Here we will discuss how you can prevent your steaks from becoming tough, chewy, or rubbery after they are cooked. This is one subject that I can deeply relate to, as a chewy steak for me is almost enough for me to not eat it, even if it tastes good. There are some main key things that you need to know about steaks, which will make your life easier when trying to prevent them from coming out tough after cooking them. You will also know why your steak is chewy or rubbery after reading this article.
Let’s go over a quick look into one of the main problems first when cooking steaks. The first thing to know is what type of steak you are cooking. This is one of the most important things, as not every steak is the same. If you bought a cheap steak to cook for your family, then the chances are that it may be prone to being more tough after it is finished cooking. There is also the possibility that you could be preparing and cooking something that wasn’t intended to be steak.
For example, a round steak really doesn’t make good steak. It is naturally tougher than other types of steaks found in the grocery store. It is cheaper than other so called steaks for a reason. It doesn’t mean that it can’t be cooked to the point that it becomes tender and juicy, it just means that it can’t be cooked the same way that you would expect other types of steaks to cook to get the same results.
Here is a quick look at other types of steaks, and how difficult or easy they are to cook in the terms of preventing them from becoming tough, rubbery, or chewy after cooking:
This is most likely a steak that is prone to becoming hard to chew when cooked as a steak. The chuck denver steak and the flat iron are the steaks that are intended to be used as steaks. Any other types of chuck steaks can end up tougher or more chewy than expected after cooking. The ranch steak is generally going to be tougher than the two types of chuck steaks mentioned.
These type of steaks are generally easier to cook without them becoming tough or chewy, as these steaks can have great or decent marbling. They have room to be cooked a little more without them becoming too chewy, if the steak has enough marbling.
Short loin steaks
These steaks are the porterhouse, filet mignon, t-bone, and the New York strip. They are all considered to be the easiest steaks to chew after they are cooked properly.
Sirloin steaks are questionable when it comes to whether they are going to be rubbery or tough when they are cooked as steaks. Sirloin steaks can be rubbery when chewing if they aren’t prepared properly before cooking them. Also, it depends on what type of sirloin steak it is. Some sirloin steaks are from different parts of the animal, so they can be better or worse.
You are either looking for trouble or you are giving yourself a challenge if you are making steaks out of round steaks. Usually in the grocery store, it is labeled “round steak”, but it is actually intended to be cooked in a different manner than what most steaks that should be cooked as steaks should be. Round steaks are more suitable for making roast beef and pot roast.
Depending on the cooking times and temperature, flank steaks can be really chewy or somewhat tender. The cooking times and temperatures have to be watched carefully. However, in general, this is a tough steak.
Skirt steak is decent for steaks, but can easily become tough, chewy, or rubbery if cooked or prepared improperly. It also depends on what type of skirt steak is being cooked, for why it may be tough, chewy or rubbery after cooking.
Never try to cook a shank like you would a steak on a grill or in a skillet. It is filled with tough tissues that are extremely hard to chew. A shank has to be cooked long and slow. Usually the shank is braised.
If somehow you got your hands on a brisket steak from a store or by some other means (like cutting a brisket into steaks), it isn’t intended to be cooked on high heat fast like steak would. A brisket is a brisket. It is a tough piece of meat. It has to be cooked for a longer period of time at lesser temperatures to make it less tough and more tender.
So, now that we have laid out what you can expect when cooking certain “steaks” and steaks for preventing them from becoming tough or chewy, let’s get into some more technical ways to prevent steaks from becoming tough, chewy, or rubbery.
When preparing any steak at home or in a restaurant, there is a key thing to take in consideration for whichever type of steak it is. This key thing is the amount of fat (marbling) that the steak has.
The grade of the steak if it is the same type, can impact how much marbling, or how lean, that steak is. The higher grade steaks, like prime (the highest, but also the most expensive) is going to have better marbling than the other grades of the same meat. The order of quality for the meat goes as follows from worst to the best quality: select, choice, prime.
If you are going to stick with cooking a certain type of steak for what ever reason, then you can buy the higher grade of prime or choice of that steak/meat to help prevent the steak from being so tough or chewy after it is cooked.
Preparing Steak So That It Isn’t Tough, Chewy, Or Rubbery
When preparing most steaks, for cooking, there are sometimes some things that you will need to do before you begin to actually cook the steak. Seasoning it is important, but we are talking about some things that can ultimately ruin a steak and make it nearly inedible, rubbery, or extremely chewy. Depending on where you purchased your meat from, you may need to do some trimming of it before it is cut into steaks or cooked as one. Not doing these things can leave a person bewildered to why a type of steak that everyone boasts that is tender after cooking, isn’t tender at all.
When meat comes as a whole with some extra fats or tissue on/in it, usually some trimming needs to be done with a boning knife to make the meat more enjoyable when consuming it. If these extra trimmings aren’t done, then it can completely ruin the dining experience of whoever is eating the steak. There are connective tissues, gristle, sinew, silver skin, and even sometimes tough fats that have to be removed/trimmed off first before the meat is prepared as steak.
Not every meat is going to make good steaks just because they look like they will. Different types of steaks can even have tough gristle that could make the steak extremely rubbery after it is cooked. Sometimes these parts have to be removed, even if the steak is going to be braised for hours to cook them down. Some of these parts will not cook down over time. Also, these tough parts can be inside the steak too, not just on the outer parts. Certain parts of the meat can look like edible meat, but could actually contain a lot of gristle. Some steaks from certain parts of the animal can be virtually impossible to trim, because the whole meat is almost gristle.
