Carnivores Unite! If you’re looking for THE BEST Country-Fried Steak Fingers with Lump-Free Cream Gravy, you’ve arrived! This easy recipe incorporates a reverse-cook method that transforms chewy beef minute-steaks into steak fingers that melt in your mouth.
Perfect tender beef on the inside with a crispy-crunchy coating on the outside….made extra heavenly when slathered with cream gravy.
Country-Fried Steak Fingers with Lump-Free Cream Gravy
Howdy! Chef Alli Here. Let’s Get You Cookin’….Shall We?? 🙂
Growing up, my Mom made tons of chicken fried steak because we always had tons of round steak in the freezer since my family raised beef cattle.
Mom would pound the round steak into minute-steaks to tenderize them, then she dipped them into a seasoned flour mixture before frying them off in a skillet of hot fat, getting the exterior of each steak nice and crispy.
Lastly, she’d pop those suckers into a baking dish with a bit of broth, cover the pan, and bake them at a low temperature in the oven until those steaks were super fork-tender.
Now, please hear me on this. Those chicken fried steaks DID come out very fork-tender every time, that’s for certain. And, we gladly ate lots of them because we appreciated that Mom cooked dinner for us every night.
However, by the time those steaks were nice and tender after being braised in the oven, that beautiful, crispy exterior that they started with had turned into VERY SOGGY stuff.
For years, I have wondered if there could be a better technique that would provide BOTH: moist and fork-tender beef on the inside and crispy-crunchy coating on the outside.
Well, guess what??? After lots of trial and error, I’ve FINALLY figured out a technique that works! It’s exactly what my Mom did, but in REVERSE order…and it’s so simple I can hardly believe it.
What Ingredients Do You Need to Make Steak Fingers with Country Gravy?
Beef Minute Steaks (aka Round Steak)
Minute steaks are round steaks that have been tenderized by the butcher before packaging. Round steak is a very inexpensive cut of beef that comes from the hindquarters of the steer and can be quite tough. Round steak (minute steaks) require low and slow cooking with lots of moisture to get those protein fibers nice and tender.
Using cornstarch as the first layer of the breading process helps seal in the juices of the meat as it cooks.
Eggs and Buttermilk
These two ingredients come together to make a nice, thick mixture for dipping the steak fingers into so that the cornstarch and the breading mixture can adhere really nicely. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can always use milk that has a bit of cider vinegar added to it. The buttermilk (or sour milk) provides a bit of tang to the breading.
Breading for the Steak Fingers
Use cornstarch and seasoned flour, OR opt to use AgVantage Spice Mix, a pre-seasoned gluten-free breading. Both of these options create a super-crispy exterior for fried foods.
I typically use vegetable oil or canola oil with a bit of butter thrown in for even more browning capability. (Butter makes everything better, right??) Vegetable oil and canola oil have a high flash-point, so they are superior for frying foods since they don’t smoke easily.
Everything that’s in the bottom of your skillet is GOLDEN!! Don’t you dare toss that out, unless your oil was so hot that you’ve got BURNED pieces of breading in the bottom of your skillet. All those pieces of breading on the bottom of your skillet is called “FOND” which is really just another word for FLAVOR!
Flour is essential for making gravy, that’s a fact. You may also substitute AgVantage Spice Mix for making gravy, as well.
This is a secret-ingredient for making the best country gravy in the land. I’m NEVER without a couple of cans of evaporated milk in my pantry, used mainly for making the world’s best gravy. You will still need regular milk for making a pan of gravy, but the addition of one can of evaporated milk makes the gravy super creamy and rich.
Whipping Cream or Whole Milk
Another key ingredient for gravy-making! You can’t make cream gravy without flour, and you can’t make cream gravy without cream, or at least whole milk -there’s just no way around it. (Though I will admit that I’ve made cream gravy with 2% milk plenty of times and it does work okay.)
What Tools Do You Need For Making Beef Steak Fingers with Country Gravy?
- A heavy-bottomed skillet – I love my 12″ Lodge cast iron skillet
- A flat whisk – THE must-have tool for making no-lump sauces and gravies in a skillet
- A sharp chef’s knife – For easily slicing the minute steaks into steak fingers
- A large wooden cutting board – A secure and safe surface for cutting, slicing, and chopping with your chef’s knife
- Shallow glass or aluminum pie plates – for your breading station set up
Easy and Helpful Recipe Tips for Making Baked Beef Steak Fingers
So what’s all this about a reverse-cook technique for making super tender and crispy-crunchy chicken fried steak fingers? I’ve never heard of that. How can I be certain this method makes chicken fried steak fingers so tender that they can be cut with just a FORK?
Typically, when country fried steak or country fried steak fingers are cooked, you’re using an uncooked minute-steak that is then breaded and placed into hot oil to cook.
