Floured, seasoned and fried in a skillet, this cube steak recipe is testament to how a cheap, humble cut of meat can transform into something incredibly comforting and irresistible.
I didn’t grow up eating cube steak. In fact I didn’t know what it was until I was living in South Carolina in my mid-twenties and met JD.
Like a lot of Southern households, Sunday lunches are special. And Sunday lunches at JD’s Granny’s were a weekly tradition for us. Two rules: lunch starts promptly at 1 and don’t you dare bring anything- Granny’s cooking.
It was in this loving environment I first came across fried cube steak, always served with rice and gravy of course. At Granny’s table, over plates of delicious food and a pitcher of tea so sweet it usually gave me a headache, I found myself biting into cube steak and thinking ‘how can something so simple taste so good?’
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What is cube steak
Beef cube steak is typically a cut of the top round or top sirloin, but it can be any tough cut of meat. What really gives cube steak its name, is that the cut of meat is tenderized through a mechanical meat tenderizer, giving it cube-shaped indentations.
The whole point of cube steak is that you’re tenderizing a very tough piece of meat, so you wouldn’t want to make cube steak with fancy cuts, like tenderloin or rib-eye steak.
Cube steak is a testament to how folks can take a cheap, unappealing, and tough piece of meat, and make it into something truly delicious. Can’t afford steak? Cube steak has got you.
While I know the Southern’s cube steak best, this humble cut is cooked all over. Southerners typically make pan fried cube steak smothered in a white or dark gravy. Midwesterners often bake it into a casserole. Texans call it chicken fried steak. Cuban households serve it alongside onions and seasoned with lime.
How to make cube steak
This cube steak recipe will have you and your family coming back for more. Even though cube steak has already been tenderized, a second round of tenderization at home is key to a melt-in-you-mouth tender cube steak.
We don’t have a meat mallet, so I took a chef’s knife and very lightly pounded the steak. I’m not actually cutting through the steak, simply adding quick, small little cuts to further tenderize this tough cut.
Tenderize the steak until it’s about ½ inch thick. Season your flour, then heavily season your steaks with salt and pepper. Press the steaks into flour, coating it on all sides.
Bring a neutral oil (vegetable, canola, peanut, etc) to a medium high heat. You want about ½ inch of oil in your pan, just enough to come up the sides of the steak, but not cover it.
Carefully lay each steak in the skillet. Fry each side until golden brown, about 3 – 4 minutes per side. Remove each steak to a paper towel-lined plate and now it’s gravy time, baby.
Cube steak and gravy are the perfect duo, and those tasty pan drippings make for a delicious gravy to drape over your steak and rice.
Remove all but ¼ cup of oil from the pan. If there isn’t that much oil left, add a couple tablespoons of butter. If there are little bits stuck to the pan- leave those. They add lots of flavor and will come up when making the gravy.
At this point you could saute onions and mushrooms, but we opted for a very simple gravy. Add ¼ cup of cornstarch and give it a good stir.
Then, slowly add your beef stock. Add roughly ½ cup at first, stirring quickly and bringing up the bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Once this has become thick, slowly add the rest of the beef broth, continuously whisking.
Allow the gravy to come to a simmer, lower the heat, and let it get nice and thick. Don’t forget to taste and season with salt and pepper.
What to make with cube steak
Personally, no cube steak is complete without gravy and a side of white rice. Other great sides to accompany this cube steak recipe includes butter beans, mashed potatoes, roasted okra, or a green salad. These air fryer smashed potatoes would be an excellent addition to this meal.
- 1 large skillet, preferably cast iron
- 1 meat mallet
- 4 cube steaks
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup flour
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 tsp butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- Tenderize cube steaks with meat mallet or lightly with a knife. Season steaks with salt and pepper.
- Mix salt, pepper, garlic powder and flour in a large shallow bowl and dredge steaks.
- In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat vegetable oil. Fry steaks in batches so they don’t touch until golden brown, about 3 – 4 minutes per side. Transfer steaks to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Reduce heat to medium and add butter to skillet. Melt, scraping the bottom of the pan. Then add cornstarch and stir to coat. Slowly add beef broth, ½ a cup at a time, continuously stirring.
- Let simmer until gravy has thickened. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Serve steaks smothered with gravy.