One of the "national foods of the South"-- you'll find Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy on just about every restaurant menu south of the Mason-Dixon line! There's nothing better than homemade Southern Chicken Fried Steak made from scratch. This cube-steak-family-favorite is usually served with cream gravy and a side of "I need a nap!"
Why you'll love this recipe!
- Easy and fast - it doesn't take long for the tenderized steak to fry...about 5-minutes each!
- Restaurant-quality-This recipe works if you follow the Tips outlined below...and the flavor is delicious!
- Not as messy as you think-while the steaks are frying, you can load the dredging bowls into the dishwasher...pretty easy clean-up!
Here's what you need:
The ingredients for Southern chicken fried steak are pretty simple: heat-tolerant oil, cubed, or tenderized steak, buttermilk (or milk), eggs, flour, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper.
I prefer to use buttermilk mixed in with the eggs because the acid from the buttermilk further tenderizes the cube steak.
If you don't have buttermilk, you can easily make your own or use plain milk. (See the recipe notes for how to make buttermilk.)
How to make it from scratch:
Homemade Chicken Fried Steak made from scratch isn't hard to make, but it does take some practice.
First things first, you want to let the cube steak sit at room temperature for about 10-minutes. If you try to coat cold steak, the batter is more likely to fall off when frying the steak.
Dredge the seasoned beef in egg then in seasoned flour and fry.
Use one bowl for lightly beaten eggs and another for flour seasoned with salt, pepper and cayenne.
Drag the beef steak through the egg, coating thoroughly, then through the flour. Shake off excess and place beef in skillet with hot oil.
What cut of meat do I use for chicken fried steak?
You'll want to use a tenderized beef--usually tenderized top-round steak. It usually comes in packages of two and the beef is thin and has criss-cross or "cubed" marks on it.
(It's also called "cubed" steak.) These marks happen after it's been put through a tenderizing machine....
If you don't see it, ask your butcher...he'll know...just tell him you want tenderized or "cubed" steak for Chicken Fried Steak.
What kind of oil do I use?
Back in the day, our Great Grandmothers used lard, which is a high-cholesterol fat derived from pork; then, our Grandmother's discovered "shortening", also known as Crisco™.
Crisco really does fry foods the best, but now we know it's loaded with those bad trans fats and it's not good for us so, we use vegetable or canola oil.
Both of these oils are high-heat tolerant, as opposed to olive oil, which will burn easily at higher temperatures. Do not use olive oil.
Use a meat thermometer to determine the heat of the oil or, you can sprinkle a little flour in the oil.
If it sizzles, the oil is hot enough; if it doesn't sizzle, continue heating the oil.
Restaurant and commercial fryers typically cook this at 350ºF; but this is too hot for home frying and plus that, it's just downright scary to heat up oil that hot.
I find the best results are when the oil is between 260-312ºF. The steak will still fry, but it will take a bit longer than in a restaurant.
How to keep the breading on:
This is one of the most common challenges cooks encounter when making chicken fried steak. The breading falls off the meat...here's how to prevent the breading from falling off:
- Make sure the meat is not cold; let it sit at room temperature for about 15-minutes before dredging
- Soak the tenderized beef for 3-4 minutes in the egg-buttermilk mixture
- Press the flour mixture into the meat
- Make sure the oil is hot enough-between 260º - 312ºF
- Don't flip or turn the meat for 2-minutes; let it get good and crisp on the bottom before you flip it
How do I know when it's done?
According to government guidelines, chicken fried steak should have a center, internal temperature of at least 160ºF. This is to ensure no bacteria is present.
I have found varying recommended internal temps on line. Some say a minimum of 145ºF, while others say 165ºF. I use government guidelines just to be safe.
What's the difference between country fried steak and chicken fried steak?
These terms are often used interchangeably and it depends on where you are in the South and who you ask!
They're actually the same thing (texturized, breaded and fried steak), but in some states, "country fried steak" is served with brown gravy and onions and "chicken fried steak" is served with cream gravy.
And then, there's the local diner who serves "country fried steak with cream gravy," so...you can see it's a matter of who you ask.
Troubleshooting tips for perfect Southern Chicken Fried Steak:
Follow these fail-proof tips for making the perfect Southern Chicken Fried Steak:
- Let the steak rest: pull the steak out of the fridge and let it rest on the counter about 10-15 minutes before seasoning.
- Set up dredging station: Use two flat bowls (I use pie plates); set one up with eggs and (butter)milk and the other with seasoned flour.
- Use the right pan: Cooking with high heat requires a heavy-bottomed frying skillet. I recommend cast-iron 100%.
- Use the right oil: use a high-heat oil like vegetable, canola, peanut, grapeseed or walnut. Olive oil is not high-heat-tolerant and will burn.
- Use enough oil: Depending upon the size of your skillet, you'll want to pour about 1-inch of oil in the pan. (See recipe notes)
- Use tongs: Use 3 separate tongs for the process: 1 for dredging in egg/milk mixture; another for dredging the steak in flour and a third for flipping and removing the steak from the oil.
