DID COWBOYS EAT CHICKEN FRIED STEAK? by Cheryl Pierson

Many years ago when my mother-in-law came to visit us in Oklahoma all the way from her native West Virginia, the thing she loved best about my home state was CHICKEN FRIED STEAK! Mom had never had it before, and it never dawned on me that someone might not have ever eaten that wonderful delicacy. When we took her out to eat, she asked “What’s the best thing on the menu?” I told her “Chicken Fried Steak.” We both ordered it. I don’t think she ordered anything else the entire time she stayed with us–around 10 days, after I had my first baby–whenever we went out to eat after she tasted Chicken Fried Steak. 
 
I wonder if cowboys ever ate this? I know they ate a lot of beans and so on, but gosh, I really think this had to come from the trail drives or ranches “back in the day”–it is WONDERFUL. It’s one of the foods that’s common, and that we are known for in this part of the USA.  In fact, it’s part of the official STATE MEAL OF OKLAHOMA, as of 1988! (WHO KNEW?) My mom never made it often, but maybe it was because she knew if she did, it would be all I’d ever want to eat
 
I found this great recipe online for Chicken Fried Steak BITES that looks wonderful–whether you’re entertaining or just want something different and good for yourself and family members. 
 
 
Chicken Fried Steak Bites 
 
Prep Time: 10 minutes 
Cook Time: 25 minutes 
Cooking Level: Intermediate 
 
The secret to true “chicken fried steak” is frying beef in cooking oil that was previously used to fry chicken. If you use fresh oil, it is considered “country fried” with less authentic flavor. The same batter recipe and method we’ve given below can be used to fry up some chicken breasts for lunch before cooking for the party for improved pre-party satisfaction. 
 
Fried Steak:
 
Ingredients 
 
• 2 lb. cube steak, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces 
• 4 cups canola oil Batter 
• 1/2 cup milk 
• 1 egg 
• 2 cups all-purpose flour 
• 1-1/2 tablespoon seasoned salt 
• 2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper 
 
Directions 
 
1. Prepare a paper towel-lined plate for finished steak pieces and set aside. 
2. Heat oil in a deep cast iron skillet over high heat until the temperature reaches 350F, then reduce to medium. Note: if not using a thermometer, test the temperature of the oil by sticking the end of a bamboo skewer into it. When the indicated temperature range is reached, the end of the bamboo will sizzle, then reduce heat to medium. 
3. In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg and milk for batter until well mixed. 
4. In a shallow dish such as a pie plate, combine the dry batter ingredients well. 
5. Dredge each piece of steak in flour mixture, dip into the egg mixture, the roll in flour mixture again to coat well. 
6. Shake off excess flour, then place into the hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. 
7. Remove cooked pieces to plate and allow to rest for 2 minutes before serving. 
 
Gravy:
 
Ingredients
 
• 2 tablespoons bacon drippings 
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
• 3/4 teaspoon salt 
• 3/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper 
• 3-1/2 cups whole milk 
 
Directions
 
1. Melt bacon grease in an 8-inch iron skillet over medium heat. 
2. Brown the flour in the bacon grease along with the salt, and pepper, whisking constantly until golden in color, about 5-7 minutes. 
3. Gradually add 3 cups of milk a little at a time, stirring constantly to prevent curdling. Add more milk as necessary to keep from becoming too thick. 
4. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve. 
 
Tip: Gravy can be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight or frozen. Allow to defrost overnight in fridge before use, and heat slowly in the microwave stirring at 30-second intervals or over low heat on the stovetop. Add more milk as necessary to achieve desired consistency. 
 
 
I will definitely be making this, and it looked so great I just had to share. I’m thinking my cowboy ancestors must have had this delectable dish many times! 
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A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 40 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
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36 thoughts on “DID COWBOYS EAT CHICKEN FRIED STEAK? by Cheryl Pierson”

  1. Always a favorite. I remember my mom making it and I grew up in the Mid-Atlantic. Not sure where she got the recipe. I think it might have been from my Tennessee grandma.

    I had a coworker from Oklahoma many years ago, and he said it was something he missed. Guess he couldn’t find in local restaurants and didn’t know how to make it himself.

    denise

    • Denise, my mom’s family came from Tennessee–so maybe there are some origins from that part of the USA, too. We didn’t have it that much, like I said, but it is one of my favorite things ever.

  2. I never knew you were supposed to cook it in chicken grease! NOW I get why they call it that! Thanks for solving one of the mysteries of the Universe. As a Yankee who married a Texan, I was always too intimidated to try making this – until I finally did. Easy-peasy!

    • Laura, I guess that is common knowledge but I didn’t know it either! So I can’t take credit for solving this mystery of the Universe, but I was glad to see it in this recipe, because it solved it for me, too. LOL–Yes, it’s not that hard to make, but I think it always tastes better when someone else makes it! LOL

  3. I do love a good chicken fried steak. I never heard of using the oil from frying chicken before. I guess all this time I have been making country fried steak.

  4. I grew up on Chicken Fried Steak. It’s hard to find places that can do it justice. In Steohenville where I’m from Jake & Dorothy’s is known for their Chicken Fried Steak and waffle fries, which they created before any one else. They actually had the patent for the waffle fry cutter. Mary’s in Strawn Texas also is known for her Chicken Fried Steak. Both always make the top ten places to get great chicken fried steak in Texas. Both have held the #1 title. My mom made chicken fired steak for us several times a month. I live in Kansas now and finding a chicken fry done right is a toss of the coin. Thanks for such a great blog.

