CHOW: Creamed Sliced Beef on Toast (S.O.S.)

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CHOW is a new blog and video series exploring the history behind U.S. Navy culinary traditions.

By Matthew T. Eng

Let’s face it: if you’ve served in the Navy during the twentieth century, chances are you’ve eaten sh*t. “Sh*t on a Shingle,” or creamed chipped beef on toast (S.O.S.), that is. The term derives from any brown creamed substance (sh*t) on top of toast (shingle).

The exact origin of S.O.S. is fuzzy. According to Wentworth and Flexner’s 1967 Dictionary of American Slang, no specific origin is known. The dish, which consists of sliced dried beef mixed in a thick creamy gravy, appeared in military cookbooks at the start of of the twentieth century. Some cooking sources, such as the online website “Seabee Cook,” claim the dish came from the Army. Steve Karoly, who authored an article on the subject, claims the “Army favorite” has become “the most popular version of SOS.” Some Navy veterans may disagree.

One of the original versions of chipped beef from the 1910 Manual for Army Cooks used beef stock, evaporated milk, and parsley added to flour, butter, and dried beef. According to Karoly, a creamier recipe using salty chipped beef was adopted during the Second World War. This style is clearly evident with Navy cookbooks as well. The 1944 Cook Book of the United States Navy recipe for “Creamed Sliced Dried Beef” includes a hefty amount of dried beef (7 lbs.) added to a paste-like roux and boiled milk.

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Variations of the recipe exist. Navy cookbooks also used a similar recipe for minced beef on toast, which had a tomato-based sauce with ground beef and sautéed onions. Some recipes for minced beef used a can of tomato juice for the sauce. E. Jon Spear’s 1960s memoir Navy Days stated that most sailors on his ship referred to the dish with the dysphemism “Red S.O.S.”

The popularity of creamed chipped/sliced beef soon extended beyond the military. Like the explosion of popularity in pizza after WWII, sailors and servicemen craved the warm and filling dish when their time in the military ended. Home recipes of creamed chipped beef published in the later twentieth century included S.O.S. variations using other meats such as tuna and sausage in a white sauce. Stouffer’s still makes a “classic” creamed chipped beef frozen meal to this day.

And then there were the nicknames. Food is a social experience, so it makes sense that camaraderie would come from finding common ground in the like or dislike of certain meals. When looking through the memoirs, diaries, and personal reminisces of sailors, it is clear that creamed sliced beef has the title for having the most nicknames, ranging from humorous to unsavory. Some of the nicknames simply play on the S.O.S. alliteration and assonance: Stew on a Shingle,” “Same Old Stuff,” and “Save Our Stomachs.” Others, like “foreskins on toast,” emit feelings of anything but hunger. Robert A. Maher and James E. Wise’s memoir Sailors’ Journey Into War said it well (warning: language):

“Another food that was enjoyed by both the army and navy was chipped beef on toast. There has been, and still is, a constant battle about what it was called. My army friends say SOS or shit on a shingle. My navy friends and I say FSOT, which I won’t translate.”

The terms grew in popularity in chow halls and mess decks around the Navy and soon became part of the legend of the dish itself.

Whatever you called it, creamed chipped beef was a staple for many sailors throughout the twentieth century. Love it or not, most sailors had to at least tolerate its taste. As former sailor Michael Gring commented in a 2015 interview of Navy chow in general, “you ate well, whether you liked it or not.” Gring had a recent experience with S.O.S. that brings back memories of the “weird comfort food” of his past life:

“About three or four years ago, I had S.O.S. I hadn’t had it since I retired eleven years ago. I ate a little of it – that was it. It didn’t taste that good, or at least the same. I thought it tasted better when I was in the Navy. I remember it being warm and filling you up, even if they often had to improve on the standard recipe.”

