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What Is Chicken Fried Steak & Who Doesn’t Love It?

When my wife Sandy and I go out to eat at the local restaurants we find chicken fried steak on almost every menu. You won’t find Chicken Fried Steak at what I call plastic menu operations such as Fridays, Applebee’s etc, nor will you find Chicken Fried Steak on high end restaurant or resort menus. Chicken Fried Steak is usually exclusively found at ma and pa establishments, local hole in the wall operations, and of course, it is a tradition for most home-cooked meals. No one really asks, “what is chicken fried?” because no matter the origins or regional styles, this menu item is extremely popular with rural hard working people who are not concerned about eating spa cuisine, calories, and or cholesterol. We want wholesomeness, good flavor, and something that fills up our plates and bellies. If you were concerned about health you could make substitutions and changes to make a healthier version but then what’s the sense in that?  I like Chicken Fried Steak as a hunting camp menu item. In camp, it is one of those meals that must be prepared fresh, not precooked or frozen and reheated. In camp, it is similar to having elk tenderloin or fresh liver and onions on the menu.

A Taste of Home

Chicken Fried Steak is one of the most criticized dishes served in restaurants because everyone compares to how mom made it, or how they prepare it at home. No matter how good it is, it’ll never compare to moms or the one prepared at home. There’s no comparison to the ambiance of moms cooking in the kitchen or the one you’ve prepared in hunting camp. No sense in trying to compare, mom is always gonna win out.

There are as many variations of Chicken Fried Steaks as there are mom and pop restaurants. I’ve seen just about every type of meat used from venison, caribou, grouse, and turkey. The consistent factor regarding the meat is that it is tenderized by pounding, cubing, or jaccard or all three. I prefer cuts that are Less Than Tender such as the bottom round and sirloins rather than using the loin or backstrap.

What is Chicken Fried?

All Chicken Fried Steaks are coated with some type of coating such as flour, buttermilk or egg batter, or cornstarch mixture. This is a standard procedure for pan frying or deep frying. The best pan I’ve used to prepare these dishes is a nice heavy, straight-sided cast iron pan that holds and retains the heat.

Some people call this cooking method a low or shallow deep fry or a deep pan fry. Either way, it is cooking with lots of fats and or oils. The standard rule when pan frying is that the sauce is prepared away from the pan the meat has been cooked in. Meaning the sauce is prepared in another utensil because the pan the meat is cooked in has too much oil, floatiest, etc. to prepare the sauce. The sauté cooking method has less fat and the objective is to prepare the sauce from the fond (brown stuff on bottom of the pan) so a sauce dish will be served smothered in sauce. Chicken Fried Steak is the exception to the pan frying rule because the sauce is made in the same pan the meat is cooked in.

How To Cook Chicken Fried Steak

The basic procedure and guidelines to prepare Chicken Fried Steak are:

  • Use tender breast meats from game birds or less tender cuts of types of venison. Tenderize it by pounding it into a cutlet.
  • Season meat heavily before dredging in flour.
  • Dredge into flour, then into buttermilk or egg wash mixture.
  • Dredge back into flour or cornstarch mixture with good dry coating.
  • Dredge as close to cooking as possible.
  • Try to keep one hand dry and one wet when coating.
  • Use baking powder, soda, and cornstarch to make crispier.
  • Make sure the oil is half way up the sides of the cutlet or higher.
  • Make sure the oil is hot or else the meat will stick to bottom of pan.
  • Turn meat once, the more you play with it the more likely the coating will come off.
  • Don’t overload the pan, which cools the fat and you get poor quality.
  • Once cooked, hold on wire rack in oven to keep crisp and hot.
  • Once all cutlets have been cooked, pour off and reserve the fat for the sauce, wipe out pan.
  • Prepare gravy by adding some fat that is left from frying meat. Add flour to hot fat making a roux, add the seasonings, half &half, milk, and/or broth, bring to boil, adjust flavor and consistency.
  • Serve gravy under steak and across the top corner and on top of mashed potatoes.

Buttermilk works is a great marinade for most any meat, it also works well for egg washes when coating meats. Many people will add tabasco sauce to the marinade or sauce for a spicy flavor.

Chicken Fried Steak can be served for any meal period, one thing for sure, the portion size is pretty consistently huge! Now, if someone dares to ask, “what is chicken fried steak?” you not only have the knowledge but can make them a delicious meal!

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