Cooking Fail – Alton Brown’s Chicken Fried Steak

I’ve been loving all things German this October, so after watching Alton Brown make Chicken Fried Steak, I had to try and replicate his take on this Americanization of schnitzel. Unfortunately, the recipe calls for double battering the meat. And for some reason, that never works out for me.

Alton tells us what part of the cow this cut comes from, but I don't think he ever explained what makes it "Chicken Fried"

I tried doing everything precisely as it was described in the episode. I got half inch thick bottom round steaks. I even had to make three trips to find it. They don’t really have bottom round at Trader Joe’s. At Paulina Meat Market, all you could find is an entire bottom round, which was way more bottom round than I was ready to handle (I did pick up a ton of German sausages, though, so it wasn’t a wasted trip). So, I had to go to Marketplace grocery store Lincoln Park to find these. Marketplace is turning out to be a pretty reliable source for a variety of cuts of meat.

half inch thick bottom round

Alton Brown’s technique calls for pricking the meat multiple times with a weird sort of tool after dredging in flour.

I thought he hated unitaskers

I didn’t have one of the tools he used, so I tried using a fork.

OCD meat

It didn’t take me long to realize that the fork was quite good at this job. And, because the steaks were dredged before the pricking process, it was really easy to see exactly where I had pierced the meat. And so I of course attempted to space all the tiny little holes in the meat equidistantly.

After this point, you were supposed to dredge in egg and then back in flour again. This made everything really gummy. I had my doubts that this would work. Double dredging never seems to work out for me.

I started frying up the dredged steaks. And things were working out decently. My pan was probably a little on the small side and I’m pretty sure the oil in the pan wasn’t at the right temperature yet when I dropped the steaks in. The breading on the steak developed, but it wasn’t very  crispy. And it was coming in all patchy, like facial hair whenever I try to grow a beard.

is this what makes it chicken fried?

After the steaks were cooked, I set them aside and started the pan gravy. Alton Brown’s recipe called for 2 cups of chicken stock and half a cup of milk. I don’t think my saute pan even holds that much liquid. And there was not way I would need that much anyway. So instead, I used a heaping tablespoon of flour and a cup of chicken stock.

deglazing the pan

Once the chicken stock started thickening up, I added a quarter cup of milk. And after a couple of cracks of pepper, the gravy turned out real real nice.

chicken fried steak

I served up the steaks with peas and some very nice roasted potatoes. The potatoes and gravy were definitely the star of the show, but I think that would have been the case, even if the steaks turned out better. I mean, these roast potatoes and gravy were so good, I wonder why it’s not a thing. They were like poutine, but less Quebec-y.

The steaks weren’t exactly bad, but they were chewy. I thought pricking them with the fork was supposed to tenderize them, but these were not tender at all. In fact, they were pretty tough and disappointing, like the first time I drove a Mini.

The thing is, the flavors were good, and the breading can be fixed. But I think I’m going to have to try and buy a pre-swissed cut of meat next time.


1 Comment

Filed under cookingFail

One response to “Cooking Fail – Alton Brown’s Chicken Fried Steak

  1. D'Andre

    The difference between using a fork and a Jaccard is considerable. The Jaccard will slice the muscle fibers making them very easy to chew. The fork pushes the fibers around making holes in the meat. Since the length of the fibers is unchanged, tenderizing isn’t happening.

    Also, the temperature of the oil in the pan is important. If it is too low, the breading isn’t going to set correctly.

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