This Southern diner staple transforms a budget cut of meat into a tender and flavorful dinner. Slices of beef round are pounded thin, coated in seasoned flour, and pan-fried until crispy, then served with an easy, creamy country gravy made with butter, milk, and flour that’s whisked together with a little cayenne and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Add some mashed red potatoes or buttermilk biscuits on the side for sopping up any runaway gravy on your plate.
What to buy: The round cuts of beef are located on the hind leg of the cow. They tend to be tougher in texture, so look for the top round, sometimes called a London broil, which is the most tender of these cuts.
Special equipment: You’ll need a meat mallet with a studded side for this recipe.
For the gravy:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoonskosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/8 teaspooncayenne pepper
3 cups whole milk
For the steak:
1 cup whole milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1 teaspoongarlic powder
1 teaspoononion powder
1 teaspoonkosher salt, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspooncayenne pepper
1 poundbeef round, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1/4-inch slices
3/4 cupvegetable oil, for frying
For the gravy:
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until foaming. Sprinkle in the flour, measured salt, measured pepper, and cayenne. Cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture’s dark golden brown and the flour and spices taste toasted, about 6 minutes.
While whisking constantly, slowly pour in the milk. Bring to a simmer and let cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 1 minute (the gravy will continue to thicken as it sits). Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Keep warm over very low heat while you make the steak.
For the steak:
Place the milk in a shallow dish; set aside. In a second shallow dish, whisk together the flour, measured pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, measured salt, and cayenne; set aside.
Place 1 piece of the beef on a cutting board and season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Using the studded side of a meat mallet, pound the steak, flipping to equally pound both sides, until it’s about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to a large plate or baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pieces of beef.
Dip 1 piece of the beef in the reserved flour mixture, turn to coat, and shake off any excess. Dip in the milk, turn to coat, and dip in the flour mixture a second time, shaking off any excess. Return to the plate or baking sheet and repeat with the remaining pieces.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking or 350°F on a deep-fry thermometer. Meanwhile, fit a wire rack over a baking sheet; set aside.
When the oil is ready, fry 2 to 3 pieces of meat (don’t crowd the pan) until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the wire rack, season with salt, and cover loosely with a piece of aluminum foil to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining pieces. Serve immediately, smothered in the gravy.