The Best Chicken-Fried Steak

A staple throughout Texas, chicken-fried steak consists of a thinly pounded beef cutlet that is battered and fried until crisp, then served with creamy country gravy. Adding cornstarch to the seasoned flour and dredging the meat twice gives our version an extra-crunchy and flavorful crust.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr
  • Active: 1 hr
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Ingredients

Four 3- to 4-ounce cube steaks (see Cook's Note)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter 

1 1/2 cups

2 1/4 cups whole milk 

1 1/2 cups cornstarch 

1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika 

1 teaspoon garlic powder 

1 cup buttermilk  

1 large egg, beaten 

1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Frank's RedHot 

4 1/2 cups vegetable oil 

Directions

  1. Liberally sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper (see Cook's Note). Put them on a rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and let sit at room temperature while you make the gravy.
  2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the flour until combined and cook until golden and bubbling, about 1 minute. Whisk in the whole milk, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, whisking frequently, until the gravy boils. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, whisking occasionally, until the gravy thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm; it will seem loose but will thicken as it sits. 
  3. Whisk the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour, cornstarch, paprika, garlic powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk, egg and hot sauce in a medium bowl. Working with 1 steak at a time, dredge in the seasoned flour, turning to coat and packing into the crevices. Shake to remove any excess and return to the rack. Repeat with the remaining steaks.  
  4. Pour 3 tablespoons of the buttermilk mixture into the seasoned flour and work it in with your fingers; it should feel like wet sand with some clumps. (These clumps will give the steak a crispy, shaggy crust.) Dip the dredged steaks into the remaining buttermilk mixture, allowing any excess to drip off. Pack the moistened flour firmly onto each steak. Very gently shake off any excess and return to the rack. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. 
  5. Pour the oil into a large cast-iron skillet fitted with a deep-fry thermometer (the oil should come about halfway up the sides). Heat the oil over high heat until the thermometer registers 350 degrees F. Fry the steaks in 2 batches until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain. 
  6. Whisk the warm cream gravy to loosen it and serve over the chicken-fried steak.  

Cook’s Note

Cube steak is a small, thin cut of beef, usually top round or sirloin, that has been pre-tenderized. If you can't find it, buy top round steaks and pound them with the rough side of a meat mallet to 1/4-inch thick. It's important to liberally season the steaks before you dredge and fry them; it allows the salt to penetrate the meat for better flavor.