No standard recipe for S.O.S. exists, unless you consider the recipe for “Chipped Beef on Toast” (Recipe No. L 052 00) included in the Armed Forces Recipe Service, or AFRS, in 1969. So the question then is, what does it really taste like?

I had to know. Not only did I want to taste it, I wanted to cook it exactly to the specifications that the Navy had in mind. And since I work for an organization specializing in naval history, I figured I better use a historic recipe.

TASTING HISTORY 

I decided to go with the recipe for creamed sliced beef on toast found in the 1944 Cook Book of the United States Navy (shown above). Unfortunately, that specific recipe presented a LARGE problem: quantity. Like most Navy or Armed Forces cook books, the 1944 edition included recipes catered to large groups. The S.O.S. recipe was designed to feed 100 at a time. I didn’t plan to purchase seven pounds of dried beef for this specific experiment, so I had to scale down.

Thankfully, our STEM-H program came to the rescue. Several years ago, teacher Greg Felber of Ledyard Middle School in Ledyard, CT created a mathematics lesson plan titled “Cook For a Submarine Fleet.” The lesson plan helped students learn fractional proportions to find the right amount of ingredients needed to feed everything from an entire submarine crew to an individual family. The program was so successful it was tested in a 7th grade classroom. After a re-introduction to dimensional analysis with our STEM-H coordinator John Paulson, I was ready to do some math for the sake of history:

Slide1

I had originally designed the recipe for 10 people, which was 1/10 the amount needed for the 1944 recipe. I decided to half that, making the full recipe I used as:

5 oz. dried beef (1 package)
4 cups milk
1/3 stick butter (fat)
½ cup flour
¼ tsp. pepper
5 slices of bread, toasted

Cooking

Using a nonstick skillet, I proceeded to follow the directions based of the 1944 recipe. I first sliced the package of dried beef and set it aside for later. Next, I melted the butter on medium heat and added the flour to make a roux for the milk. In reality, the mixture (which was supposed to resemble a “thick paste”) came out more like a paste because of the high proportion of flour to butter. More butter would certainly lend a smoother consistency. The milk was then added and boiled, stirring constantly to thicken.

When the white sauce was thick and gravy-like, the dried sliced beef and pepper was added. The temperature was lowered to medium low,  and the mixture was simmered for 10 minutes. Last, the mixture was finally spooned on top of white toast.

Bon appetit, Navy style.

The Taste Test

I smelled it before I took a bite. Somehow, it smelled salty. The dried beef poked through the white gravy in shallow peaks. The consistency was thick and rich. I could see why sailors wouldn’t mind something like S.O.S. on a cold morning at sea. I took my first bite. It tasted as salty as it smelled. In fact, it reminded me of a much saltier version of biscuits and gravy. It is certainly not for everyday consumption. The toast was a welcome addition to the meal to help cut the taste a little (but only a little). My wife, who also was on hand to taste test, referred to it as “Bisquick with salt.”

The full video and recipe is shown below.

If you have your own personal stories about S.O.S., please include your story in the comment section below or email Matthew T. Eng at meng@navyhistory.org. We would love to include it in the ongoing narrative of the social history of the United States Navy.

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72 Comments

  1. Robert Shobe

    Reply

    I always rinse the chipped beef before chopping into pieces. Helps to cut down the salt content.

    • Leilehua Yuen

      Reply

      Yes, during WWII my Nana learned to make it. She was taught to soak the chipped beef and discard the water before cooking it. Thanks for a great bit of research and history!

      • Leilehua Yuen

        Reply

        Sorry – Korean war, not WWII. :-) She learned it from my Daddy and his friends when they were home on leave.

    • Robert William Sheehan

      Reply

      When I was stationed at Marine Base Camp LeJeune, S.O.S. was often made with leftover chopped-up meat loaf from the previous day (usually Saturday evening). It was a Sunday brunch favorite.

