As Wikipedia tells us:
Cube steak is a cut of beef, usually top round or top sirloin, tenderized by fierce pounding with a meat mallet, or use of an electric tenderizer. Many professional cooks insist that regular tenderizing mallets cause too much mashing to produce a proper cube steak, and insist on either using specialized cube steak machines, or manually applying a set of sharp pointed rods to pierce the meat in every direction. This is the most common cut of meat used for chicken fried steak.
And chicken fried steak is the topic of the day, ladies and gentlemen, as hubby and I have decided to treat ourselves to some chicken fried steak, homemade mashed potatoes, country gravy (sometimes called “white gravy” or “milk gravy”), mustard greens (seasoned with vinegar, of course!), and biscuits for supper tonight. We cook our chicken fried steak in the deep fryer, and so I’ll be using a country gravy mix for convenience, but if you skillet fry yours, you can make your country gravy from scratch. Also, because it’s still so hot here (believe me, I’m even tireder of saying it — and living it! — than you are hearing it), I’ll be baking up frozen biscuits in the toaster oven instead of making my own biscuits.
Cube steak is a very lean cut of tenderized (“cubed”) beef. I like to purchase a highly tenderized cut referred to as “beef cutlets” that makes a chicken fried steak that is fork-tender. You can also purchase a lean rump roast (cut into 1/2″ or so slices) or round steak and tenderize it yourself. Chicken fried steak is more or less a Southern take on Wiener Schnitzel. As Wikipedia tells us:
Chicken fried steak (also known as pan-fried steak, CFS or country fried steak) is a dish consisting of a piece of steak (tenderized cube steak) coated with seasoned flour andpan-fried. It is associated with Texas cuisine. Its name may be due to the similarity in preparation styles between chicken fried steak and fried chicken.
Chicken fried steak resembles the Austrian dish Wiener Schnitzel (known in Latin American cuisine as milanesa), a tenderized veal or beef cutlet, coated with flour, eggs, and bread crumbs, and then fried. It is also similar to the recipe for Scottish collops.
The precise origins of the dish are unclear, but many sources attribute its development to German and Austrian immigrants to Texas in the 19th century, who brought recipes for Wiener Schnitzel from Europe to the USA. Lamesa, the seat of Dawson County on the Texas South Plains, claims to be the birthplace of chicken fried steak, and hosts an annual celebration accordingly. John “White Gravy” Neutzling of Bandera in the Texas Hill Country also claims to have invented the dish.
Chicken fried steak isn’t the nutritional disaster that many think it is: the trick is that if you get your oil hot enough for what you’re making, whatever you’re frying, be it vegetables or meat, will “sear” on the outside, with the result that the food actually absorbs relatively little in the way of oil. And remember, it’s made with a very lean cut of meat.
Also, it’s not as though we eat chicken fried steak — or deep-fried anything — with enough regularity for it to be thought of as “often.” (That is, unless you declare once or twice a month, on average, or 12 to 24 of the 1, 095 meals we eat annually — or 1 to 2 percent — as “often.”) As a matter of fact, the last time we deep-fried anything was the fish and chips for hubby’s birthday in early July.
My tried and true method for chicken fried chicken or chicken fried steak has long involved soaking the chicken or steak in milk for a wee bit (preferably buttermilk), coating it in seasoned flour, and then frying it. Recently (as within the past several months), though, I’ve been having trouble with the seasoned coating sticking.
That’s a bummer. 😦
Although I’ve not figured out (yet!) why the coating isn’t sticking now when it used to before, I have been noticing when I watch the FoodNetwork (which I catch at random times) that more than one show has advocated “double dipping” when deep-frying meat…and also advocating an egg beaten in with the milk, as well.
Hubby reminded me that his mom beats egg into the buttermilk for her chicken fried venison — and her chicken fried venison is mighty, mighty tasty.
So I gave the double-dip method a try when I last made chicken fried chicken…and on the plus side, by golly, it worked! The coating, most definitely, stayed on!
On the minus side (and there are ALWAYS pluses and minuses, with everything), it does make rather a mess in that there is some gooey milk/egg and flour mixture to get rid of, and also additional dishes to get clean.
But the crispy and flavorful coating, most definitely, stays on — and it sure smells yummy!
We use a deep-fryer for chicken fried steak, but if you don’t have a deep fryer, you can use a deep skillet or a Dutch oven. I recommend using the Dutch oven because it will be easier, safer, and leave less of a mess than using a skillet. Think about it: the Dutch oven is deeper, yet the same circumference as a skillet, so when you fry in it, the deepness of the Dutch oven pot, combined with a spatter lid on top, greatly reduces the potential for injuries, accidents, and messes resulting from hot oil.
I promise you, this tastes so yummy, you’ll be singing along with the Zac Brown Band 😉 (Go on, give it a listen — you know you want to! The lyrics are presented right there for you, too!)
Chicken Fried Steak (Double – Dipped) (Number of servings depend upon amount of steak and heartiness of appetites; I usually fry up extra so that we have some for snacks, chicken fried steak sandwiches, and/or another meal)
- Desired amount of cube steak, cut into steaks or strips
- Beaten egg and buttermilk (approximately 1 beaten egg to every 1/2 to 2/3 cup buttermilk)
- All-purpose flour seasoned to taste: recommend seasoned salt (I use reduced sodium seasoned salt, and not much of that), paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and coarse ground black pepper
- Oil for frying (suggest Canola)
- Remove cube steak from ‘fridge and allow it to lose a bit of its chill.
- Lightly beat together (with fork or whisk) the egg and buttermilk.
- Season flour to taste.
- Set up baking rack(s) upon which to place coated steaks. (Suggest placing waxed paper or parchment paper on a cookie sheet(s) and placing rack(s) on sheet.)
- Heat oil in deep fryer or in deep skillet or Dutch oven. If cooking in deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat 2″ to 3″ of oil to deep-fry; a lesser amount to pan-fry. Heat oil to 375 – 400F (I just set my deep fryer to its highest setting, which is 400F).
- While oil is heating, dredge steak first in flour, then in egg/buttermilk wash, then in flour again. Place on rack and continue to the next piece of steak. (Add and season more flour and/or more buttermilk/egg as necessary until all pieces are coated.)
- Allowing the uncooked meat to “rest” on the rack with the coating before frying it will help the coating to adhere. Let it rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes before frying. (If you plan on frying up a “mess of steak,” as we say in the South, by the time you get done with your last piece of steak, you should be good to go with starting to cook the first pieces of steak you coated.)
- Once oil is hot, fry steak, a few pieces at a time, until coating is golden and steak is cooked through. (Cooking times will vary based on your appliances and size/amount of steak you’re cooking; I cooked up about 2 or 3 steaks at a time in our deep fryer for anywhere from 4 to 8 minutes a batch.)
- You can place the chicken fried steak on a paper-towel lined plate or platter and keep it warm in the oven ’til you’re ready to eat, or you can do as Alton Brown of the FoodNetwork suggests and place it on a rack and let it finish “crisping up.”
- Store leftovers in the ‘fridge. Delicious cold, or will re-crisp nicely in the oven or toaster oven at 325F – 350F or after 5 or 10 minutes, flipping over/turning half-way through for best results. Chicken fried steak sandwiches are a delicious way to give a fresh take on leftovers.