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The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak

That southern country wonder: Chicken Fried Steak. It is the best meal you ever cooked or the worst frustration you ever encountered. Have you ever tried to make a perfectly breaded chicken fried steak only to have all of the breading to slip off in the frying pan?

How about yucky clumpy gravy? Yeah,I’ve done it too, but not anymore because I’m sharing The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak. 

Let’s take a minute and talk about what makes chicken fried steak perfect anyway?

  • A crispy breading?
  • Lots of flavor when you crunch into the meat?
  • A tasty gravy?
  • All of the above?

Can I get an AMEN?

I thought so.

WHAT IS CHICKEN FRIED STEAK?

Chicken Fried steak is simply a beef cube steak that is breaded and fried like a piece of fried chicken. Cube steak is a cut of beef that is naturally pretty tough.

You will see that it has been run through the tenderizer (a machine that makes small cuts all over) at the grocery store.

These cuts help the breading to stay on, but you will need the rest of the SECRET to have the perfect Chicken Fried Steak.

CAN CHICKEN FRIED STEAK BE A LITTLE PINK?

Yes, chicken fried steak is beef and it is ok if it is a little pink in the middle. However, if you follow my recipe, this shouldn’t be a problem.

HOW DO I MAKE CHICKEN FRIED STEAK TENDER?

Start with a pretenderized beef cube steak. The steak will look like it has been in a losing knife fight.

If your beef cube steak is thicker than 1/2 an inch, then use a meat tenderizing pounder to pound it out to 1/2 an inch.

IS CHICKEN FRIED STEAK SCHNITZEL?

Chicken fried steak is similar but it is not a schnitzel. Schnitzel is an Austrian dish made of veal or pork. This Chicken fried steak is made out of a beef cube steak.

HOW DO I MAKE CHICKEN FRIED STEAK WITH GRAVY?

OH the GRAVY is the best part, isn’t it!?! Simply follow the instructions in the recipe card at the end of this post for the best gravy you ever put your tongue on.

You will use the drippings from the chicken fried steak and add flour, milk, salt and pepper and you will be in business in no time! See the photo?

a photo of The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak with sunlight shining on the gravy

The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak

WHAT’S THE SECRET?

Should it really be a secret? I mean, come on, we have eaten delicious chicken fried steak our whole lives, right?

Our Chicken Fried steak hasn’t been prepared by a secret chef behind xray proof walls. We simply waited for some delicious southern yum to jump in our mouths after mom said, “Dinner is ready!”. I mean, am I right? Yeah, I know it.

This time though, we are paying attention!

THE BREADING IS THE SECRET TO PERFECT CHICKEN FRIED STEAK

We WANT a crispy breading, right?

To achieve that we need:

  1. The right pan for the job
  2. A proper amount of oil in the pan
  3. Cooking oil at the right temperature
  4. The meat must be dried off very well
  5. A three stage breading process
  6. Warm oven
  7. Paper towel covered pan in the oven for the pieces that are finished
An overhead view of The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak

The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak

THE RIGHT PAN FOR THE JOB

You will need a good heavy pan for this job . A cast iron 9” skillet is ideal but a good quality heavy stainless steel pan will also work.

YOU WILL NEED OIL IN THE PAN 

Pour enough oil in the pan so that the oil is at least ¼ of an inch deep and not much more than that.

A photo of a side view of The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak

The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak

OIL TEMPERATURE  

If you have a thermometer, DON’T use it. You probably won’t be able to get a good reading in ¼ inch of oil.

 Instead, put the oil in and place your burner on medium. Watch for the oil to start to glisten and shimmer on the surface.

You DO NOT want the oil smoking. Just glistening.

Dip your fingers in some water and flick some into the pan and then listen. If the oil pops and cracks with some energy  then it is ready.

If the popping is slow then let it heat more. DO NOT try to cook your steaks until the oil is popping and cracking hot.

If it is SO HOT that it is sputtering out on you when you do this then it is TOO hot!