      Robert W. Sheehan

      • Jerry Hathaway

        Reply

        3 oz. package of dried beef, cut into 1/4 inch strips, not more than an inch long. Sizzle in 4 tabs of butter. Add 4 tablespoons of flour, then two cups milk. Meanwhile, in separate pan, sauté 3 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 green pepper, diced, and when softened, add 1/2 yellow onion diced. When onions soften, transfer to that pan the entire beef/butter/flour/milk mix. Serve over toast, when thickened. Serves 2-4, depending on appetite.

  2. James C Thomas

    Reply

    One morning in the CPO mess aboard a destroyer, one of the Chiefs told the mess cook to bring him a bowl of SOS. The mess cook got as far as the door, turned, and with a puzzled look on his face, asked the Chief if he wanted “steel wool pads?”. We all got a big laugh out of that one! That happened in 1967.

  3. Reply

    I am a former Army Combat Medical Specialist and the author is correct…we called it shit on a shingle. They served it as an an ala carte item in the mess hall…i was starioned at Fort Polk in Louisiana, so i am guessing that it is a southern thing. I used to dmother my omlete with a few scoops of it…yum…now I am hungry!!! Great article!!!

    • Reply

      I grew up in Philly and it was a staple there. Our chipped beef came from a Pennsylvania Dutch company from Quakertown Pa so it was definitely not a southern thing.

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  5. Lesley Nurczyk

    Reply

    My dad called it S.O.S. and he served in the Navy during WWI and Korea. My mom always made it with Buddig Chipped Beef and green peas. I think she used canned peas, because that’s what we ate at the time.

    My dad liked it, but after I got married I wasn’t able to bring myself to make it, much less eat it. The other day I thought that it would taste good. Guess it’s been long enough. :-)

    • Frank Bayer

      Reply

      My mom used to make it for us because my dad was a WWII Marine veteran and loved it. I grew to love it as a kid too. It’s a New Jersey diner staple and a standard menu item in the Philly area. I joined the Navy in 1974 and served 25 years and ate it anytime it was served. On some ships, it was also served as a dinner item. The Navy also served various versions of it too and I remember not only the chipped beef version, but one made with ground beef as well. I love it and would put it on my list of favorite things to eat. I introduced it to my daughter when she was a baby and she loves it too.

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  7. Gene Treants

    Reply

    Having Served in the Navy from 1966 to 1996, I have eaten SOS and its variations from boot camp in Great Lakes to all of my shore stations to ships. Authentic Creamed Chipped Beef is simple to make, yet so many people mess it up by NOT making the roux first. IMHO that is the key step in preparing this dish. I also soak the dried beef to remove some of the excess salt at least 30 to 60 minutes and then rinse well.

    Perhaps the simplest variation, if you can get its key ingredient is Creamed Venison on toast or biscuit. Brown Ground Bambi with some onion then add cream of mushroom soup. Serve over toast or biscuits.

  8. Robert Erickson

    Reply

    The history presented above certainly makes sense. By the late 19th Century, canned meats had become reliable and had a good shelf life. Canned evaporated milk had recently been invented. Given that raw milk has a short shelf life and the only ways of preservation had been making butter or cheese, evaporating and canning allowed almost 18 months of safe storage. Therefore the combination of dried beef, canned milk with flour and bread made perfect sense before the improved refrigeration and freezing devices of the later 20th Century. In the south, biscuits with sausage gravy has been a long time staple of rural families for the same reasons

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  10. Bill Antonowicz

    Reply

    Great article, and I’ve used an old Army recipe I found as a basis for my version. Did 6 yrs in the Navy and 20 in the USCG, and remember complaining about SOS, but really actually liking it. The copy I found is “Recipe No. 251” from the 1910 Manual for Army Cooks which I converted as follows-
    For 2 people, I use 2 oz. of Buddig beef, 2C milk, 2 TB butter, 1/4 C flour, salt & pepper & 4 slices of bread. The recipe states-
    1. Melt butter in pan, add dried beef and brown for 2-3 min.
    2. Add salt/pepper to taste & milk, saving 1/4 cup for later. Bring to boil.
    3. Mix flour & 1/4 C milk together, and add to mixture slowly until it thickens.
    4. Serve over 2 slices toast for each.
    My wife likes this one, and my taste tells me its pretty close to what I had on the USS Laffey in the Navy. BTW, the 2 oz. pkg. of Buddig beef is only 68 cents in Walmart, a gift to us vets for a cheap meal bringing back salty memories.