    • Yes, Tonya! It is hard to find a place that does it justice. We have a few around here in OK City and the surrounding area. Hubby has cut waaaaay down on his meat consumption, and of course we aren’t going out right now until we get our shots, but I think as soon as that happens, I’m heading for a chicken fried steak somewhere! Glad you enjoyed this!

    • Debra, I don’t know, but I would sure give it a try! I would think that it probably wouldn’t matter that much since it’s just dredging it in the flour, and then of course, making gravy with that kind of flour. It would definitely be worth a try!

    • My mom always saved her chicken oil, too. Hubs won’t eat fried chicken at all, so I never had any chicken oil to save! LOL I think it’s weird he would eat my mom’s gravy she made with chicken oil/drippings and LOVED it, and also loves chicken fried steak, but won’t eat fried chicken–that comes from having to help kill, pluck and clean chickens when he was young.

  5. Great blog but now I’m hungry! I’ve actually never heard of the fact that your supposed to use oil that chicken had previously been fried in. News to me. I was just under the assumption that is was called chicken fried steak because it was battered like fried chicken. I’m sure chicken was battered and fried long before chicken fried steak came about. It’s so Funny that we often think that people from other areas of the USA eat everything that we eat. Being one of 6 fried chicken and chicken fried steak wearnt served to us very often. That is a lot of frying for a mom that is also having to take care of her children. I didn’t know that Oklahoma was so known for Chicken Fried Steak. Like Tonya said above we are from Stephenville, Texas which is known for it’s chicken fried steak at Jake & Dorothy’s Cafe. A fact about their chicken fried steak is that they put the gravy on the plate and the chicken fried steak on top of the gravy. That way your served a nice piece of chicken fried steak that is still crispy. I don’t think it was served that way when I was young though so I’m not sure when that came about but if I had a restaurant that served chicken fried steak I’d definitely serve it this way. I cooked a lot of chicken fried steak in my life. I used to feed the hands at one of our feedlots 6 days a week and we had chicken fried steak 3-4 times per month. I double batter my chicken fried steak though. I have even been known to triple batter it. Coming from a large family and from later having 10 to 25 people to feed I learned that by doing that you can fill a lot of bellies with a lot less steak! Stay safe in these uncertain times!

  6. I have had chicken fried steak once in my lifetime. It was at a Denny’s in PA… It’s not something that you would find on a menu in Canada.. maybe out west in Alberta…

    • I think our Denny’s has that on their menu here–It’s been a while since I’ve been to Denny’s here but next time we go I will definitely look for it. Our Denny’s makes a WONDERFUL hamburger!

    • Trudy, I love it too. For some reason, I think it just tastes better when someone else makes it though. Kind of like making your own sandwich–it tastes better if someone else makes it. LOL

  7. We love chicken fried steak. This looks like a great recipe. Thanks! Will definitely be making this – after I fry up some chicken to have the grease! Have a great week.

  8. Yum! I’ve eaten chicken fried steak all my life and always loved it. I never new why some people call it country fried and some chicken fried. Thanks for enlightening me!

  9. Welcome. That is a really good question. Im sure someone started it and it became a hit with all those hungry men. My mom loved it also. She was from Ohio. She would make it once a week. We always looked forward to Friday dinners.

    • Lori, I agree. I think cowboys and ranch hands probably loved this dish! You know, at our house, we always had hamburgers and sometimes chocolate shakes on Saturday nights. That was something we looked forward to!

  10. Loved reading about this dish as I’ve often heard of it and wondered. Now I know. Also, it’s very similar to the way my mom made chicken, so I’ll have to try this with steak. Thanks for the history and for the recipe. I’m going to make this this week, but first I have to cook chicken, right?

    • Elizabeth, you can make “country fried steak” in grease that hasn’t been used for chicken–I think it’s wonderful, too. LOL Let me know when you get it on to cook–I’ll be there shortly! LOL

    • Hi Alicia! I love it too. There’s a place in a little town about an hour from where we live that makes HUGE chicken fried steaks–they take up the entire plate. Your side orders are brought on a separate plate. We had planned to down there to eat just before COVID hit so hard last year, and never did get to go. BUT…once we get our shots, I think that might be a great little day trip!

  11. Since I am from the Northeast and “old,” I never did have chicken fried steak until becoming a military wife and moving around the country. I have had it a time or two in restaurants, but not that often. We will have to look for the place you mentioned in the little town near you. We will also have to try Jake & Dorothy’s Cafe in Stephenville, Texas and Mary’s in Strawn, Texas when we can get to head back out that way again.
    We rarely fry food at our house and never fry chicken, although I love it. I like the idea of the bites. Easy to make, cooks quickly, and well suited for pan frying. Thanks so much for the recipe. We’ll see. I’ll have to do chicken bites first so I have the correct kind of oil. Much easier and probably tastier to go out and have someone else fix it for me.
    Take good care of yourself.

    • Hi Patricia! We don’t eat that much fried food anymore, either, but I grew up on everything fried and I sure do miss it. LOL Fried okra is probably my all time favorite fried food. Well, aside from fried potatoes…LOL Yes, I agree–I think it’s always good to let someone else fix something wonderful like this, especially if tit’s their specialty! Stay safe!

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