How to make perfect chicken fried steak. This recipe features breaded cube steaks, fried and topped with an easy homemade country gravy.
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I’ve lived in Texas my whole life, born and raised in Houston. Same goes for my mom, and her sweet momma as well. And, folks, I think it’s safe to say, these roots? They run deep.
In fact, I can recall as a child walking down the street with my dad and stopping dead in my tracks when I found out that he had actually not been born in Texas, but rather Mississippi. Mind. Blown. I felt genuine sadness for him. Genuine sadness. Because, even from the time I was a very, very little girl, I knew I was proud of where I came from, and I was proud to be a Texan. And, I remember asking him if it made him sad that he couldn’t say that he was a Texan. I’ll never forget his response: “I’ve lived here long enough to have earned the title, and I am most definitely a Texan.”
Now that I’ve laid down 30+ solid years in the Lonestar state, I have a much better understanding of why my dear Texas makes me so proud: Perfect strangers smiling back, the friendly wave of an acquaintance, gentlemen holding open doors, the helping hand of a neighbor, and a husband who looks terribly handsome in a black, felt cowboy hat. Amen for that.
These are just a few of my very most favorite Texan-y things. The list could go on and on, but for today’s purposes, let’s get straight to it — the food here isn’t half bad either. In fact, it’s not bad at all.
Texas cuisine is comfort food. Whether you’re looking at a hunky, marbled rib-eye, sizzling hot-off-the-grill, a hefty serving of King Ranch Casserole, or a plate of beef enchiladas, it’s comfort through-and-through. Maybe this is why I love Texas so, and just maybe, Texas is the whole reason I found my passion in comfort food. If this is indeed the case, then dear Texas, I owe you a “thanks”.
What better way to show one’s gratitude than with a tribute? A tribute to the dish that says Texas bigger and better than any other dish — the one and only, chicken fried steak.
I grew up eating chicken fried steak. In fact, I think I may have actually eaten it on a weekly basis as a child, and cube steaks were most certainly a household staple. And while these days, fried foods aren’t necessarily on the weekly menu for my little family, chicken fried steak always receives a warm welcome at the dinner table. But, for those of you who may not be quite as familiar with this Southern fare, let’s talk a little Chicken Fried Steak 101.
CHICKEN FRIED STEAK 101
WHAT IS THE MEAT IN CHICKEN FRIED STEAK
The cut most often used for chicken fried steaks is packaged and labeled as “cube steak.” Cube steaks come from a much larger cut of beef called beef chuck.
Beef chuck hails from the neck and shoulder area of the cow. Because this is an area that gets a lot of action [just think about how often you use those muscles], beef chuck is a fairly tough cut of meat, and you’re probably used to seeing it used for pot roast. Pot roast is cooked low and slow, and slow-cooking tough cuts of meat with a fair amount of marbling can lead to big flavor.
However, cutting the beef chuck into thin slices and tenderizing them also leads to big flavor and makes for a much quicker cooking process. Thinly sliced, tenderized pieces of beef chuck are also known as (dun, dunn, dunnnnnn — you guessed it!) cube steaks.
And this is where chicken fried steak comes in.
WHY IS IT CALLED CHICKEN FRIED STEAK
This is a common question, and the answer is actually surprisingly simple — because it is steak…that is breaded and fried…like chicken. Yup, that’s really all there is to that.
CHICKEN FRIED STEAK BREADING
The breading process for chicken fried steak is pretty much the same as it would be for fried chicken.
For this chicken fried steak recipe, in particular, we will be starting with a seasoned flour dredge, followed by a dip in a milk and egg mixture. Then, the cube steaks go for their last go-round in another flour mixture. However, this one is permeated with crushed saltines.
Crushed saltines are not found in all chicken fried steak recipes…just the best ones. The crushed saltines give the batter an easy upgrade in the crust department, making it extra crunchy and completely addictive.
Speaking of breading…
I obsess. Ok, so maybe I have a little bit of a problem when it comes to kitchen gear, however, I will say that this purchase seriously comes in handy when you are dredging things like, let’s say….chicken fried steak? And, I love my breading trays. The trays interlock and stay side-by-side during the dredging process. Then, when you’re all done, you simply throw them in the dishwasher and STACK them to store neatly in the cabinet. Neat and tidy. That’s my kind of kitchen tool.
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN FRIED STEAK
A common mistake people make when frying up a batch of chicken fried steak takes place right at the get-go.
Rather than leaving all the seasoning to the breading, show a little love to those cube steaks, and hit ’em with some salt and pepper. Or, you could try TAK House Seasoning — a simple mixture of salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder — to add a great deal of flavor to your steaks.
Seasoning the steaks before they go into the dredge can be the difference between a bland chicken fried steak and a great one.
Once you’ve seasoned your cube steaks, it’s on to the dredging process (previously discussed). Once they’ve been properly coated, they go in for a shallow fry in canola oil…preferably in a cast iron skillet.
USE A CAST IRON SKILLET FOR SHALLOW FRYING
My favorite piece of equipment for frying chicken fried steaks (or shallow frying anything, really) is…dun, dun, dunnnnn! You guess it. A good ol’ fashioned cast iron skillet.
Cast iron is an excellent and even-heat distributor, which helps your oil to stay at a constant temperature while frying. Not only that, but it is oven-safe, heavy duty and long-lasting. Plus, I kind of like the way it looks sitting there all assertive-like on my stovetop.
All you need now is some white country gravy, and a substantial scoop of mashed potatoes. Please, enjoy!
TRY PAIRING CHICKEN FRIED STEAK WITH:
- 2 pounds tenderized cube steaks
- 4 teaspoon TAK House Seasoning (recipe at TheAnthonyKitchen.com)
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, separated
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, separated
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, separated
- 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 3 dashes hot sauce
- 16 Saltine crackers, crushed
- 2 cups canola oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk preferably warmed
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
Pat the excess moisture from the steaks using a paper towel. Sprinkle evenly with TAK seasoning, and set aside until ready to use.
Prepare your dredging station by setting out 3 rimmed trays or pie plates.
In the first tray, mix together 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and a 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
In the second tray, lightly whisk together eggs, milk, and hot sauce.
For the third tray, combine 1 1/2 cup flour, saltine crackers, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a 1/2 teaspoon pepper to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse to combine, and transfer the tray. If you do not have a food processor, make sure the crackers are finely crushed, mix with remaining flour and seasoning, and add to the tray.
Add the canola oil to a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, and allow to come to temperature (350°-375°).
Have ready a large rimmed baking sheet, lined with paper towels. Place a cooling rack over the paper towels.
One at a time, dredge the steaks in the seasoned flour, then submerge in the egg mixture, followed by a thorough coating in the cracker mixture.
Add the steaks to the hot oil, 1-2 at a time, taking care not to crowd the skillet. Fry for 2 minutes on each side or until crispy and golden-brown. Transfer to the cooling rack. Serve and enjoy.
In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until combined. Allow to bubble for 1-2 minutes, but do not allow to brown.
Add milk a generous splash at a time, whisking after each addition until all of the milk has been incorporated. Allow the sauce to bubble for 5-7 minutes, just until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy.
To quickly warm your milk for the gravy, place it a microwave safe measuring pitcher and heat for 45 seconds to 1 minute.
The cooling rack will help to prevent the bottom of the steaks from becoming soggy while you finish frying the others.