    • Leilehua Yuen

      Reply

      That sounds like what my Daddy taught me to make. He was USN, Korean war. Thanks!

    • Mike Stanley

      Reply

      This is exactly how my grandmother would make it for my grandfather(a retired Machinist Mate chief) and myself. Great,especially on cold,snowy mornings.

  11. E. Bradley

    Reply

    The recipe doesn’t even resemble it’s namesake, SOS. I served in the 50’s and for the sake of not being too insensitive I wasn’t going to say what we called it. (My wife doesn’t like the term.) Since it was already mentioned in the article I will give it a try. “Foreskins on a Raft”. It is a basic white sauce with chipped beef. I like that and my wife prepares it fairly often. I like what we called SOS better, but had a hard time finding a recipe. It is sometimes listed as “minced beef”, and it resembles it’s name sake. I have made it several times and it comes out pretty good, but not as good as the Navy cooks.

    I know that other services have called the other SOS and even the more recent Navy. Whether it is SOS or FSOAR, it is all good and brings back memories.

    I got into this web site trying to refresh my memory on the recipe. I am making some SOS in the morning.

    • Admin

      Reply

      E. Bradley,

      As stated in the article, the recipe is taken straight from a Navy recipe, even if there are many variations.

      Matthew T. Eng

    • Shane G

      Reply

      THIS!!!!

      You are one of the only people who is familiar with the CORRECT term FSOAR.
      GROUND beef (creamed) is SOS.

  12. Rob Allen

    Reply

    Great article and great comments. I do not remember SOS at the Great Lakes but did eat it while aboard the USS Independence, CVA-62. I seem to remember it being a creamish-light brown color. I will have to try it with the addition of a little mace or nutmeg. I remember that we did have rolled up egg and cheese style omlets just about every morning. We even had steaks every now and then as well while overseas. We did have some really good food on the Indy!!

  13. Reply

    My mother made this often when I was young. She was a single mother with four young boys to feed. I never cared for it then,not being sweet like frosted flakes or fruit loops were. But from Paris Island,to Marine Corps chow halls,to the USS Mount Whitney,it became my favorite breakfast.I week it on menus whenever I am eating at a diner that I’ve never been to before and my opinion of the place weighs upon SOS being on that menu. I still eat it for breakfast every chance I get. The taste and smell remind me of my time in the Marines.

  14. Jim Henderson

    Reply

    I take issue with this article. SOS “sh.t on a shingle” was brown ground beef in a brown gravy. Cream Chipped Beef chipped dried beef in a white cream sauce “creamed fo..sk..s on toast”. At least on three US Navy ships I sailed on.

    • Admin

      Reply

      Jim,

      If you google the term, the first thing that comes up is “creamed chipped beef.” The slang origin is not known, though talking with Navy veterans, this is the most common term. Everbody’s experience, however, may be different.

      Matthew Eng
      Digital Content Developer
      Naval Historical Foundation

    • Arnie

      Reply

      Right ON!!!
      S.O.S. civilian style is much more like sloppy joes than anything. The Navy version is a bit less dense. I should know I served aboard 3 carriers and messcooked on all three (serving 5,000 meals a shift) plus did a stint as NAS Jax while waiting for ‘A’ school.
      SOS IS NOT creamed chipped beef on toast. And I don’t care what sources are cited – they are WRONG!

