Cube steaks and breading are a match made in country-fried heaven. Country-fried steak recipes call for cube steak because they're cheap, thin and cook in about the same time as the breaded crust. Cube steaks measure about 1/2 inch thick or less, but you'll occasionally find the 1-inch-thick cube steak, which drives a wedge into the blissful breading-to-beef relationship, causing the crust to finish before the steak. To get the steak and breading back to cooking at the same rate, you have to introduce them to the oven so it can pick up where the frying pan left off.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat about 1/4 inch of frying oil in a cast-iron skillet or stainless-steel frying pan on the stove over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until you see wisps of smoke rising from it.
Pat the cube steaks dry with paper towels and season them to taste. Dredge the steaks in seasoned flour, dip them in egg wash and coat them again in the seasoned flour.
Grip the steaks by the tip and lay them gently in the oil. Space the steaks at least 1/2 inch apart.
Fry the steaks until the breading crisps and turns golden brown, or about 4 or 5 minutes on each side. It's time to turn the steaks over when they turn golden brown halfway up the sides. Use tongs to grip the steaks firmly at the edge when turning them over.
Slide the pan or skillet on the middle oven rack when the breading fries to golden brown all over.
Bake the steaks for about 4 or 5 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 145 to 160 F. Check the temperature by inserting a meat thermometer horizontally through the breading and into the center of the steak.
Take the pan out of the oven and place the cube steaks on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Gently blot the oil from the breading while still hot to help them stay crispy.
- You can make a gravy from the oil used to fry the steaks. Pour the oil into a heat-proof measuring cup and spoon about 3 or 4 tablespoons back in the pan or skillet, removing any brown bits. Place the skillet on the stove over medium-low heat and sprinkle as much flour in the pan as there is oil. Whisk the flour and oil and cook it until it turns blond. Pour a cup or 2 of milk in the pan, cook it until it reaches the desired consistency and season it to taste.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.