Picking Sides: Chicken Fried Vs. Country Fried

Chicken Fried Steak and Country Fried Steak. Same thing, right? I mean, if you look at internet and cookbook recipes, menus, and anywhere else, you might think they are interchangeable, for sure. I mean, there are so many different ways to say things in the South, this must just be an example of different local terminologies for the same thing.

In the South, you wouldn’t say someone was crazy….You would choose from one of these:

–he’s a few biscuits short of a dozen

–he’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic

–he ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed

–the cheese has slid off his cracker

So it is reasonable to believe that Chicken Fried Steak and Country Fried Steak are just two different ways to refer to the same meal.

But such thinking would be a mistake. And in the South, we take our food seriously. I am pretty sure some multi-generational family feuds have started over the “right” way to smoke a brisket, cook a pot of chili, or fry some chicken. If you were to even suggest in some parts of the South that Chicken Fried Steak and Country Fried Steak were ubiquitous, you may be committing great heresy.

There are some minor schools of thought that suggest the difference is just in the breading. That the chicken fried method requires rolling in seasoned flour, and the country fried method involves coating in come sort of crumbs, such as bread, cracker, or corn flakes.

And some will claim the difference lies in the actual frying vessel. That to be chicken fried, something must be fried in a deep fryer, while something fried in a skillet is called country fried.

The real answer is, as it is in many territorial food disputes, is not so black and white.

Chicken Fried Steak is a thinly cut and tenderized piece of steak, which may be either dredged in seasoned flour or crumbs, or even battered in a wet batter. It is then fried, either in a skillet, or deep fried, until golden brown and cooked throughout. In most of the United States, it may be served with brown gravy, pan gravy, or cream gravy, whether on the side or poured on top of the steak. In Texas, however, Chicken Fried Steak (CFS) is always served with cream gravy. If a Texan serves you a Chicken Fried Steak with other than cream gravy, you should question the veracity of their citizenship claims.

Country Fried Steak makes use of the same cuts of meat, and like its Chicken Fried cousin, may be coated in a variety of breadings.  Country Fried Steak is always cooked in a skillet.  And once it is done on both sides, the gravy is made around it in the pan—brown gravy is the most common—and then it is simmered in the gravy for a few minutes to finish it off.  For this reason, Country Fried Steak is always made in a skillet.  And since it is simmered in the gravy after being fried, it is less crispy.

So, Chicken Fried Steak may be made in either a skillet or deep-fried, and served with gravy after cooking. Country Fried Steak is always made in a skillet, and simmered in the gravy before serving.

Subtle differences? Perhaps.

Been the cause of a few territorial food feuds? Certainly.

Worth trying both of them out to see for yourself which one is best? Absolutely!

Of course, after your done choosing sides, you need to choose some sides. In Texas, CFS is always served with mashed potatoes, and copious quantities of cream gravy.  In fact, we tend to think of gravy as a beverage.

Green beans are often the second side dish, but if you are feeling crazy, try something different.  Like green beans cooked in bacon. Or green beans stewed in tomatoes.  Maybe even green beans cooked with onion.  Live a little outside the box!

In other states, people even eat corn with their chicken fried steak. Or broccoli. I’ve even heard tell that some folks will eat it with fried cabbage.  Go figure!

IMAG0858

Chicken Fried Steak

Serves 4

For the Steak:

  • 2 pounds cube steak
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 2 t Tobasco sauce
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 t salt
  • 3 t black pepper
  • 2 t paprika
  • Oil, for frying

For the Gravy

  • stick butter
  • 4 T flour
  • cups milk
  • teaspoons salt
  • teaspoons coarse-ground black pepper

Country Fried Steak

Serves 4

  • 2 pounds cube steak pieces
  • oil, for frying
  • 3 t salt
  • 2 t ground pepper
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 beaten eggs

For the brown gravy:

  • 2 tablespoons reserved fat from skillet
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock
  • salt
  • black pepper

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 275°.

Heat oil to a depth of ¼” in a heavy or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.

Combine flour, salt and pepper in large bowl. Place the beaten eggs in a medium bowl.

Dredge cube steak pieces into the flour mixture, then the egg mixture, and then the flour mixture again.

Add the meat, a few pieces at a time to the skillet, and cook 4 minutes on each side.  Remove to a baking sheet, and keep warm in the oven while you finish the rest of the meat.

Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat drippings from the pan. Return pan to heat, and whisk in flour until smooth.  Slowly whisk in milk and beef stock, a little at a time, until smooth and thoroughly incorporated.  Allow to simmer, reduce heat to low, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Return steak to skillet, turning to coat with gravy, and allow to simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until gravy has thickened.

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45 Comments on “Picking Sides: Chicken Fried Vs. Country Fried”

  1. 2012/12/14 at 5:32 pm #

    Before I say anything, let me just tell you that I love you and that I’m your biggest fan. Now… On to my well-researched retort.

    Chicken Fried Steak is generally referred to as such because it’s prepared and cooked in the same way as Fried Chicken. Period. Country Fried Steak is an invention by some wannabe (probably Dairy Queen) to hawk their nasty ass “steak fingers.” Seriously.. A marketing department somewhere came up with the whole country fried moniker, probably in an attempt to avoid confusion among customers.

    Any steak — fried or otherwise — that is allowed to simmer in gravy is known as Smothered Steak.

    And mashed potatoes are not a ‘must’ when it comes to Chicken Fried Steak. White rice and gravy are also acceptable, if not preferable. And many very respectable Chicken Fried Steak joints, such as Threadgill’s, serve theirs up with French fries.

    Finally, fried okra is the preferred side among true CFS buffs, although green beans (w/ bacon) are acceptable. I used to prefer the okra, but have switched to a small side salad.

    You are spot on about the cream gravy. But I, admittedly, make cream gravy with the cast-iron skillet drippings.

    I sense a CFS throwdown in the future.

    • 2012/12/14 at 8:41 pm #

      I love you too, even when you are wrong… :) Clearly a Throwdown is brewing!

      • Mad Scientist
        2012/12/17 at 9:04 am #

        I agree with the statement regarding fried okra must be served with CFS, but the okra have a spot on the plate right beside the mashed taters. Green beans (with bacon, of course) can served in a separated small bowl, since they tend to have a bit of juice that dilutes the gravy.

      • 2012/12/17 at 9:10 pm #

        I. Hate. Okra. But Greg loves it.

      • 2012/12/20 at 10:16 am #

        I think Adam’s Texas claim has been a bit diluted from his time spent up North. Rice with CFS? Unheard of, although I will admit to having fries instead of mashed taters a time or two. I have no preference on the green beans vs okra, however, both are good. What nobody seems to have brought up is the necessary bread item to soak up that gravy. I like Texas toast, but some good hot rolls work as well. Where do you stand on that one?

      • 2012/12/20 at 11:57 am #

        Texas Toast FOREVER!!! Really buttery Texas Toast…And I believe you are right in thinking Adam has been tainted a little by yankiness….RICE!? Weird. Okra I hate, but at least it’s traditional for people who don’t hate it…

  2. yourothermotherhere
    2012/12/14 at 5:40 pm #

    I honestly did not realize there was a difference. But now I know thanks to your post! But serve it to me either way ’cause they’re both delicious!

  3. 2012/12/14 at 5:58 pm #

    Young lady you did it again. This old guy really enjoys your posts. Although a Hoosier by birth I spent a part of my past cooking in Texas and New Mex;among other places. I was always told that ,regardless of frying style chicken style used cream gravy and country style used brown. I had a joint in Los Lunas New Mex. that sold a bunch of sandwiches with CFS,cream gravy and shredded cheddar cheese on a toasted bun. Go figure. As far as sides I think anything tasty is kosher. Heck I know a place in Georgia that swore by fried okra with CFS. Thanks again.

    • 2012/12/14 at 8:44 pm #

      Haha! See comment from Adam at Unorthodox Epicure, below…he also claims fried okra is a suitable side. I happen to detest okra, so I cannot concur, but think people should eat whatever they like best. Even if they’re wrong. :)

  4. 2012/12/14 at 6:22 pm #

    I know a lot more now … and I’m hungry.

  5. 2012/12/14 at 7:55 pm #

    I had a discussion once, with someone who couldn’t understand why ‘chicken fried chicken’ is called that–and how it’s different from ‘fried chicken.’ He’s from California, though.

    • Mad Scientist
      2012/12/17 at 9:06 am #

      I had a discussion with someone from the People Republic of Kalifornia. He honestly thought that BBQ was anything cooked on a propane grill. Oh how wrong he was.

