I rarely fry foods these days. After all, it makes a big mess on the stove, the whole house smells for days afterwards, and it’s not all that healthy. However, once in a while, I just have to open up some windows, put on a big apron and fry up a batch of Country Fried Steak. It’s another good old southern comfort classic. How many times have I seen my Mama cook this? It was a staple on our dinner table when I was growing up. Of course, Daddy always had cows on the farm so we always had beef in the freezer (pork, too). Nowadays I get all my beef from the grocery store. Too bad those local sources are so scarce now.
I know that there are folks who would call this “chicken fried steak.” Now, I’m no culinary expert, but I believe there is a difference. In my opinion chicken fried steak is the dish where the steak is dipped in an egg or egg and milk mixture before flouring and frying. Country fried steak skips the dipping step and simply dredges a well-seasoned piece of cubed steak in flour and then straight into hot oil.
This recipe doesn’t give any measurements because, well, I haven’t ever measured any of it! It’s more of a method where you use as much of whatever you need as you go along. Try it once and you’ll get it.
Cubed steak is simply round steak that the butcher has run through some sort of machine in the meat market that makes cuts all across it. It makes the steak really tender. If necessary, cut your steak into serving sized pieces.
Put about ½ inch of oil over medium-high heat in a heavy cast iron skillet. It’s a good idea to use a high-heat oil such as peanut oil for this because you want it to get good and hot.
Liberally season both sides of the cubed steak with the seasoning salt. I’m using Jane’s Crazy Mixed-Up Salt in the picture, but you can use Lawry’s or any seasoning salt that you like. Or the traditional, just plain salt and pepper. Whatever you use, be sure to really use it liberally.
Now, dredge the steak one piece at a time in flour. And we are talking about dredging the steak, not dusting or lightly flouring – dredging. See the pan at the top left? That’s an 8×8 pan with probably 2 or 3 cups of flour in it. You want enough flour that you can really bury the steak down in it and get flour all in and around that steak. Massage it a little, rub it around and get it really coated well. Lift it up and give it a little shake, but not much. You want a lot of flour sticking to your steak.
Check the oil to make sure it’s ready. My trick for that is to put the end of a wooden spoon in the oil. If bubbles start coming up around the handle, it’s ready. Now, carefully place your prepared steak in the hot oil. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on one side. Don’t crowd the pan. If you put too much in the pan at one time, the temperature of the oil falls and then you wind up with steak stuck to the pan and all that crispy, crunchy goodness stays on the bottom of the pan instead of on the steak where it belongs. Besides this cooks so quickly that you can easily do it in batches.
After 3-4 minutes, check for adequate browning. It should be really good and richly browned. Turn to the second side to cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove steak to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm until serving.
If you’d like to make a brown gravy to serve with your country fried steak, here’s what you do. Pour out all but about 4 tablespoons of the cooking oil, but keep all the crispies and drippings in the pan. Put the pan back over medium heat and sprinkle in about 4 to 6 tablespoons of flour. Stir and cook until the flour turns a golden brown. Stir in about 2 cups of water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until thickened. It only takes a few minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.