Fried Cube Steak Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 25 min. Cook: 20 min.
This crispy fried cube steak recipe marries buttermilk and evaporated milk into its batter. The result? An extra-flavorful and tender cutlet that will simply melt in your mouth.

Updated: May 22, 2024

Bless your heart if you’ve never savored the delight of fried cube steak—the hearty dish is arguably one of the most delicious comfort foods. A staple of Southern cuisine, country or chicken-fried steak involves frying up tenderized beef cutlets in a well-seasoned batter, much like you would when making fried chicken. For the grand finale, those crispy, breaded pieces get smothered in a rich and creamy gravy, awarding you ultimate decadence.

This recipe calls for cube steak—pick up a few packs and keep them ready to go in your freezer for a simple comfort meal. You’ll swoon over how easily this dish comes together, relying on staples like evaporated milk and buttermilk in the batter to pack in the flavor quickly. Since you’re making this dish from scratch, you can add your go-to seasonings and sauces to customize it to your liking.

What is cube steak?

The name cube steak comes from the indentations or small imprints formed on the surface of the meat. A textured mallet or mechanical tenderizer possesses square teeth that form dimples in the cutlets while simultaneously pounding them into thin portions. Most grocery stores use top or bottom-round beef, but pork, venison or bison can sub in too. Since cube steak typically involves leaner and tougher pieces, this technique helps break down any muscle fiber, resulting in a tasty staple that’ll melt in your mouth once fried.

What is the difference between country and chicken-fried cube steak?

Simply put, the distinction between the two types of fried cube steak lies in the gravy. The country version, typically made with a lighter breading, relies on dark, rich gravy and occasionally a topping of caramelized onions for a hint of sweetness. The chicken-fried route, boasting a thicker and crunchier coating, uses a white gravy infused with a heavy hand of black pepper.

Fried Cube Steak Ingredients

  • Cube steak: We use cube steak, since the dimples in the meat create indentations, which provide more surface area for the seasoned flour to cling to. That way, your batter stays in place when you fry.
  • Milk: A dynamic pairing of evaporated milk and buttermilk tenderizes the lean cube steak and acts as a glue for the seasoned flour. We also reserve some of this liquid to infuse rich flavors into the gravy. (Psst: If you haven’t cooked with it before, here’s why you should be using buttermilk more.)
  • Seasoned flour: We rely on a flavor-packed blend of white pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cumin and cayenne to add heat and savoriness to the all-purpose flour that dredges the cube steak.
  • Homemade gravy: The skillet drippings substitute for butter as fat, mixing with the remaining flour to form a light-colored roux. This combo creates the perfect foundation for a velvety gravy infused with creamy reserved milk, umami-packed Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce for spicy notes.

Directions

Step 1: Dredge the cube steak

In a large shallow dish, combine the evaporated milk and buttermilk and whisk them together. In a separate vessel similar in size, mix the flour with the salt, pepper, white pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cumin and cayenne pepper. Dip each piece of cube steak into the milk mixture, then into the seasoned flour, coating well, then repeat this step. (Set aside the remaining milk mixture for Step 3.)

Editor’s Tip: Before dredging the cube steak in the dry mixture, drain the excess milk to prevent clumping the flour.

Step 2: Fry the cube steak

Cover a skillet with a 1/2-inch layer of oil and heat on medium-high. When it reaches 375°F, you can begin shallow frying. Cook only a few cutlets at a time to avoid overcrowding the pan. Fry until the coating turns golden brown and crisp, about three to five minutes per side (depending on the thickness of your meat). Transfer the fried cube steak to a paper towel-lined plate or wire rack to drain any remaining oil. Keep any brown bits left in the pan for the gravy.

Editor’s Tip: Keep the fried cube steak warm in an oven heated to 250° (nestling your pieces on a wire rack to keep them crispy) while you cook the remaining cutlets.

Step 3: Prepare the gravy

Depending on how much oil remains in your pan, drain and reserve only 1/3 cup of drippings (it’s okay if there are a few bits—that’s where all the flavor is!). Create a roux on medium heat by adding flour and whisking until the mixture turns golden brown.

Slowly pour in the reserved milk mixture while continuing to whisk. Bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat and pour in the Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce. You’ll know it’s ready to come off the fire once the gravy reaches a slightly thick consistency.

Editor’s Tip: One way to test if your gravy is ready is to coat your spoon in the sauce and draw a line down the middle. If that path you created on the utensil remains clear, it’s thick enough to serve.

Cube Steak Recipe Variations

  • Use half-and-half in the batter: Half-and-half works great in the batter for fried cube steak, since it has a high-fat content, which can help yield a crispy crust.
  • Make spice substitutions: Lean on the spice blends that bring you comfort. If you like a little heat, try preparing the fried cube steak Nashville hot style by mixing cayenne pepper, brown sugar, chili powder, paprika and garlic powder into the flour.
  • Whisk up a white gravy: To make white gravy, strain the brown bits from the oil using a mesh strainer before cooking your sauce.

How to Store Fried Cube Steak

When packed in an airtight container, fried cube steak can last up to four days in the refrigerator. To preserve the cutlet’s crispiness, allow it to cool completely so no steam enters the dish when you tuck it away. If you end up with extra gravy, you can freeze the sauce for two to three months.

Fried Cube Steak Tips

How do you keep the batter from falling off fried cube steak?

To achieve an evenly coated fried cube steak, try drying the cutlets with a paper towel to remove any moisture and help the batter stick. When dredging the beef, pat down the flour so that it can really seep into those indentations. Last, fry the meat in small batches to give the pieces enough space to crisp up in the oil.

Can you use an air-fryer for fried cube steak?

There’s no rulebook on how to fry cube steak. If you prefer using an air-fryer, preheat it to 400° to crisp up your cutlets. Cook the beef for about five minutes on each side. The taste may differ from the original recipe, since the fat in oil provides extra flavor. However, if you make a rich gravy to accompany the air-fried cube steak, the sauce will undoubtedly enhance those delicious bites.

Chicken-Fried Cube Steaks

Prep Time 25 min
Cook Time 20 min
Yield 8 servings (4 cups gravy).

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cans (12 ounces each) evaporated milk
  • 8 beef cube steaks (4 ounces each)
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash hot pepper sauce

Directions

  1. In a shallow bowl, combine 2 cups flour and seasonings; set aside. In another bowl, combine buttermilk and evaporated milk. Remove 3-1/2 cups for gravy and set aside. Dip cube steaks into buttermilk mixture, then into flour mixture, coating well. Repeat.
  2. In a skillet, heat 1/2 in. of oil on high. Fry steaks, a few at a time, for 5-7 minutes. Turn carefully and cook 5 minutes longer or until coating is crisp and met is no longer pink. Remove steaks and keep warm.
  3. Drain, reserving 1/3 cup drippings in the skillet; stir remaining flour into drippings until smooth. Cook and stir over medium heat for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Whisk in reserved buttermilk mixture; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce and pepper sauce. Serve with steaks.
Here in the Ozarks, country-fried steak is a staple. This cubed steak recipe is wonderful served with mashed potatoes and some freshly baked rolls. I developed the recipe to meet the spicy tastes of my family—our six children range from 26 to 14.—Toni Holcomb, Rogersville, Missouri