When I was growing up I was not exposed to the same foods as my friends. In my Italian-American home, I didn’t have things like tater tot casserole or egg foo young. I remember harassing my dad when I was a kid to buy Banquet TV dinners and pot pies when we would go to the store. (Good thing he always told us NO!)

In my mind, chicken fried steak was a ground, preformed mystery meat slathered with some kind of white gravy and served in schools and penitentiaries. As I got older, however, I became obsessed with the history of food, especially the regional foods of the United States.

Chicken fried steak, a true Southern classic, can be a very special treat.

To the best of my knowledge, chicken fried steaks looks to have been inspired by Wiener Schnitzel, a classic German-Austrian entree, and Cotolleta Milanese, which is Italian. Americanized versions of these dishes were first known as “pan-fried steak.” Then, sometime around 1930, the beef dish became known as chicken fried steak because it is prepared somewhat like fried chicken.

Typically made with tenderized cheaper cuts of beef such as round steak or eye of the round, chicken fried steak is another dish that can be really special when prepared properly. I find that using tender pieces of flavorful cuts such as flat iron or strip steak can produce a chicken fried steak worthy of any foodie’s table.

The gravy for chicken fried steak does require a watchful eye and plenty of stirring.

Here is my recipe for my ultimate chicken fried steak.

Buttermilk Mixture

  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

Flour Mixture

  • 2 and 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika


  • 1 large flatiron steak cut into four pieces, each weighing about 1 and 1/4 pounds.

Mix ingredients to create your buttermilk and flour mixtures.

Beat the steak with tenderizing mallet, and season with salt and pepper.

Add seasoned, tenderized steak pieces to your flour mixture and completely cover with the seasoned flour.

Soak the flour-coated steaks in buttermilk marinade. Remove steak from the buttermilk and shake off excess buttermilk so it does not drip freely.

Add steaks back into seasoned flour and pat flour onto steaks. Remove from bowl and let breading rest on steak for about 15 minutes.

Heat a cast iron skillet and about 1/8 inch of lard, vegetable oil or Crisco. Heat over medium high heat.

When fat is heated, carefully lay steaks in the skillet and brown.

When they’re sufficiently brown on one side, turn them over and repeat.

Drain the steaks on paper towels while you make the gravy.

Here’s a batch of chicken fried streak almost ready to serve.


  • 4 to 6 tablespoons of the lard drippings. (Get some of the brown bits if you can.)
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • Pinch of onion powder
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • Pinch of poultry seasoning
  • Pinch of leaf thyme
  • 1 quart whole milk (I sometimes use some heavy cream or half-and-half when I want a rich sauce. Since I don’t eat like that everyday, it is OK every once in a while as a treat.)

Add 4 tablespoons flour to the pan drippings, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the flour is medium brown and the mixture is bubbly.

Add salt, pepper and spices. Slowly add the whole milk, stirring constantly with whisk.

Turn heat to low and whisk out any lumps.

Serve with fried eggs and hash browns with fried onions and melted American cheese for breakfast, or with mashed potatoes and green bean almondine for dinner.

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