What cut of beef is round steak?
Round steak is cut from the rear leg of the cow, specifically the round primal cut. This area contains muscles that get a lot of exercise, so the meat can be quite tough if not cooked properly. The round primal contains cuts like top round, bottom round, and eye of round. Round steak is an inexpensive cut of beef that can be flavorful and tender if cooked using the right technique.
Why is round steak often tough?
Round steak tends to be tougher than cuts from the loin or rib primal cuts. This is because the muscles in the round get a lot of use, so they develop more connective tissue. Connective tissue is tough and chewy when cooked with dry heat. However, it can be broken down using moist cooking methods to make the meat tender. Marinating round steak can also help break down some of the tough fibers. Look for round steak that has good marbling or fat content, as this will keep it juicier when cooked.
What is the best way to cook round steak for tenderness?
The cooking method that works best for creating tender round steak is braising. Braising involves browning the meat first, then slowly cooking it in a small amount of liquid like broth, wine or tomatoes. The moisture helps break down the tough connective tissues. Here are some tips for braising round steak:
– Cut the round steak into 2-inch pieces to allow the braising liquid to penetrate effectively.
– Season the meat well with salt and pepper before browning to boost the flavor.
– Use a heavy pan like a Dutch oven and get it piping hot before searing the meat. This creates a good browned crust.
– Don’t crowd the pan when searing. Cook the steak in batches if needed.
– For the braising liquid, use broth, red wine, tomatoes, onions, carrots, garlic and herbs. The vegetables add more flavor.
– Braise at a low simmer, around 300°F, and cook for 2-3 hours until fork tender.
– Check halfway and flip the meat to cook evenly. Add more liquid if evaporating.
– Once cooked, remove the meat and reduce the braising liquid to make a sauce.
Marinating the steak
Marinating round steak is another great way to boost flavor and make it more tender. The acidic ingredients in a marinade, like vinegar, wine, yogurt or citrus, help to break down tough fibers on the surface of the meat. Here are some easy round steak marinade ideas:
– Red wine, garlic, onion and thyme
– Soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar and ginger
– Yogurt, lemon juice, mustard and coriander
– Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, basil and black pepper
– Beer, chili powder, cumin and oregano
Aim to marinate the steak for at least 2 hours, or up to 12 hours in the fridge, flipping the meat occasionally. The longer time allows the marinade to penetrate deeper for more tenderizing effects.
Should you tenderize round steak?
Using a meat tenderizer tool, enzyme powder or acid tenderizer can also help break down the tough connective tissue in round steak. These options work best when combined with wet cooking methods like braising or stewing:
– A meat mallet with needle teeth can be used to puncture the surface of the meat to allow marinades or braising liquid to penetrate. Avoid over-tenderizing to prevent mushy meat.
– Enzyme meat tenderizer powder contains natural enzymes from papaya or pineapple. Just sprinkle it on 30-60 minutes before cooking.
– Marinate steak in an acidic ingredient like vinegar, wine, yogurt or citrus juice. The acid softens connective tissue.
– Baking soda bath is a quick tenderizing solution. Soak the meat for 15-60 minutes then rinse. It allows deeper seasoning penetration.
– Commercial powdered meat tenderizers use papain or bromelain enzymes and citric acid to break down tough fibers. Follow package instructions.
Cooking methods to avoid
Since round steak can easily dry out and get tough, it’s best to avoid high-heat, dry cooking methods. Here are some methods to avoid:
– Grilling – Round steak can dry out quickly over direct high heat on a grill. The high temperature also toughens the meat.
– Broiling – This dry-heat cooking method can also cause the steak to dry out before the interior cooks.
– Pan frying without a sauce or liquid – Cook round steak on the stovetop with some moisture, like sauce or broth.
– Roasting – Basting and braising are better oven-cooking methods, as roasting will likely cause the round steak to dry out.
– Any method without a meat thermometer – Use an instant read thermometer to avoid overcooking.
What temperature should you cook round steak to?
Always use a meat thermometer when cooking round steak to determine doneness based on precise internal temperature rather than appearance. Here are the best target temperatures:
– Rare: 120-125°F – The meat will be cool, red in the center and quite tender. Best for those who prefer beef rare.
– Medium rare: 130-135°F – Warm, reddish-pink interior that is juicy and tender. The most recommended doneness for braised round steak.
– Medium: 140-145°F – Hot, pink interior with only a hint of red. The connective tissue begins to break down more.
