Finger Steaks – Southwestern Idaho Delight

Recipes

Many towns or areas have signature dishes1. They become sought-after classics, if only in a limited area of the country.

Finger steaks from the Westside Drive In in Boise, Idaho
Photo by Author

Boise Finger Steaks2 fit that description. Invented in about 1957 at Milo’s Torch Cafe3 in Boise, finger steaks now find a place on menus of nearly every restaurant with 50 miles of Boise. Indeed, some of the best can be found at a drive-in called the Westside in Boise. But they are virtually unknown outside southwestern Idaho.

Essentially, finger steaks are like the familiar chicken strips, but use beef strips instead of chicken. And the best ones use beef tenderloin.

Several variations of the finger steak recipe are available on the internet. However, this is purported to be the original recipe from the Torch, and it’s the one I use.

Total prep and cooking time is about 2 hours. This recipe serves 6-7.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1½ cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 4 cups oil for deep frying
  • 3 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into 2½ x ¾ inch strips. You can also use top round, but tenderloin makes the best finger steaks

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix together the milk, thyme, marjoram, salt, seasoned salt, and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. 
  2. Stir in the flour gradually until the mixture reaches a thick, batter-like consistency.
  3. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Preheat the oil in a large pot to 375°F (190°C).
  5. Completely coat each piece of beef in the batter. 
  6. Gently place each piece into the hot oil individually to keep them from sticking together. 
  7. Cook finger steaks in small batches of 4 to 8 pieces until golden brown, about 5 minutes. 
  8. Allow the oil to return to 375°F between batches.

Serve with French fries, onion rings, or toast. Some people like to dip finger steaks in ketchup or steak sauce, but I like them ‘plain.’


Have you ever tried finger steaks? Do they sound good to you? Comment in the space below.

NOTES

  1. Also see my posts on the signature sandwich of Louisville, the Hot Brown, Butte’s Irish Pasty and the Chicago Hot Dog.
  2. I am originally from the Boise area and grew up eating finger steaks. Each time I’ve moved away, I’ve searched for them in vain. But I make them at home and always have an order or two anytime I visit Boise.
  3. The Torch Cafe went out of business in the early 1970s, but finger steaks remain a staple in the area.
Mike Worley

Mike is retired and lives in Louisville, KY, USA. He writes about lifestyle issues, particularly those affecting senior citizens. He also enjoys photography and works part-time as a college volleyball official.