There's Actually A Difference Between Chicken Fried Steak And Country Fried Steak

When it comes to hearty down-home breakfasts, it's hard to beat a delicious country-fried or chicken-fried steak with some eggs, grits, or other sides. But while many menus may use the terms interchangeably, the reality is there's a real and notable difference between the two delicious steak preparations.

One of the main differences comes down to the process used to create the crispy, flavorful crust before the steak hits the pan. Generally, chicken-fried steak is breaded like traditional fried chicken (hence the name), using eggs and a seasoned batter. This results in a flavorful, bready shell for the steak with a satisfying crunch. In contrast, country-fried steak is usually just dredged in flour before frying, creating a lighter but still crisp coating.

However, when it comes to the meat used, it's also important to note that these dishes share one big similarity. Both most commonly use the cut known as cube steak, which is created by slicing top or bottom round. These pieces are then tenderized, leaving them with the distinctive "cube" pattern of indentations on their surfaces. In addition to the steak itself, chicken-fried and country-fried steaks are served differently

It's all in the gravy

The two styles also differ when it comes to the rich gravies served with them. Chicken-fried steak usually comes with the iconic thick, creamy, peppery white gravy often popularly associated with the dish. It's similar to the kind used on other homestyle breakfasts like biscuits and gravy, prepared as a roux that traditionally uses the fat remaining in the pan from cooking the steak in addition to milk or cream. Meanwhile, country-fried steak is served with thinner brown gravy, which also starts as a roux with pan drippings but uses beef broth or stock instead.

As for the two distinctive but similar meals, they both share German roots. According to Southern Living, the originators were German immigrants to the southern United States who did their best to replicate traditional dishes like wiener schnitzel with the ingredients they had on hand. Thus, chicken-fried steak was born. The even simpler country-fried version came later when cowboys and others traveling the trails out West had to prepare a similar dish without the benefit of fresh eggs.

So whether you're craving a creamy, peppery chicken-fried steak or a rich, savory country-fried one, you can be sure you're enjoying an authentic — and distinct — part of down-home American food culture.