Cooking Low End Steak plus a Bit of Meat Science
I recently started getting in some low-end steaks and am offering them for sale. There is just too much flavor and goodness there to turn them into ground beef or beef roasts. Not enough people really know how to cook a roast, but that is the subject of another post.
Examples of a low-end steak are: Chuck Steak, Cube Steak, Round Steak. They come from areas on the animal that get more work and are thus have more connective tissue. Like the shoulders, the hind legs, etc.
I used to sell low end steaks but quit when people kept telling me they were tough. I just gave up and started turning them either into roasts or ground beef. That is a huge waste. I like nothing better than as well-prepared Chuck Steak or Cube steak. Cube steak sandwich? Oh my!
You just HAVE TO KNOW HOW TO COOK THEM and then cook them that way. Very simply, how to cook a low-end steak is:
In a hot frying pan, on the grill. Whatever, just get the outside brown. This usually takes about a minute or so per side. I think the hotter the surface you have the steak on, the better. You are not trying to cook the steak. You are trying to get the outside brown and hopefully seal in some of the juices. Maybe give the steak some grill marks.
LOW and SLOW:
This means with indirect heat. I usually stick the steak in a roasting pan with about ¼ inch of water and stick it in the oven at 325 degrees. Salt and pepper on top. I usually do a bunch of them. Four pounds usually takes about an hour and a half, maybe 2 hours. You could do the same thing on a grill. You would need to stick a pan of water in there with your steaks so that they didn’t get all dried out. Longer at a lower temp is better. If you are hungry and can’t wait, have some chips and another beer. Hopefully the beer will swell the chips and you will feel full for a while…
Now for the meat science.
When you start with a tender cut of steak, like a ribeye or tenderloin steak, the meat is pretty tender to start with. You just want to heat it up a bit so that you aren’t actually eating raw meat. You stick it on a hot fire and yank it back off while it is still pink in the middle.
If you leave it on the fire too long, the middle gets brown and the meat gets tough. The trick with cooking a well-done steak is to yank it off the fire JUST when the meat gets grey/brown in the middle. If the steak stays on the fire too long, the meat fibers sort of tense up and then you have a tough steak. I am not saying there is no such thing as a tough ribeye but I AM saying that a lot of tough ribeyes were just left on the fire too long and the meat fibers tightened up.
When you cook a piece of meat long and slow (Steak OR Roast, it makes no difference) you are getting THROUGH the tough stage and into the beautiful wonderland of flavor and tenderness that occurs when the meat fibers relax, break down and the collagen melts in your mouth. Collagen is very good for you, it is what your body uses to make connective tissue.
If you look at your steak while cooking and the connective tissue is sort of curling it up around the edges, you have got to the tough stage but probably not to the tender stage after the tough stage. You can eat your steak tough or you can turn the heat down and let the steak cook another hour or so.
Cube steaks take much less time than a chuck or a round because cube steaks have been tenderized mechanically and are also much thinner so they cook faster. Cube steaks are also really good when cooked in a sauce. I like to sear them, then finish them in the roasting pan with some salt and pepper and then eat them in a sandwich or else just pull them out of the fridge one by one and chow down. Cold cube steak is a thick meat wafer and is delicious!