fry method but then decided to go with pan-frying with lard and just a touch of bacon dripping for added flavor. Purists may insist that this actually makes the dish a ‘Country-fried’ rather than a ‘Chicken-fried’ steak, but the consensus on this is far from clear and I am not going to take a firm position one way or the other…

The Ingredients

  • Two small Beef Steaks;
  • 1 cup Flour;
  • 2 tsp. Garlic Salt (or plain salt if you prefer);
  • 1 tsp. Ground Black Pepper;
  • 1 tsp. Celery Seed (optional);
  • 2 eggs, beaten (you may need a third depending on the steak and egg size).

Chicken-fried Steak 2

This is not a dish where you will want to use a very expensive cut of steak and, thus, a bit of tenderizing will be in order. If you like, you can do as I have done and first cut a series of cross-hatched incisions about a quarter way through the thickness of the steak on each side.

The Method

Chicken-fried Steak 3

To begin, mix together the flour and the seasonings in a deep dish and then coat the meat on both sides. Next, use a meat mallet and pound the steaks well, making sure to work the flour mixture into the flesh as it gets tenderized.

Chicken-fried Steak 4

Pour the beaten egg into a shallow pan and dip the steaks into it, turning to coat both sides. Now, dredge the steaks in the flour, pressing well to form the first coat. Repeat these steps again and, if you have sufficient egg leftover, do it a third time. Set the steaks aside on a sheet of waxed paper for the time being.

Chicken-fried Steak 5

When you are ready to cook, heat a generous amount of shortening or other cooking fat in a frying pan (adding a little bacon fat as well, if you like) and brown the steaks nicely on each side. Use a moderate flame and allow coating to get just a bit crispy at about the point same that the meat is cooked through. Finally, remove to a paper-towel lined platter to remove excess oil and then serve when ready.

By the way, you will notice here that I am frying one steak at a time in a small pan rather than both together in a larger one. This is so that I can get sufficient depth of cooking fat while using a minimal amount.

The Verdict

In lieu of the more traditional white gravy, I put a little apple sauce on the side for an interesting little flavor fillip and served the steaks with potatoes mashed with scallions, parsley and butter. My wife and I really enjoyed it (although it really needed a bit more green vegetable as well), and all I can say is that I am surprised it took me so long to try cooking this very homey meal myself. I won’t be doing this with filet mignon anytime soon, but this is a nice basic recipe to have one’s repertoire for the cheaper cuts. In truth, I think I can improve on this present version with a little tweaking and maybe some of you will like to play around with it too…


30 Comments Post a comment
  1. Liz #

    am with you on being mystified. Steak fried like chicken? Fish are fried, too, so why not fish-fried steak? Good point about it being a good use for cheaper cuts of beef. You are an adventuresome cook 😉 That’s one dish I haven’t dared try as I’m not from the south and I just don’t quite get it.

    July 18, 2013
  2. I often crave foods that I’ve never tried before, simply after reading about it online.

    I’ve heard of a chicken fried steak but never tried one. I have to admit, I assumed it was a piece of chicken rather than beef.

    Breading and deep-frying seems like a lot of extra work for a simple pan fried steak. Was it worth it? I do love gravy though so that’s where I would differ. I often contemplate eating gravy like you would a bowl of soup.

    p.s. this would make a great addition to Our Growing Edge this month.

