Even if you're confident about which cut of beef is best for dinner, you'll need to know the proper ways to tenderize your meat before you get cooking. There are several ways to take care of your beef based on which cut you have and the ingredients lying around in your kitchen. There are a few ways to get that beef tender before dinnertime and we're going to break down the best methods.
An important thing to know about beef is that the more muscular a body part is, the tougher it will be when you cook it. So, on cows, the toughest parts would be the legs, neck, shoulders, and butt. This translates into the shank, brisket, flank, round, and chuck roast steaks. When you're shopping, these cuts tend to be on the cheaper side too.
A quick way to tenderize a thicker cut of beef is to pound it with a meat mallet. Stick your steak in between two sheets of plastic wrap and beat the beef. This breaks the muscle fiber down a bit and you'll be left with a more tender piece. This is also one of the faster ways to tenderize. Be mindful of how much you're beating it, though, because you don't want to pound it so hard that it becomes mushy.
Another great ingredient to use when you want to tenderize your steak. Salt is something that makes an appearance in many marinades anyhow. Technically speaking, salt is one of the only things you need to season your steak if you're looking for something really easy. Grab salt or kosher salt and add about one teaspoon of it onto your steak. Rub it in and leave your beef to sit for one hour per inch of thickness. After the allotted time has passed, rinse off any remaining salt and pat the beef dry before you start cooking.
This method might slow down the cooking process but the salt breaks down the proteins and helps make things tender.
One of the best ways to make steak more tender is to score it with a knife before cooking. Specific cuts of beef, like the flank, would do well with some careful knife work. Make shallow cuts against the grain before cooking.
The grain of the meat is the muscle fibers on your cut of beef. For example, you should lay your flank steak on a cutting board so that the fibers run horizontally. To cut against the grain means to thinly slice vertically so you're cutting perpendicular to the muscle. This significantly helps tenderize your steak so that the fibers break down and things aren't as tough. Not to mention, this is another quick way to softer beef.
Here's a surefire method to get more tender beef, but you're going to need a little patience. Cuts like brisket, shank, and chuck are good kinds to slow cook because the longer it cooks, the more collagen is broken down. When the collagen breaks down, things get much softer. You can use a dutch oven to slow cook your beef but this will take anywhere from 4-8 hours before dinner's ready.
There are lots of steak marinades out there that include acidity of some kind. Not only does this add great flavor, but it can help to break up the tissue as well and tenderize the meat. You can use acidic foods like lemon, but you can also use vinegar or wine. Depending on how long you leave your steak to marinate, the cooking time will shift accordingly. You can leave steak to marinate for two hours in the fridge or two days safely. Wine, vinegar, and acidic foods also work with marinades for chicken or pork.
However, be warned, that you're not going to be left with a super tender cut of beef by just using a marinade. In fact, many chefs argue that these tenderizing agents don't do much to the meat besides add flavor. You can add a marinade to cater to your tastes, but this isn't the first method you should turn to for more tender beef.
There are a few different ways you can tenderize your steak. Some will take longer than others, but if you're pressed for time then there are faster ways to get the job done and still wind up with a juicy dinner. Whichever method you choose to take, there are so many things to do with steak and even if you have a tougher cut, that doesn't mean dinner is ruined. Follow these easy steps and you're good to go.