When it comes to comfort food, there’s nothing like a big ol’ chicken fried steak, smothered in gravy, and served with a pile of mashed potatoes. But does it matter whether you choose chicken fried steak, chicken fried chicken, or country fried chicken, and what’s the difference between them?
The short answer is, it depends on who you ask, and what part of the country they’re from. Outside of the southern states, a lot of people don’t think there IS a difference. To those who do, however, country fried vs. chicken fried can be a polarizing topic, because everyone seems to have their own recipe and preferences. In general, the differences come down to the gravy and the breading.
Both chickens fried and country fried dishes are made with either steak or chicken that’s been tenderized, breaded, fried, and served with gravy. This cooking method is believed to be based on the German dish wiener schnitzel, which was brought to the South by immigrants in the mid-1800s. It was a popular dish in the U.S. because it could be made with cheaper, tougher cuts of beef, such as cube steak or round steak, instead of the traditional (and more expensive) veal cutlets.
Country Fried Steak or Chicken
Country fried steak quickly became a favorite in the southern U.S. states of Alabama, Mississippi, and the Carolinas. It’s usually made by dusting or dredging the meat in flour (no egg) and then frying. This is usually followed by simmering the steak in pan gravy made from the drippings. Brown gravy is traditional, but some cooks who choose to skip the simmering step will serve country fried steak or chicken with white gravy.
Chicken Fried Steak or Chicken
Chicken fried steak got its name around the mid-1900s because it’s prepared the same way as fried chicken, with both egg and flour for the breading. The outside is usually crispier, and the meat can be either pan-fried or deep-fried. Peppered white cream gravy can be served on top or on the side. Chicken fried steak is considered to be primarily a Texas dish, but it’s also popular in Arkansas, Missouri & Oklahoma.
Town & Country Restaurant, at 4702 W. Kellogg, serves up both hand-breaded chicken fried steak, which is cooked on a flat grill, and chicken fried chicken, which is deep fried, every night. According to Night Manager Richard, Wichitans seem to prefer chicken fried steak, because they sell far more of it than chicken fried chicken.
So what’s your preference: country fried or chicken fried steak?