    July 18, 2013
    • I’d try it with a richer, meatier gravy of the sort I’d like with a roast…. It’s an interesting dish but I think it is something you like best if you grew up with it. PS. I am checking out the link 🙂

      July 18, 2013
  3. Thank you. How nostalgic. I love chicken-fried steak. I also love wiener schnitzel. I ate grits and chicken-fried steak for the first time in Texas back in the 1980s. They served the steak with a milk-based gravy and creamy mashed potatoes. It was delicious. And for breakfast at another restaurant I had a bowlful of steaming hot grits with a pat of butter on top and a fried egg on the side. You can find chicken-fried steak on the breakfast menus of many restaurants in San Francisco. Get a load of this menu:

    July 18, 2013
    • Good grief … I especially like the section entitled ‘More Stuff’ 🙂

      July 18, 2013
  4. Having lived in the South for much of my life, this is one of those foods that I take for granted, although it’s also one of the foods that I only ever ate at restaurants. We never made it at home. For me, the gravy really makes the dish. It should me a milk-based gravy with lots of ground pepper. It adds a nice bit of seasoning and moisture to what can be a dense piece of meat. I’ll be back in the US for a few weeks in September and I’m sure I’ll order this while I’m there.

    July 18, 2013
    • I can see where it must be a comfort food for those growing up with it!

      July 18, 2013
    • Yes. Lots of ground pepper in the milk-based gravy is the ticket.

      July 18, 2013
  5. Crumbed and fried is always delicious.
    🙂 Mandy

    July 18, 2013
  6. The gravy in the deep south is called saw-mill gravy. Here in Virginia it is usually referred to as sausage gravy.
    Personally the flavor depends on who cooks it. Usually ig is bland like flour paste with chucks odd old sausage in it. Though I have had some amazjng saw-mill gravies in the south; although I am sure they were filled with the sausage grease and were very fresh.

    July 18, 2013
    • I did read about gravy with sausage in it, but I have never come across the name ‘saw-mill’ gravy before.

      July 18, 2013
  7. Having grown up in Texas, where chicken fried steak can be found in most restaurants, I have a suggestion. To have a tender meat and a terrific crust, it should be marinated in buttermilk first.

    July 18, 2013
    • I’ve done that with fried chicken before… it does tenderize!

      July 18, 2013
  8. My first experience was in Fredrick when visiting Fort Detrick in MD. I agree, the steak was fine, the gravy not so much. I liked the mashed potato and the crumbed and fried ochre.

    July 18, 2013
    • A different gravy might be better. I wasn’t crazy about the ‘white sauce’ kind.

      July 18, 2013
  9. I actually ran into the term “chicken-fried” steak just a short while ago and was just as mystified! Thanks for the great post!

    July 18, 2013
  10. Do you remember where in Virginia the restaurant was? I wouldn’t mind visiting that place someday.

    July 18, 2013
    • Oh… not a clue I am afraid. It was a highway restaurant on the I-95 as far as I can recall but even the name is long since gone from my memory. Chicken fried steak is really common all throughout the south, though, so you should have no problem finding it anywhere.

      July 18, 2013
      • Although I’ve grown up in the South, I’ve never had chicken-fried steak yet. I really have to try it sometime.

        Preferably with biscuits. We’re big on biscuits here in the South. 😉

        July 18, 2013
    • Most places will have it. Check trip adviser for assistance on finding a good local southern restaurant. Local hot spots will almost always have the best. Saw-mill gravy on homemade biscuits can be divine.

      July 18, 2013
  11. Nice! I’m a vegetarian but I’ll make sure my parents try this.

    July 18, 2013
    • It is definitely worth giving it at least one try 🙂

      July 18, 2013
      • Haha I trust your word, fellow lawyer friend.

        July 18, 2013
  12. Ah! My guilty pleasure meal whenever I visit back home! Yum. Yours looks delicious!

    July 19, 2013
    • Thanks … I suspect others are much better than my first attempt 🙂

      July 19, 2013
  13. Lordy Lord ! Never heart of this dish ! Looks and sounds so amazingly inviting ! Many thanks for the unique idea 🙂

    July 19, 2013
  14. I was raised on chicken fried steak! My grandmother was born and raised in the south and no one in the family can quite duplicate her magic touch. we always start with a cut of beef called “cube steak”–which is just very tenderized inexpensive steak. There’s just nothing like chicken fried steak as far as I’m concerned! 🙂

    July 20, 2013

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