This chicken fried steak recipe beat Grady Spears—cowboy food legend, James Beard award-winner, and my great friend, at the Golden Chile Awards, to take its place as the definitive chicken fried steak recipe, and today I am sharing the whole process, including my secret ingredient, with you.
As the home of chicken fried steak, Texans have some pretty big expectations for this iconic dish– it’s as Texan as chili or the Alamo, so understand that everyone has a recipe, and they are comprised of similar ingredients with specific twists.
As a chef, I have been on a quest to gather everyone’s best techniques and this post is really about the chicken fried steak secrets that chefs and excellent cooks utilize, combining them all together, and providing you with a recipe for the Ultimate Texas Chicken Fried Steak.
Let’s get back to the basics for our friends throughout the country, and around the world, because the idea of a chicken fried anything seems to be causing some confusion.
Why is it Called Chicken Fried Steak?
If you take the standard recipe for fried chicken and substitute any tenderized steak cutlet–breading and frying the steak just like you would do with fried chicken, then you have made chicken fried steak. We usually serve it smothered in creamy white gravy. (My secret ingredient is in my gravy.)
Chicken fried steak gets its name because the ingredients and process are identical to making fried chicken–a slice of beef such as cube steak or tenderized round steak is used in place of the chicken, but the battering process (standard breading procedure), remains the same.
What is the Difference between Chicken Fried Steak and Country-Fried Steak?
Chicken fried steak is deep-fried and country fried steak is pan-fried. Because most home cooks fry in a saute pan or cast-iron skillet rather than a deep fryer, home versions will lack some of the qualities of restaurant chicken fried steak, which is submerged in hot oil allowing the batter to run and expand, eventually getting very crispy. Most home cooks still refer to their dish as chicken fried steak and would argue that the names are interchangeable. It really comes down to using quite a bit of oil in the pan, giving the batter lots of room to fry in where it develops a crunchy exterior.
Additionally, when you pan fry your meat in a skillet, you’ll have the pan drippings to create your gravy. This gravy will have a golden tint that pure white cream gravy will not have. Many cooks think this gives the gravy extra flavor.
Is Texas Known for Chicken Fried Steak?
Texas is the home of chicken fried steak and the dish is a fundamental recipe for those with Texan roots. Texas even boasts a state holiday, passed in October 2011 designating October 26, as Texas Chicken Fried Steak Day.
Now that we’ve settled all that, let’s get cooking…
What is Best Cut of Meat for Chicken Fried Steak?
Top round, top sirloin, or eye of round.
Cube steak, which was formally tenderized top round or top sirloin, was traditionally used for chicken fried steak for years. However, due to its lack of an official definition, many grocery stores began using other cuts of meat, such as brisket, sending it through a tenderizing machine, and selling it as cube steak. This results in a chicken fried steak that is difficult to chew. For this reason, most chefs and discerning home cooks buy top round, sirloin, or eye of round, and tenderize it themselves with a kitchen mallet.
Cube steak may be used if your butcher has assured you that the correct cuts of meat are being used to produce their cube steak.
How To Make Chicken Fried Steak
If you were able to purchase a good quality cubed steak then there is nothing left to do but season with kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic powder, and proceed to the portion of this post on breading the steaks.
For everyone who was able to obtain top round or eye of round, cut the roast into steaks which will naturally be about 3-4 inches in diameter. I like to cut them to be about 3/4 of an inch thick.
If your beef came in waxed butcher paper that is an excellent wrap to use, or use pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper to line a cutting board, place the steak down and place another piece of plastic wrap or wax paper on top. (See the video for a demonstration.)
Using a meat mallet or a rolling pin, beat the steak until it spreads out and becomes thinner. I like my steaks to nearly double in size so that they are very thin. Repeat with the remaining steaks and transfer them to a baking sheet.
Finally, season the steaks with seasoning salt and black pepper.
How To Bread Chicken Fried Steaks Properly
Now we will set up a standard breading station. In one large glass bowl or casserole dish, we will place our 3 cups of all purpose flour seasoned with seasoned salt, pepper, onion powder, and spices.
In our next shallow dish, we will place 3 cracked eggs and 1/4 cup of whole milk, whisked well. Some people use a buttermilk-egg mixture instead of milk and that provides different flavors in the final crust which you might choose to experiment with.
One at a time take each tenderized steak and coat it in the seasoned flour mixture, shake it off and dip it into the egg mixture, and then back into the seasoned flour. Place the steak, now breaded back onto the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining steaks.
Place the breaded steaks into the refrigerator for 20 minutes while the breading develops. It will go from looking white and powdery to looking more like a dough.
To Fry the Chicken Fried Steaks
Take another baking sheet and place a wire rack over it for draining the cooked steaks when they come out of the oil. Alternatively, you can transfer them to a plate lined with a paper towel. when they are done cooking.
Fill a large cast-iron skillet or large saute pan with a high smoke point oil such as canola oil, sunflower oil, or grapeseed oil. Heat the oil to medium heat, about 350°. I check the temperature of the oil with my infrared thermometer, which I love for these types of messy and potentially dangerous hot oil situations.
Starting with one steak, use tongs to lay the steak down in the hot oil. Cook this steak 3-5 minutes watching the edges for a crispy golden brown crust, then flip. The next side will usually not take quite as long to cook. Transfer to your wire rack or plate lined with paper towels and season immediately with fine salt or seasoned salt. This is the secret to really excellent fried foods. Salt quickly before the crust cools. Repeat with the remaining meat.
Some people choose to hold the cooked chicken fried steaks in a warm oven, but I find this makes the breading go soft. I prefer to work quickly for the best flavor.
