Country Fried Steak, also known as chicken fried steak, pan fried steak or simply "CFS," is an incredible Southern comfort dish. At its best it features a delicate batter that is pan fried until golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside. Creamy gravy made from pan drippings, flour, milk and lots of pepper is poured generously over the steak and the must-have mashed potatoes on the side.
Country fried steak is so beloved among Southerners that several states claim to be its birthplace. While the exact history of country fried steak may never be known, there are many theories and even a tall tale that attempt to pin down its origin. Some food historians theorize that country fried steak began with German immigrants who used round steak as a substitute for veal when making wiener schnitzel. Another theory is that it evolved from cowboy cooks who pan fried their steaks in cast iron skillets over the campfire. In the mid-1970s, Texas writer Larry BeSaw wrote a spoof piece for the lifestyle section of the Austin American-Statesman newspaper, telling the tall tale of Jimmy Don Perkins of Lamesa, Texas. BeSaw wrote that in 1911, Jimmy Don, an unemployed drawbridge oiler, took a job as a cook. When a waitress wrote down an order for chicken and an order for fried steak on the same ticket, but left out the comma, inexperienced Jimmy Don wasn't sure what to do. He improvised, flouring and frying a piece of steak as he would a piece of fried chicken. Although BeSaw wrote the story to be humorous and outlandish, never intending for anyone to actually believe it, the story took on a life of its own and became accepted as truth.
Many cooks learned their country fried steak techniques from their grandmothers. While the recipe is not difficult, it never hurts to take advantage of the wisdom gleaned from years of practice in front of a hot stove. Some pointers from experienced country fried steak cooks:
Some While many Southern states claim country fried steak as their own, a Texas recipe is used here. Texas is the beef capitol of the nation, and Texans treat their country fried steak, or chicken fried steak as they usually call it, almost as a religion. It has been reported that approximately 800,000 country fried steaks are served in Texas restaurants each day. The recipe comes from Texas restaurateur, TV personality, cookbook author and "cowboy chef" Grady Spears and was featured on his TV show "The Cowboy's Kitchen." While the recipe here instructs cooks to give their steaks a quick dip in a buttermilk and egg mixture, some cooks skip the eggs, and soak their raw steaks in milk in the refrigerator overnight before dredging them in the flour mixture. When your country fried steak is complete, serve it along with homemade mashed potatoes, homemade green beans and a tall glass of iced tea, as is done in many diners across Texas. If you are lucky enough to have any leftover cooked steak (which you probably won't, as it most likely will be quickly devoured), pan fry it in a little oil the following morning, and serve it with leftover gravy, thick Texas toast and fried eggs for a hearty breakfast.
Place the steaks between two pieces of wax paper and pound with a meat mallet until thin and tenderized.
Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika. Set aside on a plate or shallow dish. Prepare the batter by mixing the eggs with a whisk, in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk and beer. Whisk to blend. Set aside.
In a heavy, deep skillet, heat the peanut oil to 350 degrees. While the oil heats, dredge round steaks in the flour mixture, taking care to evenly coat them. Shake off any excess flour mixture. Dip the meat into the batter, and then again into the flour mixture, making sure all batter is completely covered with the flour mixture. When the oil temperature reaches 350 degrees, slide the steak into the hot oil. Cook the steak about 5 minutes. Turn it (be careful not to break the coating), and cook 5 more minutes, or until the batter is nicely browned. Drain the cooked steak on paper towels. Repeat with the other steaks. Hold the cooked steaks in a 225 degree oven until all four are done. Pour Cracked-Pepper Cream Gravy over the steaks and serve.
Drain the oil from the skillet used for the steaks, leaving a little oil and any bits of crust or meat in the pan. Add the butter and melt it on medium low. When the foam goes down, stir in the flour. Continually stir until the flour/butter mixture turns light brown in color. Slowly add the milk while stirring the mixture with a whisk to keep any lumps from forming. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer gravy for 10 minutes to cook, thicken and reduce. Serve hot over steaks and mashed potatoes.