Cracker Barrel Country Fried Steak Recipe

Cracker Barrel is your ultimate destination if you’re a fan of Southern cuisine, and especially a quality cut of meat.

Their extensive, rich menu includes many fried goods, including their fried chicken and Southern fried chicken, as well as many options for a filling, flavor-packed breakfast.

However, what seems to stand out is their signature country fried steak topped with sawmill gravy, and usually served with creamy mashed potatoes and a side of veggies.

Is it possible to make a fried steak this good in your own kitchen? With this copycat Cracker Barrel country fried steak recipe, there’s hardly anything that could go wrong.

How to make Cracker Barrel country fried steak

Before we get into the recipe itself, let’s talk a bit about the term “country fried” and explain why this frying method is so specific.

A country fried steak is commonly pan-fried, whereas many other fried dishes involve deep-frying.

The pan-frying method is precisely what gives the meat that extra crunchy outer layer with a dose of that smoky, toasty aroma.

It is also important to mention that the cube steak, which is the star of this Cracker Barrel country fried steak recipe, doesn’t have to be tenderized.

Since this is a rather tough, chewy meat cut, you may wonder how do you achieve the desired level of tenderness if you’re not using a meat tenderizer?

The key lies in a whole milk marinade, which allows the meat to tenderize on its own by breaking down its proteins.

It is also important to use extra hot oil (350°F) when pan-frying your steak, as this will ensure you get that characteristic crunch, and the meat doesn’t absorb as much oil.

Ingredients:

(4 servings)

  • 4 5oz cube steaks
  • 4 3/4 cups whole milk (divided)
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 1/4 tsp Kosher salt (divided)
  • 38 Saltine crackers
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups vegetable oil

Instructions:

For the fried steak:

Step 1:

To prepare your cube steaks for marinating, add them to a plastic bag with 3/4 cup of the whole milk. Ensure that the milk is covering each part of the meat, then seal the bag and place it in the fridge for at least an hour.

While the steak is marinating, it is recommended to flip the plastic bag every now and then to allow the milk to penetrate every single inch of the steak.

Step 2:

After 1 to 3 hours of marinating, remove the steak from the milk marinade, and save the milk from the marinade for later.

In a mixing bowl, combine Kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Season the cube steaks with this mixture, making sure it is evenly distributed.

Step 3:

Grab a shallow bowl and combine the eggs with the reserved milk from the marinade (make sure to add more milk if necessary, since you should have 3/4 cup).

Whisk the eggs with the milk until you get a cohesive mixture. Using a food processor, make a flaky, powdery mixture by processing Saltines, baking powder, 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, 1 cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and the cayenne pepper.

Step 4:

Preheat the oven to 225°F and use a thick aluminum foil to line the baking sheet and add it onto a wire rack.

Prepare everything you need for your fried steak, including the egg batter, as well as the cracker mixture you prepared in the food processor.

Step 5:

Now it’s time to coat the steak before frying it. Add the steak into the cracker mixture, then coat it with the egg mixture, and dip it into the cracker and flour mixture one more time.

Place the coated steaks onto the baking sheet with the wire rack and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. This will allow for the batter to stick to the meat and it won’t slide off the meat once you begin the frying process.

Step 6:

Heat up 3 cups of vegetable oil of your choice in a large skillet over medium-high heat. The frying temperature of the oil should reach 350-360°F.

Once the oil has reached the frying temperature, lower it slightly, then add the cube steaks and fry them for about 10 minutes, or until the outside layer is golden and crispy.

In case you notice the meat is burning or there’s smoke, you should reduce the temperature some more. It is also necessary to be very gentle and careful when turning the meat so the batter doesn’t slide off.

Once you’ve turned the steaks, fry them for additional 5-6 minutes, and make sure to turn the meat away from you so the oil doesn’t splatter on you.

Step 7:

Once you’ve fried the cube steaks, place them onto the baking sheet with the wire rack and add them to the preheated oven to keep them warm.

For the gravy:

Step 1:

Prepare the gravy mixture by combining the 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, 1/4 cup flour, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 4 cups milk.

Whisk all the ingredients together, then transfer the mixture into the same skillet where you fried the steaks, with all the remaining flavors and oil.

Step 2:

Cook the mixture over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, or until you notice it is starting to bubble.

This is when you should lower the heat and allow the gravy to thicken while whisking the mixture constantly.

Step 3:

Taste the sawmill gravy to ensure that no additional seasoning is necessary. Being that it has already absorbed all the leftover seasonings and sauces in the skillet, it is probably already well-seasoned.

Take the steaks out of the oven and serve warm with your homemade sawmill gravy.

Ingredient substitutions

When it comes to a copycat Cracker Barrel country fried steak recipe, you may think that you need to follow the instructions down to the smallest detail to get the perfect result.

However, as long as you use the preparation method and the frying technique we’ve described, you can replace some of the ingredients and still be extremely satisfied with the outcome.

1. Chicken fried steak

Not a fan of the cube steak? The country fried steak method works perfectly if you want to make fried chicken, as well.

Keep in mind that the cooking time will probably be shorter in this case, but the remaining steps of the process stay the same.

2. Crispy rice cakes

If you have no Saltine crackers in your pantry at the moment, there’s no need to run to the shop as long as you have some crispy rice cakes.

Depending on the brand, the rice cakes may be less seasoned than the Saltine crackers, but you can always adjust the seasoning.

What to serve with Cracker Barrel country fried steak

Besides the sawmill gravy which is a must when it comes to Cracker Barrel country fried steak, you can complement this cubed steak dish with different types of side dishes and condiments.

