I’m a British Person Making Chicken-Fried Steak From American Recipe

  • I took a step away from my usual British cooking and tried the classic American chicken-fried steak.
  • Using a non-metric measuring system and choosing the best cut of steak was the most challenging.
  • The dish was okay, though it could have used more seasoning and I wasn’t impressed with the “gravy.”

Some things in life make very little sense to me, including why anyone would want to deep-fat fry a perfectly innocent steak.

But it can be good to examine your biases, which is why I, a cynical Brit unversed in the world of deep-frying, tried the classic American recipe chicken-fried steak (CFS) for fun. Despite its name, the Southern recipe doesn’t actually involve chicken, though the battering method and seasoning are similar to the deep-fried poultry dish.

CFS is a cheap cut of beef steak that’s hammered thin, coated in a flour-buttermilk crumb, and fried until crispy. It’s similar to the Austrian Wienerschnitzel but is made with a tougher cut of round steak rather than tender veal and is typically served with a creamy white sauce, bacon, and mashed potatoes.

Though I had never made it before, I was ready to try this classic American dish and see how it compared to my typical British cooking.

Sourcing some ingredients was a bit of a challenge

The writer makes a sad face and holds garlic and onion powders


Before trying this recipe, I didn’t even own garlic or onion powders.

Fliss Freeborn

I consider myself a fairly experienced home cook, but I’d never even contemplated using onion or garlic powders before, two key ingredients in the dry seasoning.

Luckily, they were relatively easy to find in the larger supermarkets and made sense in the context of the dish.

Cuts of steak in the UK have different names than they do in the US, so I struggled to find the recipe’s “round steak.” After some research, I discovered that it seems to be thick slices of topside.

In the UK, you can only buy topside as a roasting-joint cut, and I didn’t need that much of it — so I sought out a type of steak that looked similar and settled on a packet of beef medallions that bore a stunning resemblance to the pictures of “round steak” I’d so diligently Googled. They were the cheapest cut in the chiller too, so I thought they matched the profile of “round steak” nicely.

The recipe also called for buttermilk, which I couldn’t find in any supermarket. I made my own using a tablespoon of lemon juice to sour some milk. The other ingredients were easy to find because, in the UK, canola and vegetable oil are practically the same thing and cayenne pepper was an easy spot in the spices aisle.

I had to improvise as I prepared and fried the steak

The writer holds a ruler next to a beef medallion and makes a confused face


Figuring out what a 1/4-inch looked like required a ruler.

Fliss Freeborn

Americans are hilariously insistent on using anything but the metric system — how am I, a snooty European, meant to know what a pound or a fluid ounce looks like? I legitimately had to use my ruler to measure the meat when the recipe called for me to hammer the steak to ¼-inch thick.

I didn’t have a meat tenderizer so I used a wine bottle, which worked surprisingly well to flatten the steaks.

The writer stands at kitchen counter and hits beef medallions with a bottle of red wine


Tenderizing the meat with a full wine bottle worked pretty well.

Fliss Freeborn

The next step was to double-dip the meat in the buttermilk and seasoned flour, which was simple enough but went against all my usual instincts.

Usually at this point after tenderizing, I’d dry brine the steak for a few hours, remove surface moisture, then season again before adding to a smoking hot pan for the crispiest sear possible.

The writer's hands dip the beef in breading and buttermilk


Dipping the beef in buttermilk and flour was a very strange experience for me.

Fliss Freeborn

When it came to frying the steak, the recipe called for the oil to be at 180 degrees Celsius, a non-Fahrenheit measurement that reassured my little metric brain. I don’t own a thermometer so I waited until the oil was hot enough for a piece of bread to turn brown and crispy after a few seconds as a test.

When the oil was at the right temperature, I added the steaks in batches and watched them turn a lovely deep-golden color after a minute or two on each side.

Beef medallions deep fried in a saucepan and turning golden-brown


The beef soon turned golden-brown.

Fliss Freeborn

The recipe called for the steaks to be kept warm in the oven while making the crispy bacon and the sauce, but sadly, this step caused the batter to get a little soggy rather than stay dry and crisp.

If I made this again, I’d cook the sauce in a separate pan to ensure everything was ready at the same time.

Making the white gravy took more than one try

White gravy in a saucepan with small pieces of black, burned bacon being stirred with a whisk


Seeing the burned bits in the “gravy” brought out my inner “Great British Baking Show” persona.

Fliss Freeborn

I need to get it off my chest: What this recipe called “white gravy” was just a thyme-infused white sauce. It was delicious but miles away from what gravy is in the UK.

Gravy over here is brown and consists of the juices from the cooked meat mixed with wine, flour, and possibly stock. We serve it with everything, especially in the north of England.

In this recipe, the gravy was a roux with milk and cream, which in itself struck me as a little odd considering that frying the steak alone makes the entire dish very rich. It could have probably done with something more acidic as a lubricant, rather than something creamy or fatty, but I persevered.

The gravy recipe didn’t work for me the first time around.

It said to make the gravy using the same pan that the bacon bits and steak were cooked in but it turned out to be a complete failure. The leftover scraps from the oil and bacon didn’t incorporate well with the milk and flour, and instead flecked the whole shebang with horrid burnt bits.

It also refused to thicken, so I did what any contestant from “The Great British Baking Show” would do: cursed loudly and then started over with a fresh batch of everything, which then worked perfectly.

The chicken-fried steak was underwhelming and needed something acidic

Chicken-fried steak with a golden-brown breading and fried bacon pieces and white gravy over top


The meat wasn’t as tender as I wanted and the whole dish could have used more seasoning.

Fliss Freeborn

This was a meal I’d never usually cook, but even though the novelty factor of a new recipe and cuisine was fun, I was relatively underwhelmed by the dish itself.

Despite my hammering, the steak wasn’t as tender as I’d hoped it would be and I think the crust could’ve used more seasoning.

Serving it with crispy bacon lardons and gravy was never going to be a bad move, but it was crying out for something contrastive, so I paired it with an acidic salad with lots of lemon juice in the dressing. The salad cut through the richness of the dish quite nicely but by adding it to my plate, I probably missed the point of the meal, which is classic Southern comfort food.

My conclusion is that I should probably make a trip to the US to try an authentic version made with some famous Southern hospitality rather than attempting to cook it again in a cold, dark British kitchen with only my cynical thoughts for company.

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