      • 2012/12/17 at 9:12 pm #

        Oh, geez. I heard tell that in Wisconsin and Minnesota, they consider hamburgers and hotdogs BBQ, as well as ground beef cooked in a skillet with BBQ sauce and served on a bun. The horror. I want to start a charity that would overnight actual smoked brisket to these folks.

  6. 2012/12/14 at 8:21 pm #

    Eff me! That is a sandwich!!

  7. 2012/12/14 at 9:08 pm #

    Thanks for the informative post. Subtle differences, but important ones. I had Chicken fried Chicken for lunch today.

  8. 2012/12/14 at 9:16 pm #

    I learned something today :D

  9. 2012/12/15 at 9:09 am #

    Dang that Chicken Fried Steak looks so good, might have me some for breakfast with a shot of white gravy. Don’t care much for Country Fried – I don’t.

  10. 2012/12/15 at 3:30 pm #

    Great post AND great discussion between you and Adam. I am going to side with both of you and look forward to the throwdown… though not going to get too much in the middle since as a transplant Texan I pry don’t have much leg to stand on. I agree with Adam about the fried okra, however his mention of Threadgills leaves me weary (my husband and I have NOT been impressed with their CFS despite their “notoriety” for it). Our favorite so far has been Hill Country Cupboard in Johnson City.
    I like your explanation of the differences between Chicken Fried Steak and Country Fried Steak. Much prefer Chicken Friend Steak. :-) Look forward to trying your recipe.
    Kenley

  11. 2012/12/15 at 4:27 pm #

    I know nothing about this very regional food. Only.. I would love it. V.

  12. 2012/12/15 at 4:35 pm #

    Speaking as MRS. BUTTERFINGERS. A chef of far too many years. The long and short of it is chicken friend steak is called that because it is prepared and cooked in the same manner as fried chicken. Mrs. B.

  13. 2012/12/17 at 8:14 am #

    I first had “chicken fried steak” about 20 years ago working at a refinery in Texas. Someone else ordered it for lunch and I expected a mix of chicken and steak. I still don’t know why it is called CHICKEN fried steak. Can you enlighten?

    • 2012/12/17 at 9:09 pm #

      Hello! It is so named because it is fried in the same manner as fried chicken. If you prepare boneless skinless chicken breast in this way, and top it with cream gravy, you have created chicken fried chicken. Redundant, no?

  14. 2012/12/18 at 12:19 pm #

    my new favorite quote: ” we tend to think of gravy as a beverage.” love it. thanks for the post!

  15. Greg
    2012/12/18 at 2:33 pm #

    My grandma made the “Country” Fried version and I believe she used flour and saltine cracker crumbs and maybe some salt and pepper. She then made the gravy as you described with the drippings etc. It was the best country fried steak I have ever eaten or ever will. Mashed potatoes are a must w/either ChFS or CoFS. Plenty-o-gravy piled on and okra, green beens, broccoli or any vegetable you like to go with. However; you DO NOTput ketchup on top of your cream gravy when eating a ChFS!!!!!! In fact, ketchup doesn’t belong near a dinner plate, ever!

    • 2012/12/18 at 11:21 pm #

      When you quit putting mustard on your Chick Fil A and your French fries, I’ll stop putting ketchup on my CFS. And my tamales. And my Mac and cheese. And my ketchup.

  16. 2012/12/19 at 9:20 am #

    Personally, I prefer the “country fried steak” using the dregs of flour in the bottom for the “white gravy” and served with green beans, mashed taters and a glass of ice tea.

  17. 2012/12/28 at 7:04 pm #

    As long as it’s fried I’ll take it. LOL. Thank you for visiting my page, don’t forget to “like” my new Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/TheLatestWithVr

  18. 2012/12/31 at 5:55 pm #

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  19. 2013/01/01 at 2:39 pm #

    Today there is cube steak sitting on my counter thawed, and I was just wondering what I wanted to do with it when I saw this post. Tonight, Chicken Fried Steak it is!

  20. 2013/01/05 at 6:37 pm #

    Hey there! I’ve been reading your website for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic job!

  21. 2013/01/05 at 7:26 pm #

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  25. 2013/12/12 at 11:02 am #

    You are on Pinterest! That’s how I found you. I like chicken fried steak with mashed taters and okra! Greetings from Victoria Texas!

  26. 2014/02/08 at 12:22 pm #

    Aweѕome post.

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