An overhead view of The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak with the fork in the upper left corner

The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak

DRY MEAT – THE SECRET TO PERFECT CHICKEN FRIED STEAK

Wet meat will not hold the breading. The breading slides right off because the meat will begin to steam as it cooks (because what does water turn into when it heats? Steam!!)  

So, before you attempt to make this dish, remove the meat from the package and place on several layers of paper towel.

Use several layers of paper towel to dry the surface as well . I smash it a little as I dry it to squeeze any extra water out of the meat.

Then apply the Kosher salt to both sides and let it set for about 5 minutes or more and then dry it again with fresh paper towel.

THE BREADING PROCESS – THE SECRET TO PERFECT CHICKEN FRIED STEAK

Go ahead and admit it – this is going to make some dirty dishes and there isn’t really a way around it. You could do the flour breading on a paper plate – but that increases your trash pile instead.

Make sure that the dishes for breading are large enough for the meat pieces and so that you can move the meat around some to make sure it is completely covered in flour.

You will be making THREE breading plates

  • Plate number one will contain plain flour – nothing else.
  • The second will contain an egg/milk mixture
  • A third plate will contain flour, corn meal and seasonings.

Do things in THAT specific order. It is important to NOT bread your meat until you are ready to put it in the hot oil.

So , if you can , have the breading station NEAR to the stove. (Just trying to help you avoid a mess).

A photo of the side of the The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak with the gravy dripping down

The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak

DO NOT OVERCROWD THE COOKING PAN – THE SECRET TO PERFECT CHICKEN FRIED STEAK

One of the most important secrets when cooking your steak is to NOT overcrowd the pan. You never want to have more than 2 steaks in the pan at the same time.

Never have more than 70% of the bottom of the pan covered with steak.

If you have more than that – the steaks will simply steam each other – and that will cause the breading to fall off. Avoid steam!

A WARM OVEN – THE SECRET TO PERFECT CHICKEN FRIED STEAK

Once the first piece of chicken fried steak is cooked, there will be more to cook. You will need a place to keep your first one!

  • Have the oven preheated to the warming setting, if you have that but if not , then the lowest setting at about 175.
  • Place an oven safe plate or a cookie sheet in the oven with a paper towel on it to drain any remaining grease.
  • Gently place the cooked chicken fried steak on the dish and let it rest while you cook the rest  and  add any other completed steaks to the dish  but do not stack them on top of one another.

This allows the steak to rest and keeps the breading crispy until you are ready to eat!

A photo of a side view of The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak

The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak

A FLAVORFUL BREADING – THE SECRET TO PERFECT CHICKEN FRIED STEAK

The secret to a flavorful breading is SEASONING. It may seem that I am having you to  LOAD the final breading up with a LOT of seasoning and I am. That is because there is a lot of stuff to overcome before the flavor ever gets on your tastebuds.

Just add the ingredients and mix it up  and then make that the final dip for your steak before it goes in the oil.

a photo of The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak with sunlight shining on the gravy

The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak

A TASTY GRAVY – THE SECRET TO PERFECT CHICKEN FRIED STEAK

A tasty gravy is had simply by using what you have in front of you! Once you have finished your steaks – you have a pan with some lumpy bumps in the bottom! Those bumps are FULL OF FLAVOR! 

  1. Start by pouring the grease off. Just leave a little in the pan and try not to pour the lumpy bumps out.
  2. Then add the flour to the bumps and cook the flour for about 1- 2 minutes and stir it in the pan – you will feel like a dummy cooking plain ol flour – but trust me – you’ll be glad you did when your gravy doesn’t taste like plain flour!
  3. Cooking the flour for a minute or so – takes that dry flour taste out.
  4. Then, just add the milk and cook per the directions – it will thicken up and be wonderful sweet savory gravy in just a few minutes.

And now you have it – the secrets to the PERFECT chicken fried steak!

  • A perfect crispy  breading
  • The breading is packed with flavor

and

  • A tasty gravy.

What more could you ask for?