      • Lee paris

        Reply

        I,m with you. As a Navy cook for 4 years, 48/52 It was ground beef. Army was dried beef. Navy ground beef!!! I have made hundreds of gallons of it but can not recall the recipe. Loved it!!! Lee

    • Lisa

      Reply

      I was growing up, in the USAF, SOS was made with ground beef. We still have it for breakfast a couple of times a month!
      When I was a teenager, my USAF dad used to take me to the orthodontist—a much more painful process in those days. We went in the morning and stopped at the mess hall on the way for a hearty breakfast as my mouth would be too sore to eat much except soup for a few days.
      Creamed chipped beef was made with thin slices of dried beef. I loved it, too, as a child and still make it a few times a year.

  15. Bruce L. Carriker

    Reply

    Retired since 1998, still like it!

    Split two biscuits and put them on your plate. Put your hash browns on your biscuits. Put your eggs on your hash browns. Put SOS over everything. Enjoy!

  16. Dean

    Reply

    As a Commisaryman aboard USS HOEL DDG13 from 1966-68 I’m sure I made a rendition of SOS, but I can’t remember which style.
    At my hometown American Legion Post we’d have a quarterly S.O.S. dinner using chipped beef it was a popular event.

  17. Maria Johnson

    Reply

    Thank you for the recipe! My dad was in the Navy circa 1950 and was reminiscing the other day. On Superbowl Sunday we are going to kick the day off with your recipe and some old Navy buddies of his. Thanks to your recipe and all of the veterans who wax rhapsodic about this dish, I cannot wait to share it with them!

  18. Art

    Reply

    I use Bacon Drippings instead of butter for the roux: because I have a surplus of this flavorful fat. I also mince some onion which I sauté in the bacon drippings before adding flour. After addition of the milk, I drop in a bay leaf and simmer the sauce 10-12 minutes then taste add the soaked beef strips stirring well to coat all of them with the sauce, then simmer another 5 min. Taste for seasoning and add pepper, hot sauce if you wish and some chopped parsley for color.

  19. Andrew Scharbarth

    Reply

    No. A-34 Creamed Ground Beef on Toast.

    100 servings of 1 cup each. Preparation and cooking time: about 1 1/4 hours

    35 pounds of Beef Carcass, cut into pieces and ground finely OR 24 pounds of finely ground boneless beef

    Brown beef in its own fat in roasting pans on top of range. Remove excess fat during cooking period.

    1 pound (3/4 quart) dried chopped onion
    5 oz (1/2 cup) salt
    1 oz (1 tablespoon) black pepper
    1 bay leaf

    Add onions and seasoning and mix thoroughly.

    2 gallons evaporated milk
    2 gallons of water for milk

    Add 3 gallons of milk to beef mixture and heat to simmering, stirring frequently.

    2 pounds (1 3/4 quarts) hard wheat flour.

    Mix flour with the remaining gallon of milk and stir into hot mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring steadily, reduce heat and simmer until thickened.

    100 slices toast.

    Serve on toast.

  20. Michele Miller

    Reply

    Thanks for the article! My dad made this for us when we were kids in the 60’s…he made it with lots of curry.

  21. Charles Wolfe

    Reply

    While stationed in Norfolk Va in 59-61 on AR-14 Uss Cadmus. We called chipped beef & milk gravy, FSOT. The other SOAS was sausage & a tomato sauce. Not sure of contents but my favorite.

  22. Reply

    How about Creamed Hard Boiled Eggs? On a heavy cruiser with 950 men, chipped beef was too expensive. We had it with Navy beans, Corned Beef Hash, Cornbread for breakfast. Working in hot spaces, the added salt kept our bodies balanced.

    • Brent Joiner

      Reply

      My dad was on a Destroyer after the Korean War. He called it Shit on a Shingle. He would buy the frozen ones at the store, once in a while. Us kids liked it, but mom didn’t care for it too much.

