is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

Ruth Ellen Church’s Salisbury Steaks With Red Sauce And Mushrooms Recipe

Share on:
ruth ellen church

Salisbury steak is a great example of taking an inexpensive cut of meat and finding ways to make it mouthwateringly tender and flavorful.

In the 1850s, Dr. James Henry Salisbury, a New York doctor, conducted methodical research on vegetable extracts, serving them to cats and dogs and documenting their deaths in gruesome detail. He became convinced veggies were toxic. Then, during the Civil War, he had success treating diarrhea with a diet of all lean ground beef. In the 1880s he created the Salisbury Steak, made from steaks he pounded. In an 1885 issue of the Medical and Surgical Reporter I found in a Google Books search, a peer of Dr. Salisbury, Dr. W.M. Hepburn, described how to make the Salisbury Steak treatment.

Here’s a summary. Take the best slices of beef round steak (lean meat from the rump), pound it until soft, and then chop it with dull blades. Scrape off the pulped meat leaving the gristle behind, make it into cakes, and gently broil it over high heat until cooked on the outside and practically raw on the inside.

Letter about Salisbury Steak

Within a few decades Salisbury Steaks began showing up on menus and in cookbooks. The name caught on during WWI when the public rejected German names like hamburger. Salisbury Steaks can still be found on menus, particularly in rural areas, often served on toast, smothered in gravy and mushrooms.

Ruth Ellen Church was a culinary pioneer, but because she never had a television show, her impact is often overlooked. Church was the food editor of the Chicago Tribune for 38 years, from 1936 to 1974, and she taught millions how to cook.

In her early years she often wrote under the pen name Mary Meade, and under both that name and her own, penned numerous books. It was common in those days for newspapers to give their columnists pseudonyms so they could continue the brand if they fired the writer.

Ruth Ellen Church

Church oversaw the creation of one of the very first publication test kitchens at the Tribune, and in 1962, under her own name, began writing the first regular newspaper column on wine in the nation. After she retired, Yours Truly replaced her as wine columnist at the Tribune. That’s us at a wine tasting in the photo above in the late 1970s.

Church was born in 1909 and graduated from Iowa State University in 1933 with a degree in food and nutrition journalism. In 1991, at age 81, she was found strangled in her home, apparently by a burglar. A horrific and sad end to my friend.

Among her books were “Modern Meat Lore” (1935), “The Indispensable Guide for the Modern Cook” (1955), “The American Guide to Wines” (1963), “The Burger Cookbook” (1967), and “Mary Meade’s Sausage Cookbook” (1967).

Her book on hamburgers was, as near as I can tell, the first book on the subject. In it she shares two recipes for Salisbury Steaks, a restaurant staple at the time. She referred to one recipe as “The Michigan Avenue version of hamburgers!” Michigan Avenue was then, and remains now, an upscale shopping district in Chicago’s downtown Loop district. Here’s my favorite, only slightly modified. Not surprisingly it contains red wine. “Oh what wine does for beef!” she said in the recipe notes.

Ruth Ellen Church's Salisbury Steaks With Red Sauce And Mushrooms Recipe

salisbury steak
Tried this recipe?Tell others what you thought of it and give it a star rating below.
3.28 from 25 votes
Here's how to make a proper Salisbury steak, served ope face on a slice of toast swimming in a pool of great gravy.
Serve with: a cabernet or merlot.

Main Course
difficulty scale


Servings: 4 1/4 pound steaks


Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound button mushrooms
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 shallot or small onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 1/4 cup cream or half and half
  • 2 teaspoons Morton Coarse Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat or other oil
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown seasoning sauce
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 slices Italian bread
About the meat. Normally for burgers you want a fattier grind, like chuck, but there will be enough fat in this you want a leaner grind.
About the salt. Remember, kosher salt is half the concentration of table salt so if you use table salt, use half as much. Click here to read more about salt and how it works.
About the brown seasoning sauce. Kitchen Bouquet was the popular brand, and once upon a time this little bottle was almost as common in kitchen pantries as salt and pepper. It is still in most groceries, the distinctive bottle shape and yellow label pretty much unchanged. Made from caramel coloring, darkly browned vegetables, and seasonings, it was used primarily to darken sauces and meats. It has a little sweetness and not much flavor. You can skip it if you wish, it doesn't add much flavor. If you have Maggi Sauce or soy sauce, you can substitute them, but remember they are salty.
About the bread. The classic recipe calls for white bread, but I like it better with a big slice of something more rustic and hearty.
Metric conversion:

These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page


  • Prep. Clean and slice the mushrooms. Finely chop the shallot or onion. Chop the fresh parsley.
  • Cook. Melt the butter in a medium hot 12" (30 cm) frying pan and add the mushrooms. Don't use a non-stick because you want to form flavorful brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook the shrooms until they are limp and they exude water. Dump onto a plate and set aside to cool. Don't clean the pan.
  • Mix the beef with the onion, parsley, and cream. Form into patties shaped like the bread. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper on the surfaces, don't mix them in.
  • Heat the bacon fat in the same 12" (30 cm) frying pan on medium high heat, and cook the patties with the lid on until brown on both sides, about 6 minutes each side. Set aside on a plate.
  • Add the wine to the pan, and crank the heat to high with the lid off. Scrape all the bits off the bottom of the pan and boil the wine for about 5 minutes to get rid of most of the alcohol. This is not an attempt to make the dish kid friendly. It makes it taste better. Add the stock and seasoning sauce and bring to a boil. Add the flour and use a whisk to mix it in thoroughly so there are no lumps. Cook until it starts to thicken. Add the mushrooms and any other liquid in the plate. Turn to medium low heat. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Add the patties and any liquid, and simmer on medium low with the cover on for about 5 to 7 minutes until the meat is 155°F (68°C) in the center.
  • Serve. While the meat is warming, toast the bread and place it on the serving plates. Place the patties on the toast, and spoon the mushrooms and sauce over the top. Serve open face with mashed potatoes, peas, and red wine, and toast to history, the invention of the hamburger, and the great Ruth Ellen Church.

Related articles

Published On: 8/3/2016 Last Modified: 5/4/2024

Share on:
  • Meathead, Founder And BBQ Hall of Famer - Founder and publisher of, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", and is a BBQ Hall Of Fame inductee.


High quality websites are expensive to run. If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and a lot of freebies!

Millions come to every month for high quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 2,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club. But please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get MANY great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial, and help keep this site alive.

Post comments and questions below


1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.



Click to comment or ask a question...


These are not paid ads, they are a curated selection of products we love.

All of the products below have been tested and are highly recommended. Click here to read more about our review process.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

Many merchants pay us a small referral fee when you click our “buy now” links. This has zero impact on the price you pay but helps support the site.