Sinew can lie in between the steak, like it does in a hangar steak for example. Skirt steaks can have tough connective tissues that need to be trimmed off first before cooking. New York steaks have a tough fat cap that is usually left on when it is not from a meat dealer or grocery store. These tough tissues can look like fat on the steak, but actual aren’t. They can also lie underneath the fat on the surface of the steak. For some steaks (or meats being made into steaks), the best bet is to just trim off all the fats on the outer surface to be on the safe side.
As mentioned earlier about sirloin steaks, they can have gristle on them if they weren’t fully trimmed off after cutting the sirloin meat as a whole into steak slices to sell. Any type of sirloin steak, including the top sirloin and picanha (the most tender sirloin steaks) can have tough and extremely chewy tissues that ruin the eating experience.
If you are buying meat from a meat dealer, it can still have these tough tissues on them. The meat will have to be trimmed well before making steaks.
Overcooking And Undercooking Steaks In Preventing Toughness
All of the information provided before this topic should be thoroughly considered first before looking into an overcooking or undercooking problem as being the main culprit. The reason for this, is that some steaks are naturally tougher, and some have parts that need to be removed first before cooking.
Skipping these factors and jumping to cooking issues can make things longer and more complicated when trying to prevent a steak from coming out tough, rubbery, chewy. If you are sure that you know how lean, how much marbling, what type of steak it is that you are trying to cook; and are sure that all chewy, rubbery, or tough components have been removed, then overcooking and undercooking is the next part.
When someone says that the steak came out tough after cooking because it was undercooked, they mean that the steak was intended to be cooked longer at lower temperatures to break down collagen, gristle, and other connective tissues in the steak. Not every steak is intended to be cooked on a grill or in a skillet at high temperatures. It is okay to braise, smoke, or pot roast them too.
If a certain type of steak that you are cooking is supposedly supposed to be grilled at high temperatures, or cooked in a skillet, then the thickness of the steaks also plays a factor along with the temperatures, on how tender or tough that steak will be after cooking.
When someone says that the steak came out tough because it was overcooked, it means that the steak was intended to be cooked for a shorter period of time. Usually this is for grilled steaks or steaks cooked in a skillet without liquids or much moisture. This also means that the heat has well penetrated into the steak to cook it, so the temperature may have been unnecessarily too high. Both time and temperature (how high the temperature is) play a role here when overcooking.
Also, steaks can be dry aged, dry brined, brined, marinated, (all of these can be done for hours or days on end) tenderized using a tenderizer or other means, to make them less tough and more tender after they have been trimmed properly before cooking. Some steaks have to be made into cubed steaks (tenderized with tenderizer) if they are going to be more tender after cooking them. Round steaks are a great example for doing this.
Cutting Steaks The Right Way To Prevent Toughness And Chewiness
In some cases, the type of steak cooked could have been trimmed well, cooked properly for the type of cooking method, but simply cut wrong. Cutting steaks wrong is an easy way to mess up chewable steaks. This means slicing the meat from a meat dealer incorrectly to make steaks for cooking out of it, and also cutting steaks incorrectly when eating the steak at a table. Serving steak to guests at home, at a gathering, or in a restaurant incorrectly by cutting it wrong can also effect how tough the steak is.
Steaks are usually cut against the grain when they are cut into single strips or pieces to be eaten on a fork or by hand. This means that the cooked steaks need to be cut perpendicular to the lines of the meat’s tissue. This makes the bites more chewable (feel more tender) when they are eaten. This is because the steak slice is eaten as parts that break off easier when this is done, instead of having to chew off an entire strip that is well bonded.
Some steaks, like the flank steak, are well bonded with noticeable lines showing which way the grain is going on the steak. Steaks like this are going to be harder to chew if they are cut in the same direction as the grain, making the steak feel stringy when chewing. This will even be the case when the steak has been cooked at its best.
As mentioned earlier in this section by cutting the meat wrong when slicing pieces off of a chunk of meat to make steak slices, there are still some trimmings that have to be done to the meat chunk before it is sliced into cookable steaks. This is for people trying to make steaks from a hunk of meat at home or in an establishment like a restaurant. Sawing or slicing the steaks off wrong from a whole meat hunk can also effect its end product, making it a tougher, rubbery, or bad steak experience when it is prepared and cooked by the consumer.
Certain portions of steaks can sometimes contain multiple muscles in them that make the steak vary in toughness and chewiness after it is cooked. These things need to be taken into consideration.
Some steak cuts sliced from certain portions of meat can have mostly tender portions due to the varying muscles that make up the steak, while others can have only a small section or portions that is desirable and not tough. An example of this is how a porterhouse steak comprises of different muscles, which also include the most tender cut, the tenderloin. The tenderloin in this example on a porterhouse steak only makes up a small portion of the entire steak, so it shouldn’t be expected that the entire steak will have the same consistency in tenderness.
For this reason, the tenderloin is sometimes cut out and eaten separately, or prepared and cooked as a whole separately. To prevent a steak from being so tough, chewy, or rubbery, sometimes portions of the meat have to be cut off and prepared separately before cooking.
Also the bigger the steak is, the more likely it is that there will be tough connective tissues in the steak that can appear as dividing fat lines in the meat. However, it is actually tough and chewy connective tissues sometimes. This is usually the case with big steaks that still have the bone, as cartilage could be present.
Thin steaks work better
Lastly, some steaks can’t be made the same thickness as other types of steaks would be. Some steaks perform better when the steak isn’t so thick before it is cooked. Also, some pieces of meat have to not only be sliced into thinner steak slices when making steaks to prepare and cook from the meat, but they also have to be tenderized tooas well to prevent them from being tough and chewy after cooking.