How to Make the Best Gravy for Chicken Fried Steaks
Well, I told you I was going to give you my chicken fried steak secret, and here it is. It’s really a secret my grandmother handed down to me from using in her multiple Texas cafes. For the best gravy–award-winning, trophy gravy, always use evaporated milk.
I know! I have seen so many people look at me like why? Why does that work? How would that matter?
Evaporated milk creates a warmer, richer, buttery gravy that heavy cream or whole milk just cannot replicate. Evaporated milk (not to be confused with condensed milk, which is a sweet dessert-like product) is canned milk, and as such, it is heated in the canning process giving it notes of caramel and toastiness. My recipe also calls for seasoning with garlic powder and onion powder and a drop of lemon juice for brightness. I’m telling yall, it’s the gravy to end all gravies.
Since we prepared the chicken fried steaks in our large skillet we will also be able to use those decadent pan drippings for a creamy country gravy with notes of the steak. Occasionally this gravy will look like a brown gravy but since brown gravy is a rich dark gravy, I like to describe it as golden. The pan drippings give it this beautiful color and flavor.
To finish the chicken fried steaks you can plate up with mashed potatoes or green beans and coat the chicken fried steak with plenty of gravy!
Now let’s look at some common problems:
Why does my breading fall off my chicken fried steak?
Breading falls off because of two reasons. Not allowing the batter to sit on the steak and adhere (transforming into an almost dough) before frying, and the frying oil not being hot enough. You should always use a thermometer to manage the heat of the oil in your skillet. I use a simple infrared thermometer.
How do you keep the coating on chicken fried steak?
Rest the steaks after breading them for 15-20 minutes to let the coating adhere well. Then cook in hot oil 350° and up. Do not let the oil drop below 325°. Follow this procedure precisely and you should not have any more problems.
What sides go good with chicken fried steak?
Mashed potatoes are the traditional pairing of chicken fried steak. I also love this Rustic Potato Cake. A green vegetable is nice such as green beans, steamed broccoli, and a piece of Texas toast.
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This authentic Texas chicken fried steak recipe shares my family secrets to crispy, well-developed batter and rich and creamy gravy!
- 4 (1/2-inch-thick) steaks of eye of round
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon seasoning salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 c. milk
- 1/4 liter canola oil, for frying
- West Texas Gravy:
- 3–4 tablespoons oil, reserved from the pan you cooked the steaks in
- 3–4 tablespoons flour (grab some of the seasoned flour from breading the steaks)
- 2 12 oz. cans evaporated whole milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder and onion powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Optional Garnish: I don’t think there is anything better than fresh thyme!
- Begin with the round steak. Place the round steak inside the butcher paper it comes in, or use parchment or wax paper to cover the individual steaks on both sides while pounding flat. Pound out your steaks with a tenderizing mallet to thin 1/4-inch slices. They will get bigger and wider as you go. I alternate between the spiky side and the flat side of the mallet as I go.
- Combine the flour, seasoning salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and cornstarch in a bowl and whisk it well, then place it on a large platter.
- In a glass dish (big enough to dunk a whole steak) combine the three eggs and milk and whisk into a thin mixture to make an egg wash.
- Dip each steak into flour, shake it off, then into egg wash, shake it off, then back into the flour. Place each steak on a nice big cookie sheet. Repeat with all the steaks, then transfer into the refrigerator for a half-hour. Do not skip this step. This is giving the flour mixture time to bind and develop. Meanwhile, you can clean up, remembering to reserve 4 tablespoons of seasoned flour for the gravy.
- To cook the steaks, fill a cast-iron skillet about halfway with canola oil. Heat the oil to 350°F on medium-high heat. (You can test the oil with the back of a wooden spoon. When it bubbles around the spoon, it’s hot enough. This happens at about 350°F.)
- Using tongs, place a steak in the oil. It should immediately start to bubble and cook, but not explode with activity. If it does, you will want to turn the heat down a nudge. Depending on the size of your skillet, you can cook two or more at the same time. Especially if you preheated that cast-iron skillet. You may have to monitor the heat when adding new steaks. I think a good secret is to let the majority of the first steak get nice and well fried on one side before trying to add in another one.
- Watch the edges of the steak for a golden-brown color. The edges will tell you what it looks like underneath! When you feel like the sides look golden brown, flip the steak and repeat frying on the other side, 4-5 minutes depending on the pan used.
- As each steak is done, remove it from the pan and immediately salt it on each side. Hold on a cookie sheet in a preheated oven at about 225°F. This will keep them hot while you cook the other steaks, but they are best served quickly for maximum crispiness.
- When all of the steaks are resting and toasting in the oven, pour all the grease out of the skillet except about 3–4 tablespoons and turn the heat down to low. Sprinkle in the reserved flour and whisk until a brown paste begins to form.
- Slowly whisk in one can of milk and whisk until it is thoroughly combined. Turn the heat up to medium and whisk as the gravy begins to take form and thicken, which happens when the mixture starts to simmer. Little bubbles will begin to form. Keep the heat around medium.
- I usually add another 1/2 can of milk as I decide how thin/thick I want my gravy . . . that’s just a preference thing. Feel free to do what you like. Add the lemon juice, onion and garlic powder, and salt. We crack freshly ground pepper in just before serving and sprinkle on fresh thyme from our herb garden.
- Top the chicken-fried steaks with gravy and serve with your favorite sides.
This recipe is delicious served with our Boursin cheese mashed potatoes recipe!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 3007Total Fat: 256gSaturated Fat: 25gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 221gCholesterol: 223mgSodium: 1830mgCarbohydrates: 135gFiber: 5gSugar: 7gProtein: 47g
These nutritional values are an estimate only and provided as a courtesy. Different brands of ingredients may result in different calorie counts, and the software does not account for these differences. Consult with your dietician or doctor for precise nutritional values.