How Do You Tenderize Cube Steak?

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Cube steak is a popular and budget-friendly cut of beef that’s perfect for easy and delicious meals. The problem is that it has a naturally tough texture that can be a challenge for home cooks who don’t have the time or the right equipment to tenderize it. If you don’t tenderize cube steak, you will miss the chance to enjoy a melt-in-your-mouth dining experience.

In this guide, we’ll teach you several methods to tenderize cube steak, so you can always serve delicious steaks to your guests. From marinating and pounding to using a slow cooker, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about turning this affordable cut into a 5-star-worthy dish.

What Makes Cube Steak Tough and Chewy in the First Place?

Cube steak, also known as minute steak or Swiss steak, is a cut of beef usually taken from the top round or top sirloin. These cow parts are well-known because of their high collagen and connective tissue content, which can make the meat tough and chewy.

The name “cube steak” actually stemmed from the process of tenderizing the meat by using a mallet or machine to create small indentations or “cubes” on the surface so the meat can easily and quickly be cooked through. These cubes help break down the connective fibers and tissues, making it easier to cook cube steak and eat it.

You would think that a machine that tenderizes the meat is all you need, but that’s not true. Even mechanical tenderizing processes don’t always fully break down these tough fibers. In these cases, you may need to take additional steps to achieve the desired tenderness. By understanding what makes these precious cube steaks tough and chewy, you can utilize various techniques to ensure a tender and appetizing result.

Are You Supposed To Tenderize Cube Steak Before You Cook It?

Yes, you should tenderize cube steak before cooking it. Taking this necessary step will help break down the tough fibers and connective tissues further, resulting in a more tender dish that you can easily enjoy. Tender cubes will enhance your overall dining experience and will not limit who you can serve.

The Best Ways To Tenderize Cube Steak Before You Cook

Achieving the perfect tenderness for your cube steak is key to a delicious and enjoyable meal. There are so many techniques you can use to tenderize cube steak before cooking, each with its benefits. In this guide, we will discuss all the effective ways you can tenderize cube steak.

Tenderize Cube Steak With a Mallet

This is one of the most popular and traditional ways of tenderizing meat. Using a meat mallet, pound the cube steak evenly to break down the tough fibers and connective tissues. This process also conveniently thins the meat, allowing it to cook more quickly and evenly.

Tenderize Cube Steak With a Marinade

Marinades containing acidic ingredients (like vinegar, lemon juice, or wine) can help break down the tough fibers in cube steak. Soak the meat in the marinade for several hours or overnight for maximum effectiveness.

Tenderize Cube Steak by Braising

Braising is a slow-cooking method that involves cooking the meat in a small amount of liquid over low heat. This process takes a while, but it’s really effective in breaking down the collagen and connective tissues. However, some cooks do not like this method as most of the flavors go to the broth and leave them with tender but almost flavorless cuts of beef.

Tenderize Cube Steak With Salt

Liberally salting the cube steak and leaving it for at least an hour before cooking can break down its proteins and tenderize it. You must exercise caution when using this process, though, if you don’t want to end up with an overly salty dish.

Tenderize Cube Steak With An Enzyme Tenderizer

Commercial enzyme tenderizers, such as those containing papain or bromelain, can be used to break down the tough fibers in cube steak. Follow the instructions on the product packaging for the best results. You can also go the natural way and use enzymes from fruits like pineapple or papaya.

Tenderize Cube Steak With Baking Soda

Create a paste with baking soda and water, cover the cube steak completely, let the meat sit for 15-20 minutes, then rinse before cooking. This process alters the pH level of the meat, making it more tender.

Tenderize Cube Steak By Slicing It Against The Grain

Cutting the cube steak into thin slices against the grain (perpendicular to the muscle fibers) can help to break down the tough fibers and make the meat easier to chew. This is particularly useful when using cube steak in dishes like stir-fries or fajitas. This is also one of the quickest ways to enjoy your tender cube steaks.

Tenderize Cube Steak With a Jaccard Tenderizer

A Jaccard tenderizer is a kitchen tool with multiple small blades that puncture the meat, cutting through the tough fibers and connective tissues. All you have to do is press the tenderizer all over the surface of the cube steak to break down the fibers and make the meat more tender.

Tenderize Cube Steak With a Fork

If you don’t have a Jaccard meat tenderizer, you can also use a fork to pierce the surface of the cube steaks repeatedly manually. It works the same way as a Jaccard and allows any marinades, rubs, or seasonings to penetrate deeper into the meat to enhance the flavor.

Tenderize Cube Steak by Slow Cooking

Slow cooking methods, such as using a slow cooker or cooking the meat in a low-temperature oven for an extended period, will inevitably break down the collagen and connective tissues in cube steak. This process is one of the most convenient since you can just set the timer and let the cooker work its magic.

Tenderize Cube Steak by Sous Vide

Sous vide is a more sophisticated cooking technique in which food is vacuum-sealed in a plastic bag and cooked in a temperature-controlled water bath. By cooking cube steak sous vide at a precise, low temperature for an extended time, you can achieve a uniformly tender texture throughout the meat while retaining its natural juices and flavors.

This results in a delicately flavored dish, which may be intimidating, especially for new cooks.

Final Thoughts

Tenderizing cube steak is a crucial step to ensure a delicious and enjoyable meal. There are several ways available to achieve the desired tenderness, such as using a mallet, marinating, braising, salting, using enzyme tenderizers, applying baking soda, or slicing against the grain. Each technique has its benefits, and you should experiment with different methods until you find the one that best suits your cooking style and favorite recipes. By taking the time to tenderize cube steak before cooking, you can transform this affordable cut of meat into a tender and flavorful dish that everyone will love.