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS RECIPE, YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

The Secret to Perfect Pinto Beans

Southern Mexican Cornbread

Lemon Chess Pie

Old Fashioned Sugar Cream Pie

THE RECIPE FOR THE SECRET TO PERFECT CHICKEN FRIED STEAK

a photo of The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak with sunlight shining on the gravy

The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak

This is the specific instructions for the secret to perfect chicken fried steak
5 from 14 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: main
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Chicken Fried Steak, Chicken Fried
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4
Calories: 317kcal
Author: Loaves and Dishes

Ingredients

For the Steaks

  • 1 - 2 lb package of cube steaks
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs - beaten
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tbs corn meal
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbs dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (If using table salt, use 1/2 tsp)

For the Gravy

  • Drippings from the steaks
  • 2 Tbs all purpose flour
  • 3 Cups whole milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Instructions
  • Preheat the oven to warming setting or 175 if you do not have a warming setting on your oven. Place an oven safe dish (plate or cookie sheet) covered with a layer or two of paper towel to absorb any extra grease.
  • Put the steaks on a double layer of paper towels and using a second double layer of paper towels, dry the steaks well. Press down on the steaks to remove as much water as is possible to remove.
  • Sprinkle the steaks well with kosher salt and set aside.
  • Heat a heavy skillet on medium heat on the stove top with ¼ inch of vegetable oil in the bottom of the pan.
  • When the oil is glistening and pops and crackles vividly when water is sprinkled in the pan, then it is ready for the steaks. While the oil is heating, set up the 3 dish breading station as described in next step.
  • Set up three dishes for a breading station - make sure that the dishes are large enough to accommodate the pieces of steak plus the ingredients. For dish one, simply place ½ cup of all purpose flour. In the second dish, mix the 2 large eggs and the ½ cup of whole milk together well. For the third dish, mix ½ cup of all purpose flour, corn meal, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, parsley, chili powder, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp of black pepper.
  • When the oil is hot and ready, give the steaks a final pat with paper towels to remove and remaining water and then dip the first steak in the the first breading - plain flour only. Immediately dip into the egg and milk mix. Then transfer to the seasoned flour mix - pat the flour onto the steak well.
  • Gently place the floured steak into the oil and it should sizzle actively - it should not be smoking or have a burning smell - if so - then the oil is too hot. If it is not sizzling actively then the oil is too cold. It is IMPORTANT to have the oil at the right temp.
  • Generally, you can safely cook 2 steaks in a 9” pan together. Do not bread up more steaks than you can cook right now.
  • Add the steaks as you get them breaded - one at a time - not all at once. If you add them all at once - the cooking oil will change temp and it wont’ be the right temp for cooking your steaks.
  • Allow the steaks to cook about 3 minutes per side then move to the oven to your plate waiting with paper towel on it.

For the Gravy

  • Once all of your steaks are cooked and in the oven. Turn the oven temp to off while you create your delicious gravy! In the pan that you cooked the steaks in, pour the grease off. Allow all of the little bits of steak to remain in the pan - and a little grease too - maybe as much as a few tablespoons.
  • Add 2 tbs of flour to the grease left in the pan and cook on the stove top over medium high heat for 1- 2 minutes (the flour will start to look tan to brown in color).
  • Add the milk all at once - it will sizzle a little - don’t worry.
  • Constantly stir the milk using a wooden spoon and scrape the flavorful bits from the bottom of the pan as you do so.
  • As the gravy begins to boil - turn the heat down to medium or medium low. Keep stirring until thickened.
  • Taste and if it needs more flavor - add salt and pepper until it tastes just right.
  • Serve the chicken fried steak over mashed potatoes and top with the gravy.

Notes

  • Make sure the meat is very dry before starting the breading process.
  • Use the three stage breading process as described in the recipe.
  • Make sure the oil is the right temperature.
  • DO NOT crowd the steaks!
  • Turn the steaks only once.
  • Place the cooked steak in a warm oven to dry and do not stack them on top of each other. 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak
Amount Per Serving
Calories 317 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 4g20%
Cholesterol 103mg34%
Sodium 714mg30%
Potassium 394mg11%
Carbohydrates 42g14%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 11g12%
Protein 14g28%
Vitamin A 850IU17%
Vitamin C 0.5mg1%
Calcium 258mg26%
Iron 2.5mg14%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Mention @loavesanddishes or tag #loavesanddishes!