The problem with doing it this way is that for minute-steak (aka round steak) to get tender enough to be easily cut with a fork, it needs to be cooked low and slow….with moisture, also known as braising. While braising is good for making minute-steaks nice and tender, it’s the LAST thing you want for crispy-crunchy breading since that absolutely turns it to soggy mush.
So, what if we just REVERSE that process and do it this way: Let’s cook the minute-steaks low and slow FIRST, then cut them into (fully cooked) steak fingers, add the breading at that point, and LASTLY, fry those suckers up in a nice cast iron skillet full of hot oil??!!
It works so perfectly I just about fell down! And, because the beef is fully cooked and tender by the time you’re frying it, all you really need to get that superior crispy exterior is a couple of minutes or so on each side in the hot oil and BOOM! they’re done and it’s AWESOME!!
I cannot tell you how excited I am to have FINALLY figured this out. Now my country fried steak and country fried steak fingers can be cut with a fork like a piece of cake.
Is country fried steak and chicken fried steak the same thing?
To my knowledge, yes they are. Both are breaded and both are fried – the names are interchangeable, according to my Grandma. The names may be different based on which part of the country you’re from.
I see this recipe calls for cornstarch as part of the breading. I’ve never heard of using cornstarch in this way – what’s up with that? Also is cornstarch gluten-free?
So cornstarch is totally your friend when you’re breading anything that’s going to be fried or deep-fried! Yep, flour is our common go-to for this job, but if you’re out to get an ultra crispy, crunchy exterior that’s beautifully browned, cornstarch needs to be part of the breading equation. In this recipe, we use cornstarch as protective barrier that helps seal in the juices of the beef.
Many fried foods call for flour combined with cornstarch in equal parts to be used as a coating that makes superior breading. And, yes, cornstarch is totally gluten-free.
Why do I need a breading station for this recipe?
Breading is a big part of making chicken-fried steak fingers, let’s just state that right up front. And, truth be told, it’s pretty dang messy, so why not make it an experience that we don’t detest with all our might?
That’s why you need to set up a breading station that includes 12 shallow pie plates or 1 shallow bowl and also some large parchment paper sheets or pieces of foil for easy clean up. When you’re breading things, cornstarch, flour, and/or breading mix tends to fly everywhere!
What is the set up of the breading station?
Lay out your parchment sheets or foil first, then set out the shallow pie plates and bowl. Into the bowl, beat the eggs and add the buttermilk. In the first pie plate, place your cornstarch. Lastly, place your breading mixture into the other pie plate.
How does the breading station work?
Dip the steak fingers into the egg mixture, then dip them into the cornstarch. Return the steak finger to the egg mixture again, then dip it into the breading mixture making sure it’s well coated. Now place the breaded steak finger onto a plate to rest at room temperature for a bit while you bread the remaining steak fingers.
Why is butter added to the oil for frying the steak fingers? Can I use just oil or just butter for frying the steak fingers?
Butter is superior for browning, so I always add a bit to my oil. You can definitely use just oil (without the butter) for frying the steak fingers, but you really can’t use only butter for frying as it just burns way too quickly and easily – it’s got a high flash point and gets smoky hot super fast.
Why do the breaded steak fingers need to rest before frying them in the hot oil in the skillet?
Letting the breaded steak fingers rest after they’ve been breaded helps the breading set up a bit before it hits the oil so that it adheres to the steak finger better. Also, if your eggs/buttermilk mixture is super chilled, this rest helps all the ingredients come closer to room temperature before hitting the hot oil; this helps them cook more evenly and to brown more quickly.
When I’m frying the breaded steak fingers, what temperature should my oil be?
The oil in your skillet should SIZZLE when you add a breaded steak finger to the pan. SIZZLE is what makes browning and browning is what creates FLAVOR. However, you don’t want your oil to be so hot that when you add the steak fingers to the skillet, the oil splatters all over and makes a huge mess – that’s TOO HOT.
I usually have my skillet set over medium high heat when I’m browning steak fingers, especially since the meat for this recipe is already fully cooked and you’re quickly browning it off to get a nice crispy exterior.
Is there a way to tell if the oil is hot BEFORE adding the steak fingers that need to sizzle when they hit the skillet?
Yep, and I’m glad you asked! Sprinkle a bit of flour or breading mix into the oil when you think it’s hot; if the oil bubbles up a bit when the flour hits the surface, that’s a good indicator that the oil is probably ready for the steak fingers.
Also, another reason you don’t want the oil to get too hot is because you don’t want to burn the bits of breading that fall to the bottom of the skillet becoming the “drippings” that you’ll need for making the cream gravy.
Does the oil in my skillet need to be a certain depth when frying the steak fingers?
Great question. You want the oil deep enough to come half way up on the sides of each steak finger (or whatever you’re frying) so that the hot oil cooks them all the way around, including the sides, once they’ve been turned over in the skillet.
What type of a skillet should I use for making Steak Fingers with Country Gravy?
