How to Make Country Fried Steak Better than Cracker Barrel

August 16, 2023

Certified Angus Beef Country Fried Steak Recipe

Source: The Blue Willow Inn Bible of Southern Cooking, copyright 2005, page 214, Country-Fried Steak

About the Blue Willow Inn

The Blue Willow Inn opened in 1991 in Social Circle, GA. For years, my family would drive across the state to meet at the Blue Willow Inn to celebrate Mother’s Day. This became a tradition we looked forward to every year, knowing we could always count on a great meal. Sadly, the Blue Willow Inn closed in 2020. There are new owners and talk of reopening, but no official announcement has been made yet. We can only hope that the Blue Willow Inn is resurrected and able to provide memorable dining experiences for future generations of Georgians!

The cookbook was published in 2005. It’s nothing groundbreaking; just a collection of simple family recipes. So why is this special? As the book says, Southern food is the ability to make modest fare. . .whatever you have on hand. . .and turn it into a veritable feast.

My family’s annual journey to the Blue Willow Inn was an event. We ate the food we loved, with the people we loved, in a friendly and beautiful place. The country fried steak was a favorite dish at the Blue Willow Inn because we rarely ate it at home.

Bible of Southern Cooking Recipe Book

About the Dish

Country fried steak, also known as chicken fried steak, was introduced by German and Austrian immigrants settling in the southern United States in the 19th century. It’s a variation of Wienerschnitzel, breaded and fried veal cutlets popular in those countries. Lamesa, Texas, claims to be the birthplace of country fried steak and holds an annual celebration devoted to the dish.

Country fried steak consists of breaded, fried, and gravy-covered beef — not exactly healthy. If you are worried about cholesterol, high sodium, fat, and carbs, country fried steak shouldn’t be in your weekly meal planner. It’s only an occasional treat in our house because of this. However, moderation is one of the keys to eating your favorites every once in a while.

The second reason we rarely make it at home is because it is made with cubed steak. Cubed steak is a leaner cut of beef. Generally, it is a tough cut of meat and can have a fair amount of gristle. Cubed steak comes from the round cut of beef. It is flattened and pounded with a meat tenderizer, which gives the beef its iconic “cubed” appearance. Many in my family who love country fried steak have abandoned the dish due to what they consider an inferior cut of meat. However, one simple solution to bring country fried steak back to the dinner table is making it with Certified Angus Beef.

Chicken Fried Steak Recipe

Nothing Against Cracker Barrel but our Country Fried Steak is Better

Fast casual eateries often feature country fried steak on their menus — a testament to the dish’s enduring popularity. Southern-themed chain Cracker Barrel is an excellent example; country fried steak consistently ranks among their most popular food items. There’s no denying that Cracker Barrel’s country fried steak is good…but is it great? Turns out their country fried steak is prepared with USDA choice steak. That’s great if you’re hungry, but it’s also a more economical cut of meat that doesn’t really stand out. Elevating country fried steak by using Certified Angus Beef makes it much better.

Certified Angus Beef Made the Difference

Customers turn to Certified Angus Beef because its quality standards are generally considered to be above traditional USDA Prime, Choice, and Select. This is especially noticeable on cuts of meat like cubed steak. Certified Angus Beef applies ten quality standards to their beef, including abundant marbling, maturity, sizing, appearance, and tenderness.The result is a superior cut of beef.

Certified Angus Cubed Steak was a game changer for this recipe. Cooking country fried steak using Certified Angus Beef created a meal that was crunchy, tender, and savory. The only downside? There were no leftovers!


  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ medium onion, sliced
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 6 (4-ounce) portions of cubed beef steaks *Angus Cubed Beef
  • 1 (10 ¼-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup (I
  • substituted cream of chicken soup)
  • ½ cup of water


  1. Cover the bottom of a large, heavy skillet with cooking oil. I used my good ol’ cast iron skillet.
  2. Turn the heat to medium and saute the onion until tender and remove. Since my family is extremely anti-onion, I skipped this step.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine flour with salt and pepper. I also included a tablespoon of cornstarch for added crispness.
  4. Tenderize the meat with a mallet, then dredge the meat in the flour mixture.
  5. Place cubed steaks in the skillet and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side.
  6. Remove steaks from the skillet and set aside.
  7. Add the soup and water to the pan along with the oil and steak drippings. Be careful; the pan is hot! Soup and water may splatter back at you. The recipe states to “continue to cook over medium heat, stirring often.” I stirred constantly in a rapid fashion to get the soup, water, and drippings to incorporate.
  8. Add additional salt and pepper if designed.
The recipe offers two different methods to finish the dish.
    • Option 1: Return the steaks to the gravy. Place the onion on top. Turn the heat to low. Cover and cook for 15-18 minutes.
    • Option 2: Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the cooked steak in a casserole dish. Pour the gravy over the steaks. Cover with the onions. Bake covered for 15-20 minutes.
I chose option one for the practical reason of not dirtying a casserole dish that I’d have to wash. My family and I were very pleased with the results! The country fried steak was delicious. Don’t count on leftovers unless you make extra!