The origins of chicken-fried steak are shouded in mystery thicker than the gravy that goes with it.
The earliest reference this writer could find using that exact term is in a 1928 article on obesity in a railway employees bulletin. Obviously, the dish was being enjoyed long before that.
Most culinary historians trace the origin of our plate-eclipsing marvel to the Germans who came to Texas in the nineteenth century and brought with them recipes for Wiener Schnitzel. This dish consists of pounded veal coated with breadcrumbs and fried. (It has nothing to do with the Wienerschnitzel hotdog joints.)
Recipes for what we would all recognize as chicken fried steak were included in many southern cookbooks after the Civil War.
If you think about it, the chicken fried steak was almost inevitable in Texas. Even the best of cuts from those old longhorns required a really good set of teeth to enjoy. What was a cook to do with the tougher cuts? Pounding the hell out of it is a very Texan thing to do.
There are regional variations, even within Texas. The East Texas version is dipped in egg and then flour, similar to the way fried chicken is prepared.
Central Texas uses bread crumbs rather than flour, showing its Weiner Schnitzel roots.
Out West there is a version made without dipping the meat in egg, which likely had its origin which chuck wagon cooks on cattle drives.
Just who coined the term, 'chicken fried' remains a mystery...for now.