I love my Lodge 12-inch cast iron skillet, especially when I’m cooking foods that need to be fried. Cast iron holds heat really well, cooks super evenly, and provides superior browning. Plus, I love how it goes from stove-top to oven and back with no problem – so versatile.
Do you have any tips for how to season a cast iron skillet? Are there any down sides to using cast iron cookware?
Sure do. Read more here to learn the easy steps of seasoning a cast iron skillet. The biggest down side to using cast iron cookware is how HEAVY it is. Sometimes I struggle to lift my 12″ cast iron skillet when it’s full of gravy or fried chicken – whew! However, keep in mind that the heavy construction of cast iron is exactly what makes it have such great cooking characteristics!
More Favorite Meat Recipes to Enjoy –
Printable Country Fried Steak Fingers with Lump-Free Cream Gravy Recipe –
Country-Fried Steak Fingers with Cream Gravy
Country Fried Steak Fingers
- 3 lbs. minute-steaks, or round steak that you pound into tenderized minute-steaks
- 1 Tbs. Vegetable or canola oil
- 2 Tbs. butter
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups buttermilk, or 2 cups milk to which 4 Tbs. cider vinegar has been added to sour it
- 1 1/2 - 2 cups cornstarch
- 2 cups flour, combined with 2 tsp. each kosher salt, paprika, and black pepper, 1 tsp. each granulated onion, granulated garlic, and baking powder. (or just use 2 cups Ag-Vantage Spice Mix, a pre-seasoned gluten-free breading mix!)
- 1/4 cup oil and pan drippings leftover from frying the steak fingers, if you have more oil in your skillet when ready to make gravy, remove the excess; if you have less than 1/4 cup oil, add what you need.
- 1/4 cup flour, (or use 1/4 cup Ag-Vantage Spice Mix, a pre-seasoned gluten-free breading mix)
- 12 oz. can evaporated milk
- 1 - 1 1/2 cups whole milk (If you opt not to use the evaporated milk, you may substitute 2 - 2 1/2 cups cream in place of both the evaporated milk and the whole milk. Either way you get a super creamy gravy!)
To Prepare the Country Fried Steak Fingers
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Place the uncooked minute steaks into a 9 x 13 baking dish; add 1/2 cup beef broth, covering the pan tightly with foil.
- Place the baking dish of meat into the preheated oven on the center rack; bake for approx. 1 1/2 hours or until the minute steaks are fork-tender when tested. (Don’t be concerned with how much the minute steaks may have shrunk during the cooking process. This is normal and okay.)
- Remove the cooked minute steaks from the oven and let them fully cool. (Removing them to a plate or platter helps them cool quicker.) When the steaks have cooled, slice then into fingers, approx 1 - 1 1/4 inches wide. (Or as wide or narrow as you prefer.)
- Prepare the breading station by placing a couple of large sheets of parchment paper or foil over your work surface, close to your stove or cook top.
- Place 1 shallow bowl and 2 pie plates onto the parchment. Fill the shallow bowl with the eggs and buttermilk; beat with a fork or small whisk to combine.
- Add the half of the cornstarch to one of the pie plates, then place half of the breading mix into the remaining pie plate. (This way you can work in batches as needed with the cornstarch and breading mix.)
- Take each steak finger and dip it into the egg mixture, then into the cornstarch. Now dip the steak finger into the egg mixture once more, then into the breading mixture. Remove each breaded steak finger to a plate in a single layer.
- Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat, add about 1/2” - 3/4” of oil, along with the butter. When the oil is nicely hot, add the breaded steak fingers to the hot oil; frying them until nicely golden brown, approx 2-3 minutes per side.
- Remove the country fried steak fingers to a paper towel-lined plate, keeping them warm.
To Prepare the Cream Gravy
- Now it’s time to make the cream gravy - yay! Over medium heat, using about 1/4 cup of the leftover oil with drippings (from frying the steak fingers), add 1/4 cup of the breading mix (or just flour); cook this mixture for 1 minute, whisking often.
- Now, completely remove the skillet from the heat. Very slowly, whisk In the evaporated milk **Please Note: This step of removing the skillet from the heat while whisking the first bit of liquid into the cooked flour in the skillet is one of the best and little-known secrets to making lump-free gravy, FYI.
- Now return the skillet to medium heat, whisking in the remaining 2 cups of milk, a little at a time until the gravy is smooth and creamy. (If the gravy is too thick as it cools, add more milk, as needed.)
- Serve the warm country fried steak fingers smothered with cream gravy, alongside your favorite mashed potatoes (with more gravy!) and green beans or asparagus.
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**Please Note: This is a sponsored recipe post, paid for by From the Land of Kansas, the state trademark program that promotes and celebrates agricultural experiences and products that are grown, raised, or produced in Kansas. Our featured member business for this televised KAKE Television segment and recipe post is AgVantage Naturals of New Cambria, KS, a dedicated allergen-free facility that processes and packages superior gluten-free flours and baking mixes. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.