Our best chicken-fried steak recipe will transport you straight to a Texas corner grill. For many from the Lone Star State, the tender cutlet with its crispy, golden crust and blanket of peppery white gravy is the ultimate comfort food, right up there with mac and cheese and stewed collards. Contrary to what you may think, there’s no chicken here. The name, sometimes rephrased as country-fried steak, comes because the crust should mimic that of another Southern icon, fried chicken. You won’t need a deep fryer here, though, since the thin cut of beef cooks quickly when shallow-fried in a deep-sided pan (a cast-iron skillet is ideal).
For the beef, look for cube steak (sometimes labelled round steak), a relatively affordable cut of meat that’s usually been docked by a tenderizer before packaging. If yours hasn’t, use the pointed side of a meat mallet to work the steak into thin cutlets. We add a bit of cornstarch to the seasoned flour mixture, a nontraditional touch that ensures the breading comes out crisp. After frying the steak in hot oil, you’ll use the same pan (and the drippings) to make the rich cream gravy. Thickened with a roux, this country gravy recipe gets its boost of umami from Worcestershire and soy sauce and balance from sharp Dijon and hot sauce.
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cup whole milk
tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt, plus more
Freshly ground pepper
cup all-purpose flour
tsp. garlic powder
tsp. cayenne pepper
lb. cube steaks (4–6)
Vegetable oil (for frying; about 1 cup)
GRAVY AND ASSEMBLY
Tbsp. unsalted butter
Tbsp. all-purpose flour
cups (or more) whole milk
cup heavy cream
tsp. Worcestershire sauce
tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp. Morton kosher salt, plus more
tsp. Dijon mustard
tsp. hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Frank’s)
tsp. soy sauce
Freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 250°. Set up a dredging station: Whisk 1 large egg and 1 cup whole milk in a large shallow bowl; season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Whisk 1 cup all-purpose flour, ½ cup cornstarch, 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. paprika, and ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper in another large shallow bowl; season with black pepper.
Pat 1½–2 lb. cube steaks (4–6) dry with paper towels; season on both sides with salt and black pepper, patting to adhere. Working with 1 steak at a time, dredge steaks in flour mixture, shaking off excess, then dip in egg mixture, letting excess drip back into bowl. Dredge in flour mixture once more, pressing to adhere. Shake off excess and transfer steaks to a large plate.
Pour vegetable oil into a large high-sided skillet to come up ¼” up sides. Heat over medium-high until oil is shimmering. Working in batches and adding more oil as needed, cook steaks until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet and season with salt; keep warm in oven until ready to serve. Between batches, remove any stray bits of batter with a slotted spoon; discard. ) Pour off all but 2 Tbsp. fat from skillet.
GRAVY AND ASSEMBLY
Add 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter to fat in skillet; heat over medium-low until melted. Sprinkle 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour over and whisk until a paste forms. Whisking constantly, gradually pour in 2½ cups whole milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking constantly, until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 4 minutes. Whisk in ¼ cup heavy cream, 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp. Morton kosher salt, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp. hot sauce, and 1 tsp. soy sauce; season with freshly ground pepper. Cook, whisking, 1 minute; if gravy looks too thick, thin with more milk. Taste and add more salt and/or black pepper if needed. Remove from heat.
Transfer steaks to a large plate; spoon gravy over. Season with more black pepper.