Chicken Fried Vs. Country Fried Steak: What's The Difference?

If there's anything you need to know about southern cooking, it's hearty and often breaded with love. Country fried steak and chicken fried steak are both true staples in southern states of the United States, with chicken fried steak gaining more popularity in Texas and Oklahoma, and country fried steak originating in Georgia and Louisiana (via MasterClass). Whether you grew up loving these dishes or are just now learning about them, they can sometimes get mistaken for one another due to the similarities in their names and the techniques used to make them.

According to The Spruce Eats, chicken fried steak and country fried steaks use a technique implemented by German immigrants and brought over to southern states in the mid-19th century, inspired by the famous wiener schnitzel dish, which is veal cutlets that are breaded and fried. From there, Southerners started using steak instead of veal and created what we now look to as a major comfort food that is almost always served with gravy. However, it's not the meat that differentiates chicken fried steak from country fried steak, it's all in the gravy and texture.

How chicken fried steak is made

If you've ever had really good fried chicken, you know that it's crispy on the outside before you get to the steaming hot meat. In order for the skin to get extra crispy, you've got to coat the meat with a thick breading. According to Cattlemen's Steakhouse, the goal when originally creating chicken fried steak was to use budget-friendly ingredients but produce an expensive flavor. Cube steak is the go-to meat in this dish, due to its low cost, low maintenance, and accessibility.

The popular dish gets its name from the technique, referring to frying steak as you would chicken. It's prepared by simply coating the meat in egg, dredging it into seasoned flour, and frying it in oil. This technique gives the steak a very crispy exterior, similar to fried chicken — but that's not all. The gravy is another signature that differentiates this dish from country fried steak. According to MasterClass, chicken fried steak is served with a peppery white cream gravy.

How country fried steak is made

If you take a look at chicken fried steak and country fried steak side by side, you'll notice a big difference in the gravy and overall texture of the meat. Chicken fried steak has a crispier coating, similar to a fried chicken leg, whereas country fried steak has a darker gravy and less crispy texture.

According to Steak School, country fried steak uses cubed steak as well, but is double dredged in flour without the egg, and uses a brown onion gravy instead of peppery white gravy. MasterClass states that country fried steak is smothered in gravy after frying, yielding a tender texture with a less crispy coating compared to chicken fried steak, which gets a ladle of gravy on top just before serving.

While the two dishes have very similar names, the key difference lies in the gravy, breading, and serving technique. These two comfort foods are interchangeably delicious, but it's important to prepare them both in their own unique ways in order to get the most out of the meal.