Salisbury Steak is an American classic where juicy, beefy patties are served in a rich, savory mushroom and onion gravy. It’s easy to make at home for a perfect stick-to-your-ribs weeknight meal!
Salisbury Steak is such a classic comfort food, and really, everyone likes it. What’s not to like? It’s essentially a hamburger patty that you smother in gravy instead of putting in a bun. And that gravy usually has lots of onions and mushrooms too! Since it uses ground beef, it’s often more economical than cooking up an actual steak, or doing steak in gravy. It’s the kind of dish you get in an old time diner, and eating it always makes me happy. I’m going to explain how to make Salisbury Steak at home, but first, scroll down to find out where it originated and how did it get its name, or click here to jump straight down to the recipe.
Origin of Salisbury Steak
Salisbury Steak is an American classic comfort food with a really interesting origin story. It actually started out as a health food that was prescribed by Dr. Salisbury, hence the name, to soldiers during the Civil War. It was believed at the time that a diet rich in beefsteak could cure digestive illnesses.
Salisbury Steak has since lost its status as a health food. There is another interesting thing about the name though. While, this dish did become popular in the United States during the Civil War, it was during World War I that the name really stuck. That was because German-sounding words were being limited in the country at that time, and so the Army would serve beef patties and call them Salisbury Steak rather than calling them by the name Hamburg Steak, which is a very similar dish.
What Is Salisbury Steak?
Essentially a cross between meatloaf and a hamburger, Salisbury Steak is made of ground or minced meat, typically beef, that’s mixed with spices, condiments, and often a panade – bread or breadcrumbs that have been soaked in a liquid.
The mixture is shaped into round or oval patties and fried. And it’s always served with a gravy. Sometimes just a simple brown gravy and sometimes a mushroom gravy, but always a gravy.
What Is A Panade?
I mentioned that Salisbury Steak recipes often include a panade, which is bread or breadcrumbs that have been soaked in some type of liquid. This is one of the recipes that includes a panade. I think it’s an important addition as it helps to keep the patties moist. The liquid that I use most often is buttermilk, which also adds a nice flavor and balance to the dish, but milk works too, and even water will work in a pinch.
Making a panade is really simple. What’s most important is that the bread has soaked up as much liquid as possible. To accomplish this, allow the bread cubes to sit in the liquid for several minutes, 5 should do it, and then smash them with the back of a spoon or with your fingers.
How To Make Salisbury Steak
While the bread cubes are soaking in the liquid, I like to mix up a slurry for the gravy. Then it’s ready to go later on when I need it. It’s easiest to measure the broth in a measuring cup, and then just add the cornstarch to the measuring cup and whisk it into a nice, lump-free slurry. A quick note – the cornstarch will settle out while preparing the rest of the ingredients so make sure that you give it another good stir before you add it to the gravy.
After the panade and the slurry are prepped, you’re ready to combine the meat mixture. This is much like making a meatloaf or a hamburger. All of the meat patty ingredients, including the panade, go into a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, mix all of the ingredients until they are thoroughly combined. (If you are starting out with frozen ground beef and need to that it quickly, follow the instructions here).
Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts and shape them into round or oval patties. My preference is oval because it looks more like a steak. Using a butter or table knife, create 3 – 4 diagonal lines in each of the patties. These don’t have to be too deep maybe 1/8-inch. This is purely an aesthetic thing. I think if makes them look a little like steaks that have been grilled. After all, we eat with our eyes first.
The steaks are now ready to go into the skillet. I like to use a cast iron skillet, but a nice big heavy stainless skillet will work just as well. And non-stick will work too, your patties just might not brown as well.
Heat the oil over high heat until it is shimmering and then add the steaks. I typically fry the first side for about 6 minutes. You want a nice browning to occur. Once that’s achieved, flip the steaks and cook on the second side until the internal temperature of your preferred doneness is reached. Note: I know that a lot of people eat burgers that are only cooked to a medium temperature. However, I have to caution you that eating ground beef that has not reached the temperature of 160F is not considered safe, so eat it rarer at your own risk.
Here’s a list of temperatures for your reference:
- Rare – 120˚ – 125˚F
- Medium-rare – 130˚ – 135˚F
- Medium – 140˚ – 145˚F
- Medium-rare – 150˚ – 155˚F
- Well-done – 160˚F and up
Remove the Salisbury Steaks from the skillet to a clean plate.
I’m a fan of a rich mushroom and onion gravy to serve with my Salisbury Steaks. After the steaks have been transferred to the plate, turn the heat to medium and add the onions. You want to cook them until they’re translucent and just start to take on some color at the edges, about 5 -6 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid. At this point, add the butter and continue to cook until the mushrooms have browned lightly. Add the ketchup, stirring to make sure that it’s distributed throughout and cook for about 30 seconds.
Turn the heat to low and add the slurry liquid – remember to stir the slurry again before adding to combine any of the cornstarch that has settled out. Add the Worcestershire sauce and cook until the gravy has thickened.
Add the Salisbury Steaks and any of the liquid that has accumulated on the plate to the gravy and simmer until the steaks have been heated through.
More Classic And Hearty Beef Recipes
- Perfectly Cooked Cube Steak
- Ground Beef and Rice Skillet
- Oxtail Soup
- Delicious Classic Pot Roast
- Chimichurri Steak
- Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon
- Simple But Decadent Wagyu Beef Burgers
Salisbury Steak Recipe
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Entrée
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
Juicy, beefy patties served in a rich, savory mushroom and onion gravy, Salisbury Steak is an American classic perfect for a stick-to-your-ribs weeknight meal.
Listen to learn how to make this recipe, along with some great tips from Christine:
2 slices fresh bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes, about 1 1/2 cup unpacked
1/4 cup buttermilk*
2 cups beef broth
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 and 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, divided
- 1 Tbsp. ketchup
2 tsp. yellow mustard
1 cube beef bouillon, crumbled**
- 1 tsp. salt, divided
1 tsp. pepper, divided
1 tsp. garlic powder, divided
1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
6 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp. butter
In a large bowl combine the bread and buttermilk. Soak for 5 minutes.
While the bread is soaking, combine beef broth, cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon of the Worcestershire in a measuring cup or medium bowl, stirring to create a smooth, lump-free slurry. Set aside.
Then, mash the bread with the back of a spoon to break it into small wet crumbles.
To the bread mixture, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire, ketchup, mustard, crumbled bouillon cube, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic powder. Mix. Then add the ground beef and use your hands to mix it until thoroughly combined, but don’t overmix.
Divide the beef mixture into 4 equal parts and shape into oval patties. Score each patty diagonally with a knife 4 times. Do not cut through the patties.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until oil is shimmering. Fry the patties until browned on one side, about 7 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until the second side is nicely browned and the internal temperature reaches 160F. Transfer to a clean plate and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion slices, cooking until they become translucent and just start to brown, about 5 – 6 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to release their liquid, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.
Add the butter to the skillet and continue to cook until the mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes more. Reduce the heat to low.
Give the beef stock and cornstarch mixture a good stir, and then add it to the skillet. Stir it up and scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen any bits that have stuck there. Simmer and stir until the gravy has thickened.
Return the patties and any juices that accumulated on the plate to the skillet. Simmer until just warmed through.
*Milk or even water can be used instead of the buttermilk.
**Use a standard 4 gram bouillon cube here, not an extra-large one. If you have granulated bouillon, use 2 teaspoons. If you’d like to skip the bouillon cube, add an additional 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the mixture instead, or 2 teaspoons of a salted seasoning blend.
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