  23. Rambo

    Reply

    I’m actually a fan of sos. But i remember serving at the seabee naval base in gulfport ms and they never had sos to serve.

  24. Reply

    Hello there! It’s difficult to find anything interesting in this particular subject (that is not overly simplistic), because everything related to 3D seems rather difficult. You however sound like you know what you’re talking about :) Thank you for spending your time writing some good content for us!

  25. Reply

    I have eatten, and enjoyed it, my entire life. My grandmother, with I spent my first 7 years, made it every Saturday morning. It was special then, and remains so now. I made it for many years for my family, as well as the white sauce with boiled eggs over toast is also quite good. Call it what you will, it is tasty, wholesome, and damn good!

  26. Belmont V Worman

    Reply

    SOS-CFOT……samo samo. Lovely.
    The minced beef with the onion and tomato shit over toast……..nasty. If you’re hung over, it sits in your gut like lead until it comes back up, preceded with many foul burps. In CIVLANT, Pepperidge Farm white bread is the preferred toast for SOS. I served over a quarter of a century in the NAV.

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  28. Paul E. McLaughlin

    Reply

    Paul, Korean conflict US Navy 1955 to 1959 — this is the True Definition, from a sailor with a great memory, who served aboard Small Ships. ( Destroyer escorts) SOS = “Shit On a Shingle. It was ground beef (Hamberger ) in a tomato sauce, you could see white onions in it. ( I suspect they were dehydrated onions) served on white toast. This was My favorite! and I Wish I could find the original recipe. I never knew it by any other name.
    Foreskins on toast. aka; Chipped beef on toast . Paper thin slices of dried, cured beef.in a white cream sauce. served on white bread toast. This recipe can be found in older domestic cookbooks–( growing up in Ohio the thin sliced beef was known a “Dried Beef.” It now comes packaged in small bottles.

  29. Linoln

    Reply

    My Dad was a Marine so he made it with both sliced, dried beef and hamburger. He made it every few weeks on Sunday for breakfast. I remember it being a real treat as a kid. When I enlisted into the US ARMY I remember having it often in the chow hall. I couldn’t understand the guys that would complain about it. More for me! I make mine with a pound of 70/30 Ground beef or 5 oz of dried beef chopped up after it sits in warm water for 30 min, a little butter, 2 to 3 cups of milk, 1/4 cup flour, one beef bullion cube smashed up, 1/2 tsp pepper and a couple of dashed of Worcestershire sauce. I brown the meat, add the butter and flour, add pepper and bullion cube. Slowly stir in milk . Bring to boil, turn down to low and stir until thickened to your liking. Add more milk to make it thinner. Serve over toast or French fries. I now have my Granddaughters asking me to make it for them!!! The legacy of SOS continues!

  30. Reply

    My first meal in the US Army was at Fort Knox,Ky at approximately at 0300 hrs 2 Jan 1958. It was Cream Beef on Toast or SOS I later learned. I had never heard of the dish up to that time. To me it looked like vomit. I recall thinking what have I got myself into. No one could eat this. However the private first class that lead us to the mess hall had very carefully explained that we will eat everything on our tray. He did not go into great details about what would be our fate should we fail. But the idea was conveyed that we recruits only existed at the pleasure of the Army. I ate it, kept it down and over time grew to love the stuff.

  31. Barbara Sherry

    Reply

    Hi, My father was a Marine and my husband in the Navy. I grew up with the ground beef SOS. When I got married, the first time I told my husband that I was serving SOS, He wasn’t happy about it. When dinner came and I served the on with ground beef and white gravy, he said this isn’t how the Navy make it. I told him this is how the Marines make it. Both my sons knew how to make this prior to heading off to college. We still make this. Just don’t use red wine when trying for a more tasteful “riltzy” dinner, the gravy is pink,I now use white.