Here are some of the best options when it comes to creating a perfect combination with your country fried steak.

Mashed potatoes

You simply can’t go wrong with a side of mashed potatoes with your Cracker Barrel steak and the cream gravy on top.

It is the ultimate side dish when it comes to any meat recipe, and it perfectly complements this Cracker Barrel recipe.

Vegetable salad

A mix of your favorite veggies with the addition of olive oil and tangy, acidic vinaigrette is something that goes well with any fried food.

Heavy, complex dishes such as this one simply need something that will brighten them up and add a lighter note.

How to reheat Cracker Barrel country fried steak

If you want to avoid drying out your country fried steak, here’s how you can heat it up without changing the texture.

How to reheat Cracker Barrel country fried steak in the oven

Take the fried steak out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for at least 15-20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F, then place the country fried steak on a baking tray and cover it with a piece of aluminum foil.

Bake for about 10 minutes, then remove the foil and let it warm up for a few more minutes to get a crispy outside layer.

How to reheat Cracker Barrel country fried steak in an air fryer

Preheat your air fryer to 350°F, or just add the steak into the air fryer if no preheating is needed.

Sprinkle some water or oil on top of the steak to preserve the moisture, then heat up the steak for about 10-12 minutes.

How to reheat Cracker Barrel country fried steak on the stovetop

Warm up a little bit of vegetable oil in a skillet, then add the steak and cook it on medium-high heat for 5 minutes on each side.

How to store Cracker Barrel country fried steak

If properly stored, you can keep your homemade country fried steak in the fridge for a few days, or freeze the leftovers and enjoy this delicious dish in a few weeks or months.

As for the gravy, we’d recommend keeping it in the fridge for 4-5 days, but freezing it isn’t always a good idea.

Store in the fridge

Place the Cracker Barrel country fried steak in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for no longer than 4-5 days.

Store in the freezer

Add the leftover country fried steak into an airtight container or a freezer bag, seal tightly, then add to your freezer and use up within 3 months.

cracker barrel country fried steak recipe

Cracker Barrel Country Fried Steak Recipe

This copycat Cracker Barrel country fried steak recipe will teach you not only how to prepare cube steak, but also how to get perfectly crispy fried meat every single time. We've also included the sawmill gravy recipe, so you can easily make a restaurant-grade meal in your own kitchen.
5 from 11 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people
Calories 2166 kcal
Equipment
  • Knife
  • food processor
  • Skillet
  • sheet pan
  • wire rack
Ingredients
  
  • 5 oz cube steak x4
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (divided) x4
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt (divided) x2
  • 38 Saltine crackers
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups vegetable oil
Instructions
 
For the fried steak:
  • To prepare your cube steaks for marinating, add them to a plastic bag with 3/4 cup of the whole milk. Ensure that the milk is covering each part of the meat, then seal the bag and place it in the fridge for at least an hour.
    While the steak is marinating, it is recommended to flip the plastic bag every now and then to allow the milk to penetrate every single inch of the steak.
  • After 1 to 3 hours of marinating, remove the steak from the milk marinade, and save the milk from the marinade for later.
    In a mixing bowl, combine Kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Season the cube steaks with this mixture, making sure it is evenly distributed.
  • Grab a shallow bowl and combine the eggs with the reserved milk from the marinade (make sure to add more milk if necessary, since you should have 3/4 cup).
    Whisk the eggs with the milk until you get a cohesive mixture. Using a food processor, make a flaky, powdery mixture by processing Saltines, baking powder, 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, 1 cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and the cayenne pepper.
  • Preheat the oven to 225°F and use a thick aluminum foil to line the baking sheet and add it onto a wire rack.
    Prepare everything you need for your fried steak, including the egg batter, as well as the cracker mixture you prepared in the food processor.
  • Now it's time to coat the steak before frying it. Add the steak into the cracker mixture, then coat it with the egg mixture, and dip it into the cracker and flour mixture one more time.
    Place the coated steaks onto the baking sheet with the wire rack and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. This will allow for the batter to stick to the meat and it won't slide off the meat once you begin the frying process.
  • Heat up 3 cups of vegetable oil of your choice in a large skillet over medium-high heat. The frying temperature of the oil should reach 350-360°F.
    Once the oil has reached the frying temperature, lower it slightly, then add the cube steaks and fry them for about 10 minutes, or until the outside layer is golden and crispy.
    In case you notice the meat is burning or there's smoke, you should reduce the temperature some more. It is also necessary to be very gentle and careful when turning the meat so the batter doesn't slide off.
    Once you've turned the steaks, fry them for additional 5-6 minutes, and make sure to turn the meat away from you so the oil doesn't splatter on you.
  • Once you've fried the cube steaks, place them onto the baking sheet with the wire rack and add them to the preheated oven to keep them warm.
For the gravy:
  • Prepare the gravy mixture by combining the 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, 1/4 cup flour, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 4 cups milk.
    Whisk all the ingredients together, then transfer the mixture into the same skillet where you fried the steaks, with all the remaining flavors and oil.
  • Cook the mixture over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, or until you notice it is starting to bubble.
    This is when you should lower the heat and allow the gravy to thicken while whisking the mixture constantly.
  • Taste the sawmill gravy to ensure that no additional seasoning is necessary. Being that it has already absorbed all the leftover seasonings and sauces in the skillet, it is probably already well-seasoned.
    Take the steaks out of the oven and serve warm with your homemade sawmill gravy.
Nutrition
Calories: 2166kcalCarbohydrates: 66gProtein: 19gFat: 206gSaturated Fat: 36gSodium: 1814mgPotassium: 524mg
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