Nothing stirs up a great Southern debate like chicken-fried steak vs country-fried steak. Both are made from beef steak, cubed or pounded out thin, floured and dipped in an egg wash, then fried and served with gravy. But that's where the similarities seem to end...
Chicken-fried steak is said to have been brought to Texas by German immigrants; like schnitzel, chicken-fried steak was a way to prepare tougher cuts of meat.
Here in Alabama, you're more likely to see country-fried steak on restaurant menus instead of chicken-fried steak. However, a LOT of places that offer 'country-fried', are actually serving 'chicken-fried' if you are to believe the differences between the two...
The number one difference is the gravy. Chicken-fried steak is always served with a cream gravy, where country-fried steak is served with a brown gravy (and often onions), much like a Salisbury steak. That being said, I see 'country-fried' steak served here with cream gravy all of the time, and even restaurants that offer a choice of gravies.
Next, it is said that chicken-fried steak is deep-fried, completely immersed in hot oil, while country-fried steak is pan-fried in a skillet. Chicken-fried steak typically has a crispier coating, with the gravy served on the side for dipping, which country-fried steak is sometimes smothered with the (brown) gravy, again, like Salisbury steak.
Me, personally? I prefer a crispier coating and cream gravy - if I want my beef smothered in brown gravy, I'll just have a Salisbury steak instead. However, I prefer to pan-fry my steak instead of deep-frying. Either way, it's HARD to beat a hearty meal like chicken-fried steak, especially with some classic Southern sides like turnip greens or baked macaroni & cheese (I opted for creamed corn this time)!!
4-6 6oz beef cube steaks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
2 eggs, room temperature and beaten
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
Vegetable oil for frying
2 Tbsp pan drippings or bacon fat
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk, room temperature
1 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste
Dip the steaks into the flour, lightly coating the meat. Dredge the floured steaks into the egg mixture, coating completely, then dip the steaks BACK into the flour mixture. If you have the counter space, split the flour mixture into TWO plates.
Preheat the oven to 200°, and heat about 1/2" of oil to 355-365° in a large heavy cast iron skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Don't guess at the oil temperature; invest in a deep-fry candy thermometer and know for sure!
Once hot, add the steaks, making sure you don't overcrowd the skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes or until red juices bubble out of the top of the meat. Flip the steaks over and cook for 3-5 additional minutes or until golden brown. Drain on a wire rack set over paper towels, then keep warm in the oven.
Prepare the Gravy: Reserve about 2 Tbsp of the pan drippings or just use bacon fat. Over medium heat, combine the hot pan drippings and flour, whisking continuously, for 2-4 minutes or until a dark roux is formed.
Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously, until combined. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, until thickened. Season with pepper and salt to taste, then serve with steaks.