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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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!

PRO TIP: One thing you’ll need is The Best Way to Freeze Chicken (Easy Freezing) method that I’ve outlined here!


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


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.


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


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


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.


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


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!


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


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 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


  • A tasty gravy.

What more could you ask for?


The Secret to Perfect Pinto Beans

Southern Mexican Cornbread

Lemon Chess Pie

Old Fashioned Sugar Cream Pie


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 16 votes
Print Pin Save 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


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
  • 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.


  • 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 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!***


“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


Wendi is the writer, CEO and dishwasher at Loaves and Dishes! When not in the kitchen or behind the computer, you can find Wendi serving on International Food Conference Boards, Speaking at various conferences, Leading and Cooking for the local Arts Council's "Taste of Stokes" events or donating home cooked goodies to various local non profits such as the Danbury Songwriters and Stokes Partnership for Children. Wendi is also a Registered Nurse with a Master's Degree and serves on her town's board of councilmen.

Recipe Rating


Saturday 22nd of June 2024

I don't have cornmeal, will it be ok still ?😔

Wendi Spraker

Tuesday 25th of June 2024

Yes, it will still be fine. The crunch will be a little less.

Candi Conti

Monday 1st of May 2023

This is the best chicken fried steak recipe I ever used. I only use this one. It's a no fail and the very tender. My friends love it and so do I.

Wendi Spraker

Wednesday 3rd of May 2023

Thank you! We love it at my house too!


Saturday 2nd of April 2022

I cooked country fried steak last night, and as usual, the meat shrunk and the breading fell off. I didn't know to dry the meat and keep it warm in the oven. Hopefully your tips will help me make it right. Thanks!!! Fingers crossed.

Wendi Spraker

Wednesday 13th of April 2022

Hi Sheryl, I hope you'll give my recipe a try next time. Since I've been doing it this way, the breading has not slipped off.

Gunter VonDeylen

Friday 14th of January 2022

It is a schnitzel and it's not rocket science. Just have to make things more dramatic.

Grumpy old lady

Sunday 3rd of September 2023

@Regan Wiley, I agree, but have to admit that despite the differences in serving style, the meat prep is basically the same process in the end — so much so that I described the process to my daughter and son (I had them cooking and baking from the time they could reach the counter standing on footstools) by telling them to think of “chicken fried steak” as “schnitzeled steak” (they knew how to make schnitzel first, so it seemed easiest to explain that way) when I taught them to make it… pounded or tenderized til thin and the connective tissue is broken down, then breaded and fried.

Because of my odd way of explaining when teaching the kids to cook, both my daughter (who works at an artisan bakery and has pretty extensive experience in asian restaurant kitchens) and son (who is a fresh pasta maker for a shi-shi local Italian restaurant) didn’t even know to call it anything else but “schnitzeled beef and mashed potatoes with milk pan gravy” until they were in their late teens 🤣 I was raised in northern Ohio with Appalachian/Hungarian/Polish/Italian/Ger man cooking sensibilities all over, and intermingled, but my kids were raised out west, and weren’t as exposed to midwestern foods being the norm - now we all live in the mid-south, and now that both kids are in their 20s, they *still* call it “schnitzeling”, regardless of the meat involved! 🤷🏼‍♀️ 🙂

PS - funny thing is, I looked up this recipe because somebody had asked for a CFS recipe, and I didn’t want to type the whole thing out - this one’s right on the mark, and does everything I do, so it was perfect. And THEN I went and typed all of this! Much more work than simply typing a recipe out would’ve required! I don’t even know why I try to take shortcuts. It never works. 🤦‍♀️

Regan Wiley

Sunday 10th of April 2022

@Gunter VonDeylen, As an adult whose childhood was split pretty evenly between living in Germany, Texas and Saudi Arabia, I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that schnitzel and chicken fried steak are by no means the same food. When or where in your lifetime have you EVER had schnitzel prepared with cubed beef? If you have, it was mislabeled. Secondly, the correct texture, thickness and flavor profile of the breading for chicken fried steak is not even remotely the same as that for schnitzel. I’ve never seen anyone squeeze a fresh lemon wedge on a chicken fried steak like one would do on schweineschnitzel or wienerschnitzel, have you? You’ll never find a schnitzel covered in traditional Sawmill white gravy, although not exactly the same as this recipe, but the gravy you’d be served at in the majority of restaurants here in north Texas. I realize there are regional variations but to further drive home the point, as just one *single* example, you wouldn’t find hatch chili peppers in anything served on top of a schnitzel. Were you actually referring to rahmschnitzel? We still haven’t even covered the other variations of schnitzel so please say what you mean, and mean what you say. Perhaps the problem is you’ve never tasted chicken fried steak? Your statement is the equivalent of saying sauerkraut is coleslaw, currywurst is an Oscar Meyer hotdog smothered in chili, spaetzle is Kraft macaroni and cheese, sauerbraten is brined Thanksgiving turkey just because the meats can both marinate or “soak” for 2-3 days in their respective liquids (granted sauerbraten can marinate for up to two weeks but I’m simply trying to make a point), ANY German/Austrian beer is Coors Light, Ritter Sport Edel-Vollmilch is a Hershey’s bar…would you like me to keep going? If you aren’t familiar with foods, there’s a great invention called Google where you can research an extremely vast amount of topics. If this page wasn’t to your liking, there’s an exit button on your Internet browser of choice to close this website. There’s also a very well known saying that perhaps you aren’t familiar with: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. These tips and instructions are all valid (nothing dramatic here besides your comment) points to make. If you took your time to read through this webpage in it’s entirety, you would’ve noticed further down in the comment section after someone far more respectful than yourself applauded the author for taking her time to explain each step, Ms. Spraker very graciously explained that she does so because when she’s reading a recipe where the reason behind a step isn’t explained, sometimes she’ll skip it. That’s why instead of simply stating “stir,” most recipes will read “stir until all ingredients are evenly combined.” A recipe that states “heat over medium then reduce to low” doesn’t convey the same message as a recipe that is written “heat on the stovetop on medium until mixture is boiling then cover with a lid and simmer by reducing the heat to low.” The more detailed the instructions, the better a recipe will turn out. Not everyone is at the same cooking level. If you don’t need any tips, good for you. That’s what the scroll button is for. Best of luck to you in your quest for a chicken fried schnitzel cube steak. Wendi, thank you for the informative page. We can both say a prayer for less negativity in this world.

Wendi Spraker

Friday 14th of January 2022

wow. ok

Julie Christley

Monday 26th of July 2021

I am noncook to say the least, however I followed her instructions and made an amazing supper! Thanks so much!!

Wendi Spraker

Wednesday 28th of July 2021

So glad that it was just like you wanted.


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