– Medium well: 150-155°F – Mostly light pink towards the center and drier. This is as far as you want to cook round steak to avoid toughness.
– Well done: 160°F+ – Solid brown throughout. Round steak cooked beyond medium well runs the risk of drying out.
Tips for grilling a tender round steak
Although grilling isn’t the ideal cooking method, you can still grill round steak and achieve decent tenderness. Here are some tips:
– Choose 1-inch thick steaks, pound them with a meat mallet to tenderize, and marinate for 2+ hours before grilling.
– Cook the steak over indirect heat, not direct flame, to avoid burning the exterior.
– Preheat the grill properly to avoid cold spots and flare-ups which can toughen meat.
– Grill the steak to medium rare doneness, about 5 minutes per side at high heat.
– Let the steak rest off heat for 5-10 minutes before slicing to allow juices to redistribute.
– Slice the steak thin against the grain – this makes it seem more tender.
– Serve grilled round steak with a sauce, chimichurri or compound butter to keep it moist.
What to serve with braised round steak
Braised round steak covered in a flavorful sauce needs some simple side dishes to complement without overpowering. Here are some excellent options:
– Mashed potatoes – The steak and sauce go perfectly ladled over creamy mashed potatoes.
– Egg noodles – Soak up the delicious braising sauce with al dente noodles.
– Rice pilaf – Fluffy rice soaks up all the sauce beautifully.
– Root vegetables – Potatoes, carrots and parsnips braise right along with the steak.
– Green beans – Quick-cooked green beans balance the richness.
– Braised cabbage – Sweet braised cabbage or Brussels sprouts are ideal.
– Crusty bread – Serve slices of rustic bread for dipping in the incredible sauce.
– Polenta – Cooked polenta rounds are the perfect blank canvas for steak and sauce.
Recipes for round steak
Here are some stellar recipes for cooking round steak using techniques that keep it extra juicy and tender:
Red Wine Braised Round Steak
– 2 lbs round steak, cut into 2-inch pieces
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 onion, chopped
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 cup red wine
– 1 cup beef broth
– 2 tbsp tomato paste
– 1 tsp each thyme, rosemary, salt & pepper
– Chopped parsley for garnish
1. Pat the steak pieces dry and season all over with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. Working in batches, sear the steak pieces until well browned, about 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
3. Reduce heat to medium, add the onions and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
4. Pour in the wine and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let simmer until reduced by half, about 5-10 minutes.
5. Return the steak pieces to the skillet along with any accumulated juices. Add the broth, tomato paste and herbs. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 2-3 hours until fork-tender.
6. Serve the steak topped with sauce from the pan and garnished with chopped parsley.
Korean BBQ Round Steak
– 1⁄4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
– 3 tbsp brown sugar
– 3 minced garlic cloves
– 1 tsp sesame oil
– 1 tsp ground ginger
– 1⁄4 tsp pepper
Steak & Veggies:
– 1 1⁄2 lbs round steak, thinly sliced
– 1 red onion, sliced
– 1 red bell pepper, sliced
– Sesame seeds and sliced green onions for garnish
1. In a bowl or zip top bag, combine the marinade ingredients. Add the sliced steak and let marinate for at least 1 hour (or up to overnight) in the fridge.
2. Preheat broiler or grill to high heat. Place the marinated steak strips on the oiled grates and cook for 1-2 minutes per side until caramelized.
3. On a sheet pan, broil or grill the onion and bell pepper slices until charred, about 5 minutes per side.
4. Serve the steak and veggies garnished with sesame seeds and green onions.
Slow Cooker Round Steak Chili
– 2 lbs round steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
– 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
– 1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 onion, chopped
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 tbsp chili powder
– 1 tsp each cumin, oregano, salt
– 1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper
– Shredded cheese, sour cream, etc. for serving
1. Place the steak cubes in a slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, beans, onion, garlic and all the spices.
2. Cook on LOW heat for 7-8 hours until steak is very tender.
3. Shred the steak with two forks inside the slow cooker.
4. Serve chili topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped onion, etc.
Round steak can become melt-in-your-mouth tender if braised, stewed or marinated using the proper technique. Searing and then gently cooking the steak in flavorful liquid transforms the meat into a tasty, fork-tender dish. Avoid grilling or broiling round steak. Monitoring temperature and not overcooking is also crucial for optimum tenderness. Prepared with care, inexpensive round steak can provide a satisfying meal full of deep, beefy flavor.