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  33. Bob Lebeau

    Reply

    Marine Corps Mess Hall, S.O.S. in 1967 made for 100, the Marine the take-home recipe from the Chef, was:

    10 oz. pork sausage chopped up and cooked separately, melted fat and sausage poured into hot milk and blended.
    8 cups of milk separate Sauce Pot boiled, blend with below until smooth add the meat and juice. The sauce should be very light brown, (dark brown is not acceptable). So meat first, slowly add drippings for flavor and slight color.

    1 Tablespoon of Worcester sauce. You can not taste it, but you will know if it’s missing or AWOL.
    1/2 stick of butter (fat) is better or bacon grease can be added but will charge flavor slightly or a lot with bacon.
    1 cup flour, you can add more by the tablespoon to adjust thickness. Remember cooling thickens the sauce.
    ¼ tsp. pepper, if using chopped beef or hamburger add salt to taste, otherwise no salt needed.
    10 slices of white bread, toasted, and serve over toast.

    Semper Fi Marines, enjoy it because it will bring back your memories of the Corps, so don’t just eat it alone.
    LOL Just kidding. The gravy let them serve themselves with their own metal trays. Biscuits work well too.

  34. Reply

    When I joined the US Navy in 1975 and was at boot camp in San Diego, I remember it’s main ingredient was
    ground beef or so I thought. Either way we drilled hard because over toast/eggs it tasted damm goood.
    On board the ship CV-64 I had both ground beef and chipped beef. Now I have the recipe so it’s chow time.

    • Reply

      I am 75 years old and remember my Navy uncle and also my grandma making this. I loved it and we just had it for breakfast this morning. This is a very easy method we always have followed but without ever measuring the ingredients. Some people make it more difficult than necessary:

      *Melt a good sized ‘chunk” of butter i.
      n a warm pan.
      *Tear up a bunch of very good dried beef ….from a butcher shop is best. Soak it in some warm water for a bit if you think it is too salty (or not) then drain off all water.
      *Add the chipped dried beef into the butter at low to medium heat and stir until the butter is all incorporated on the beef.
      *Dump a “bunch” of flour onto the butter/dried beef stir until all the white of the flour has vanished.
      *Start adding milk a bit at a time while stirring. There is no need to first make a bechem sauce (an unnecessary fancy step) as one happens on its own as the mixture bubbles and thickens. Add more milk a bit at a time and stir until a desired sauce thickness occurs.
      *Serve on toast.

  35. Bob

    Reply

    USS ORION AS18 – ’55 to ’57
    Ground beef, onions, diced tomatoes with sauce on toast.

  36. Bob Wilson

    Reply

    Got us through cold mornings on a USCG Black Hull in the Aleutians in 75-76. Some variations were hamburger, sausage and a couple of fried eggs on top. Made facing gales and dead-blow hammering ice off of a deck easier. Of course, I was 20.

  37. Gary Davis

    Reply

    I grew up in a military family, lived in several European countries less than 20 years after the end of WWII. It was far different than the base/town we left in California. You didn’t buy food on the economy because of availability, food safety, sometimes cultural differences. Everything came from the commissary. SOS was a staple to keep a family fed. When my dad was rotated back to the states I joined the Navy. For me SOS was like a taste of home. It was different than my mother’s, of course, but good. Went to Sonar A School at FLEASWTRACENPAC in San Diego, had evening classes, got out just in time for mid-rats. SOS was always on the menu.
    Great memories, haven’t thought of all that in decades. Great article, thank you.

  38. Belinda Patrick

    Reply

    My father was a cook in the Korean war and this is what he use to make for us years after he got out. we all love it & would fight over it if enough wasn’t made.
    He made it with hamburger meat, browned and drained, add a little flour to it – add more flour as needed & brown the flour to your taste, add evaporated milk with a little pepper & salt, stir well. Serve over toast. Yum Yum.
    Can save leftovers if any are left, just add a little milk to it the next day. Wish i had some now.