***This recipe for The Secret to Perfect Chicken Fried Steak was originally published on Loaves and Dishes on July 18, 2017 and has been updated with NEW information!***

VERSE TO SHARE

“Look at everyone you pass on the street and say a blessing to them. Say, in your mind, just to yourself – not out loud –  ‘Hello, God Bless you – whatever you are experiencing – bless you and may God be with you”. That’s what pastor Lisa said in her last sermon to my congregation before she headed off to her new assignment.

Lisa is a known lover of people.

Thanks Pastor Lisa for the time and love you have given Danbury. Peace be with you as you go – and keep on loving.

That lead me to look up some verses on love, and I’m sharing them with you…

  •  A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34.
  • Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:9-10
  • Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4: 8
  • Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples  John 13:35

 

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Recipe Rating




Charles Harris

Monday 8th of June 2020

I've always claimed to make the best Chicken Fried Steak in the family and I actually believe after reading this I will out do myself. You had a few tips in here I had not considered. However I do a double batter, make a bigger mess but amazing once cooked. I also season the meat before initial flour dip but I also season the final flour dip station, not sure if that makes much of a difference, just something my Great Grandmother taught me. I think your biggest tip was the gravy, I would sometimes get gravy that tasted a bit like too much flour, I'll be sure to cook mine a bit longer than I have in the past. I also never thought about drying out the meat before hand will defiantly do that next time. And I'll be trying Pamela's idea of the Eye of Round cut meat... I don't always get tough cube steaks but it can ruin all the effort you put into the CFS. Thanks again for the valuable tips, I can't wait to make these for my family.

Wendi Spraker

Tuesday 9th of June 2020

Hi Charles, I'm glad you found some info you could use and I hope you continue being the best chicken fried steak maker out there! Thanks for coming back and leaving me a message!

Pamela

Saturday 28th of March 2020

I stopped using cube steak for this recipe because it’s just too tough. I’m using Eye of Round thin cut and holy cow. My family went crazy for it.

Wendi Spraker

Saturday 28th of March 2020

Hi Pamela, I'm glad you found something that works for your family! So glad they are enjoying it!

Tracey Myers

Friday 21st of February 2020

CaI want to make chicken fried chicken instead of steak. How long should I cook the chicken?

Wendi Spraker

Friday 21st of February 2020

Hi Tracey, That entirely depends on how thick the chicken is. I recommend pounding it thin (about 1/2 inch) then it should be about the same time as chicken fried steak. At any rate, you want the meat to be white with no bloody areas.

Jackie Mcbride

Monday 14th of October 2019

WOW! Is right! I am a well seasoned cook and you have me a new trick. I was actually thinking about trying cornmeal in my breading but was unsure of proportion so I was hesitating. I did a search for a good seasoning blend and I found both answers in your recipe. It was perfection and it is hubby approved. I am anxious to check out your other recipes.

Your method of preparation are the same that I learned years ago. The key is using dry meat and that first dust of flour. Never lose that breading!

With a full belly and feeling satisfied, I am off to search your site. Good job and a big thank you.

I am your sister in the kitchen and in faith.

Wendi Spraker

Monday 14th of October 2019

Jackie, YOU have made my NIGHT! While you were so graciously thanking me for the recipe and a full belly, I was hiking up a dim state highway and probably dangerous part of town to an autoparts store after my car broke down and I found that my triple A card had expired. I'm home safely now, without my car, and feeling a little sorry for myself, I admit . Thank you so much for your sweet note. It puts it all in perspective . God has blessed me mightily and I am so grateful for wonderful readers, cooks and sisters like you! :) . Blessings dear one . :)

Cindi

Monday 3rd of June 2019

This was great. For someone who doesn’t cook much I did ok. Instead of adding 2T of flour for the sauce I used 2T from the leftover 3rd dish of dredge. It was wonderful and gave the sauce that added flavor.

Wendi Spraker

Monday 3rd of June 2019

Hi Cindi! I'm so glad you came back to leave me a comment and let me know!

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