Creamed Chipped Beef (SOS)

Creamed chipped beef, known as “SOS” by many who served in the military, is a staple in many areas of Pennsylvania. In some households, it is known as “Dried Beef Gravy” or “Frizzled Beef”.  It is often found in diners as a regular menu item in Pennsylvania Dutch country, the Coal Region, and in Philadelphia…and my Dad loved it! 

Believe it or not, the dish started out as a Depression Era inexpensive meal. Today, dried beef could not be described as “inexpensive”. Oh, how times have changed.

I grew up on creamed chipped beef.  Mom used to make it all the time using chipped dried beef freshly sliced from the deli counter of a local Mom and Pop store. In Schuylkill County, it was very easy to find that way.

Today, in addition to some butcher shops and meat markets, the dried beef is available many places in pouches in the pre-packaged deli meat section of grocery stores. If you can get it freshly chipped in your deli section, I highly suggest using that version.

My Dad was a WWII veteran, having served in Italy.  The military apparently loved making and serving “SOS” — it was no-muss, no-fuss food that fit in with often restrictive circumstances that needed to be overcome to feed a bunch of hungry soldiers or an entire outpost. 

Much maligned by many, both during their service and after discharge, my Dad often asked for it throughout his lifetime as not only breakfast but as any meal of the day. He often joked that he was one of the few guys excited to find that “SOS” was on the menu for the day during his days as a soldier.

Many versions of this recipe call for making the white sauce first then adding the beef to it.  My version, which goes back to how my mom made it, calls for lightly frying the chipped beef (the “frizzled” in “frizzled beef”), then making the white sauce in the pan with the meat. I always felt the dish developed more flavor this way.  I serve it the traditional way – over toast — but find it equally delicious over home fries, mashed potatoes. biscuits or a toasted English muffin.

If you cannot find chipped dried beef or your budget would like a more affordable alternative, you can brown up some ground beef as a substitute, but then it is not creamed chipped beef!


This dish always bring warm memories to my heart of my Pop – recipient of the Bronze Star in WWII for heroic achievement in action with the medical detachment of the 85th “Custer” Infantry Division on the Fifth Army front in Italy.

I present to you Dad’s favorite – SOS!  (Oh, how I miss you, Dad.  Every day.)

My Dad, Harry E. Shuler — Steps of the Vatican, circa 1944

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Creamed Chipped Beef (SOS)

Recipe by A Coalcracker in the KitchenCourse: Entree, BreakfastCuisine: Coal Region, Pa. DutchDifficulty: Easy

Hearty pan fried dried chipped beef smothered in a rich cream gravy.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound dried chipped beef

  • 4 Tablespoons butter

  • 4 Tablespoons all purpose flour

  • 2-1/2 cups whole milk

  • Black pepper to taste, salt if needed

  • OPTIONAL dash of hot sauce

Directions

  • Shred the beef into bite-sized pieces if needed.
  • In heavy fry pan, melt the butter.  Add the beef and fry a couple minutes until the edges begin to curl and the beef browns slightly.
  • Sprinkle flour over the beef, stir and cook a minute or two stirring constantly.
  • Slowly add the milk while whisking and cook slowly until thickened.
  • Adjust pepper to taste (salt may not be necessary due to the salt content in the beef).
  • Serve over toast triangles (or toasted English muffins, biscuits, home fries, etc.)
  • May be reheated by adding a dash of milk to bring back to consistency.

Notes

  • Recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.
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