Chicken-Fried Steak

American Cowboy Picture
Often, today’s chuck wagon cooking meat competition calls for cooking Chicken Fried Steak. The food was made for the cowboys who worked the trail drives and likely did originate in Texas. It’s roots begin around 1850 in the central Texas area and with the large German population, its likely that the recipe crossed over from a popular dish from Wiener Schnitzel breading Veal with flour. The large quantity of available beef and lack of Veal seems likely that the entree replaced Lamb using various cuts from longhorn cattle.  

Tougher cuts of meat could be pounded using a mallet into a more chewable thin piece of meat and breaded to increase taste. 

Cooks on the trail drive rarely cooked meat as the cattle was money on the hoof. Although, the occasional weak might be traded with area immigrates for fresh vegetables, goods or to just cross someones farm. If cattle had to be slaughtered, the best parts of beef would be traded. Others, made into stew and parts like Skirt cuts made into jerky, fajitas or even chicken fried steak.  While our recipe below will call for milk, only can milk was available during the later trail drives and water often was used to make gravy mixed with bacon grease.

Ree Drummond, author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks, says the secret to this cowboy classic is to double dip the meat for maximum crust.


pounds cube steak

large eggs

1 1⁄ 2 cups milk, plus 2 cups for the gravy

cups all-purpose flour, plus about 1⁄ 3 cup for the gravy

t. seasoned salt,

3⁄ 4 t. paprika

1⁄ 4 t. cayenne pepper 
3 t. seasoned salt
1⁄ 2 cup canola or vegetable oil for frying

  • Directions

    1. Begin with clean dishes for the meat, milk-egg mixture, and flour mixture with a plate at the end for the breaded meat.
    2. Combine eggs and 1 cup milk; beat with a fork.
    3. Mix salt, paprika, cayenne, and black pepper into 3 cups flour.
    4. Lightly season a piece of the meat with salt and pepper. Dip both sides into the egg-milk mixture, then dredge meat in seasoned flour, coating thoroughly. Dip in egg-milk mixture and dredge in flour one more time. This repetition creates a thick crust that is the signature quality of good chicken-fried steak.
    5. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook meat in small batches 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate and keep warm.
    6. After frying all the meat, pour off the grease into a heat-proof bowl. Without wiping the pan, return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup grease back to the pan and allow to heat up.
    7. Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour evenly over the grease, and then whisk to make a golden-brown paste known as a “roux”.
    8. Pour in 2 cups milk, whisking constantly. Let the gravy come to a slow boil. The gravy will thicken gradually. Total cooking process should take 5 to 10 minutes. Generously season with salt and pepper.
    9. Plate the meat with a heaping pile of mashed potatoes, and cover with gravy.

    Recipes from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond (HarperCollins, 2009)

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