Cooking Techniques · The Vintage Kitchen

Sue Cooks Frizzled Beef

When Sue Began to Cook, one of the books in the Bettina’s Best Recipes series, tells the story of Bettina’s young daughter Sue and her adventures in the kitchen. On her first Saturday lesson, she and her friend Ruth Ann made Cocoa Drop Cookies. You can find that post here. For Lesson 2, Sue cooks Frizzled Beef on Toast. This recipe is known over the midwest and southern United States as chipped beef, SOS, S— on a Shingle, as well as by other names.

Basically, Sue and Ruth Ann are learning to make a white sauce. Many Twenties recipes used a good white sauce as gravy over a main dish course. Or perhaps mixed into left over meat and bread crumbs to make timbales or patties. A good white sauce also forms the base for some cream soups. All in all, learning to make white sauce is a good beginning step for any cook, because it’s a skill utilized in the kitchen over and over again.

Sue’s thoughts on the lesson

Here are Sue’s comments on the recipe, from her cooking class notebook:

When Mother said at breakfast this morning that she was going to let us make frizzled beef for our cooking lesson today, Robin butted right in and said, “Jinks! I don’t call that anything to make! Why don’t you make cream puffs or fudge or something folks really like?” (Meaning by “folks,” himself and Ted that always hangs around anytime there’s any cooking going on. Especially doughnuts or candy or frosting.)

“Maybe you and Teddy think we’re doing this cooking just for your benefit!” said I scornfully, looking as sarcastic as I could. [At times Sue could be a nicer older sister.] “Ruth Ann and I are learning to be practical cooks, and we aren’t planning our lessons just to suit two silly little boys that can’t even do their arithmetic problems without help!”

I had him there, as Father says. Even though he is a boy, I’m lots better at mathematics than he is and many’s the time Mother has to help him in the evenings.

Frizzled beef for lunch

“Don’t quarrel, children,” said Mother, not noticing that as usual it was Robin who was doing all the quarreling. “This frizzled beef is going to be just as good as doughnuts or fudge or icing. And we’re going to have it for lunch today, too. So if Sue and Ruth Ann are willing, you may ask Teddy to stay, Robin.”

Robin seemed quite pleased at that. Just as pleased as if he hadn’t said anything about the frizzled beef. And he went off whistling.

The frizzled beef was so easy to make — lots easier than the Cocoa Cookies. And it was awfully good, too, all brown and creamy and curly just the way it ought to be. I had thought mine would be enough for us all (Father doesn’t come home at noon). But the boys were so hungry that Ruth Ann very generously had us eat hers too. (Of course she stayed to lunch.) We had big baked potatoes with the frizzled beef, and big glasses of milk, and cookies and applesauce. After Robin had been served three times at least, he was polite enough to say that it was the best meal he had in a long time. But not one bit of the beef was left for Father!

Continue with the series

You can find Sue’s first lesson and recipe at When Sue Began to Cook.

Make the Recipe

Not only Sue cooks frizzled beef. You can make it, too. Here’s the recipe, directly from the pages.

Frizzled Beef on Toast

From When Sue Began to Cook, 1924.
Course: Breakfast, Luncheon
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Bettina, When Sue Began to Cook


  • ¼ pound dried beef
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp flour Leveled off smooth with a knife
  • 1 tsp salt Also leveled off with a knife. Nearly everything has salt in it if it's really good.
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 slices nice fresh toast I cut mine in triangles and it looked so nice and partified.


  • We tore the beef all up in tiny little pieces. Then we each put the butter in a frying pan over the fire (not too hot a fire!) and when it was all melted and bubbling, we added the dried beef. Then we let it cook, and kept stirring it around all the time till the edges began to curl up. Then we added the flour and mixed well. We let the flour get light brown (we kept stirring it all the time!) and then added the salt, pepper, and milk (still stirring!) and cooked it slowly till it was all thick and creamy.
  • Mother had us make our toast first, so it was all ready waiting on two hot little platters. We poured the frizzled beef over it as neatly as we could, and then decorated it with little sprigs of parsley from Mother's parsley box in the kitchen window. It looked almost too pretty to eat!