- If you don't have three tongs, use your fingers for dredging the steak in the milk mixture and flour; you'll definitely need tongs for flipping and removing the steak from the hot oil.
- Don't Move the Steak: Just like frying fish, place the flour-coated meat in the hot oil and don't touch it for two minutes. Just don't. After two minutes, use the tongs to "peek" at the bottom to see if it's getting nice and brown. If it is, then flip the steak; if not, let it cook another minute.
- Adjust stove heat: If you see the steak starting to burn, turn the heat down a little. You want a golden crisp fried coating on the steak--not charred.
- Use an accurate meat thermometer: There's nothing worse than cutting into a chicken fried steak, only to find the center pink and stringy. The center of the steak should reach a minimum internal temperature of 145ºF. I usually cook mine to an internal temp of 160ºF.
- First batch looks best: Chicken fried steaks are usually pretty big and most cast-iron skillets can hold only one at a time, which means you have to work in batches. If you find yourself in this situation, don't worry! The first steaks will come out lighter than the others because the oil is fresh.
- If this really bothers you, you can pour off the old oil in between batches and reheat new oil. I find this cumbersome and a waste of time.
- Drain on paper towel: Have a clean plate next to your frying pan with a few layers of paper towels. Once the steak is done, place it on the paper towel to drain.
If you're fortunate to have any leftovers, the best way to reheat it is to place it on a baking sheet, uncovered, and bake at 325ºF for about 12-15 minutes, or until the center is warm.
If you're wondering what to serve with Southern Chicken Fried Steak, you'll find a variety of sides! The most popular and common sides are mashed potatoes and cream gravy! You'll also see green beans or corn as a side dish.
Some folks like to serve it with steak fries, biscuits, collard greens or cabbage!
If you're craving more good Southern food, you might like:
- Salisbury Steak
- Homemade Chicken Tenders
- Chicken Spaghetti
- Southern Style Cream Gravy
- Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
- Sausage Cream Gravy
- No Bake Lemon Icebox Pie
♥ If you make this recipe, please scroll down leave a comment and rating! I love to hear from you!
Southern Chicken Fried Steak
- Cast iron skillet
- Meat thermometer
- Paper towels
Chicken Fried Steak Ingredients:
- 2 lbs. cubed steak
- 1+ cups oil (not olive oil); you may need more oil, depending upon the size of your skillet (See Recipe Notes: Oil)
- ¾ cup buttermilk (or plain milk)
- 3 whole eggs lightly beaten
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt (for flour)
- 1 tablespoon paprika (for flour)
- 1 tablespoon cayenne (for flour)
- 1½ tablespoon ground black pepper (for flour)
- salt and pepper (to season steaks)
Cream Gravy Ingredients:
- ½ cup oil (reserved from fried steak)
- ½ cup flour
- 3 cups milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- Remove steak from fridge and let rest on counter 10-15 minutes
- Set up dredging station with two bowls: One with lightly beaten egg and buttermilk; the other with flour, salt, pepper and paprika
- Lightly salt and pepper both sides of cube steak; (if you want to make Chicken Fried Steak Fingers, slice the steaks into equal strips)
- Soak seasoned steak in buttermilk/egg mixture for 2-3 minutes then dredge in the flour mixture; be sure to press flour into the meat
- Heat heavy bottom (cast iron works best) skillet with oil; oil should be hot enough to sizzle, but not too hot or it will catch on fire
- Once meat has been coated in egg and flour, place steak into the hot oil; cook for 2-3 minutes; DO NOT MOVE THE STEAK; after about 2-3 minutes, turn the meat to the other side and cook for an additional 2-4 minutes.
- Use meat thermometer to check internal temperature; when the center reaches 160ºF, the steak is done
- Place on paper towel; serve and enjoy!
Make the Gravy
- Use a separate skillet for the gravy; pour ½ cup reserved frying oil into clean skillet; heat on medium
- Sprinkle in equal amount of flour; whisk (mixture will be clumpy)
- Add 1 cup of milk to flour mixture; continue to whisk; add another cup of milk; continue to whisk; turn heat to medium high for about 2-minutes, then reduce to medium heat
- If gravy is too thick, add final cup of milk to mixture and whisk until smooth
- Add salt and a generous amount of black pepper to your liking
- Serve over Chicken Fried Steak
- If you want "chicken fingers" slice the steak into strips first, then season the strips with a little salt and pepper. Dredge strips in egg mixture, then flour, and fry. These cook faster than whole steaks.
- After you place the steak in the oil, let them cook for 2-3 minutes; DO NOT MOVE THE STEAK during those first 2-3 minutes. After, take a peek and see if the first side is golden brown; if so, flip and cook an additional 2-4 minutes.
- If the first side isn't quite golden, let it cook a minute longer, then flip it.
- This recipe yields about 2 cups of gravy.
- Use some of the oil from the fried steak to start the gravy in a separate skillet.