  39. nick buda

    Reply

    Stouffer’s cream chipped beef in the supermarket……my mom made it and was very similar…..was in Air Force and they used ground meat..not great..still like the Stouffer’s and is easy to make…..thanks

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  41. Susan Reilly

    Reply

    My dad served in the Navy 1947-1966, SPCM. Our family tradition is chipped beef on toast every Christmas. Mom was Pennsylvania Dutch and so our breakfast also includes sticky buns. Both mom and dad are gone now, but their six children continue the tradition!

  42. Gary Rankin

    Reply

    There was no history of military service except my Half-brother, who had little contact with our factory. My father was the cook, as my mom could not cook her way out of a paper bag. My father used to make cream chipped beef on Sunday morning. The whole family liked it.
    However my father had a variation that the whole family loved too. What he made was creamed chipped tomatoes. With tomatoes directly out of the garden, my father would dice them into small pieces. He would take 1 1/2 sticks of real butter and soften it in the skillet until it was all melted. He would then add an amount of tomatoes to make a generous layer of tomatoes. He would cook it until the tomatoes we soften. At that time he would sift in enough flour to make a nice red roo. Once this was done he would add one can of evaporated milk mixed with the same amount of real milk. This was added and simmered until it was nice and creamy smooth. This meal was typically served at dinnertime.I have made this recipe with well drained canned tomatoes and it was just as good as the recipe with fresh tomatoes. As expected this was served on toast. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.

  43. Mike

    Reply

    SOS – Ground Beef in cream sauce
    Cream Chipped Beef – Slice dried beef in cream sauce
    Navy Minced Beef – ground beef and onions in a tomato sauce.

    Let’s get the terminology straight Shipmate.

    • Cookie

      Reply

      So reading all the replies, many adamant that the version they had is the “real” version, we might observe that there exists no one version of SOS. We might also observe that when different versions are served, the one with chipped beef (the oldest version) got a new name -CFOT/CFOS. We see that a lot of veterans only know creamed ground beef on toast as SOS. Probably because no 1918 veterans are still alive. The tomato version isn’t as well known. But we forget, it’s just a basic cream sauce with meat in it – it’s first week of cook school. Variations are easy and up to the Chief or Mess Sgt. Cookie made it for you how his boss told him to. His recipe card changed often as did his supply of ingredients.

      If you ask “cookie” from different periods, you get different recipes and if you ask from different services you get more different recipes. And if you ask one right out of cook school, they even have a low-fat (turkey!!!) and vegetarian recipe.

      It’s all SOS – it’s all generally pretty good. Unless it’s Sh*t on a Brick because cookie can’t bake! Ain’t nothing like it on a cold pre-down coming out in Cambros on a Duece and a Half. “Get your plate of shit and get your goat smelling ass out of my tent!…”

      [18 years Navy brat, 20 years Army (some in the kitchen), and a son that cooked for USMC]. Damn I miss it…

  44. Kerry

    Reply

    My dad told us about getting served it during his short stint in the Green Machine. For a time during the late 70’s/early 80’s my mom served it occasionally and I always loved it. I can only guess that most of the family got sick of it, because it faded. As an adult, I realized one small cookbook I had had a recipe for “Basic Cream Sauce” and I realized that that was all I needed to fit it for myself. I probably have it every couple months –love it still!!

  45. RK

    Reply

    A friend who spent a couple of months in jail in California’s North Bay (before marijuana was legal) told me they served a variation of SOS every week: country gravy with some kind of ground meat served on hash browns. He said it was delicious, and I remember requesting it at a local restaurant once (he was right). Something jogged my memory last year, so I bought a can of country gravy with sausage and made it myself one morning (it needs a little salt, ironically). Now I eat it once or twice a month.

  46. Reply

    I love S.O.S.!! Served 26 years in the Army and would always eat breakfast in the mess hall when they had S.O.S. My wife makes it and adds Worcestershire sauce and I toop off my serving with some Tabasco Sauce. Nothing better.

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