Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cheap Steak Cheapskate (Or what the heck is a chuck tender steak?)

I stumbled across a package of cheap steaks the other day at the grocery store.

Chuck tender steaks to be exact.  They had a deep red beefy color, were thin sliced, and looked tender.  Their middle name is even "tender".

But I knew better.  Chuck tender steaks are obviously from the chuck or upper shoulder of cattle.  That muscle group is heavily exercised and full of connective tissue.  So while it does have a rich beef flavor, it tends to be anything BUT tender.  

I had a couple of strategies planned to deal with that.
  • Marinade - The acid in the marinade helps weaken muscle tissue however marinades take quite a while to penetrate.
  • Mechanical Tenderizing - A meat cuber, jaccard or even a fork can be used to help break up the connective tissue of tough meats before cooking.  Note:  I'd never use that on a quality thick steak.
  • Thin slices - the thin steaks were already cut across the grain when cut into steaks.  That minimizes long muscle fibers which are chewy by nature.  
  • Medium rare - These steaks can't be taken past medium rare or they will toughen quickly.

I decided to make some steak sandwiches with peppers, onions and an excellent garlicky cheese sauce.
Grilled cheese steak sandwich, gooey cheese,

First I seasoned the steaks with salt and pepper on both sides and then stabbed them repeatedly.  This helps tenderize AND drives seasoning into the meat.  

Lightning fast reflexes, ha ha.

Next is a brief marinade for about 2 hours.  I used 3 oz oil, 1 oz red wine vinegar, and 1 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce.

While it marinated, I made the cheese sauce.  

Don Quixote Riding A Drunken Goat Cheese Sauce
source:  www.nibblemethis.com

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp coarse chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp AP flour
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 3/4 cups shredded Manchego cheese
  • 3/4 cups shredded drunken goat cheese
  • enough milk to thin the sauce out
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat a pan over medium heat.
  2. Saute the garlic in butter until just starting to turn golden.
  3. Add the flour and stir continuously to form a light roux.
  4. Stir the cream into the dish in increments, stirring to combine each time before adding more.
  5. Whisk in the horseradish.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and then stir in cheese in batches until well combined.
  7. Whisk in the milk to get the consistency you want.  I probably used about 1/2 cup.
  8. Re-season with salt and pepper
I preheated my Big Green Egg to 400f and grilled the steaks for about 45 seconds a side.  I went by visual cues.  Once the meat began to darken slightly around the edge and the juices slightly pool on top, I flipped them.

Grilled cheese steak sandwich, gooey cheese,

Next was a quick saute of peppers and onions seasoned with salt and pepper.

onions and peppers on the grill

Of course, I grill toasted my buns.  I like having toasty buns, don't you?

The sandwiches were to die for, according to Alexis and Trevor.  I tend to agree.  

Grilled cheese steak sandwich, gooey cheese,

I will buy this cut of beef again.  It has the rich beef flavor that you expect from steak and with all of the tenderizing tricks, it was supple.  I could see using this for fajitas as a substitute for skirt steak.  I'm not saying it's the same as ribeye or flank steak but it's also half the price and good eats.  

Some other methods for making tough meat tender that I did not use here include enzymatic tenderizers (meat tenderizer powders), dry aging (meat's own natural enzymes), and low/slow moist cooking.   

What are your favorite tricks for turning shoe leather into delectable meat?


  1. Excellent tips in dealing with chuck tender steaks.

  2. As a recent veteran of the chuck "eye" steak, I am not surprised that it's possible to get some chuck that's edible. Personally I have had no real luck with truly tenderizing tough meat. I've tried the stabbing, the soaking, etc. I will read your readers' comments with interest.

  3. I've always had good luck with chuck tender steaks as long as I marinade them - and they are sooooo cheap, you just can't beat it. What really caught my eye is that sauce! Love the name and love all the ingredients... can't wait to try it!

  4. These look great! The sauce sounds good. Great tips on tenderizing meat, I will definitely be using them in the future.

  5. Looks outstanding! I've seen chcuk steaks, but never chuck tender steaks. I really need to get a cast iron grate so I can get those nice sear marks. Which one are you using again? Craycort? Thanks.

  6. I'll be looking for these in the stores here. They have to have a great beef flavor. I wonder if not salting them until after they are cooked would help make them more tender also...

  7. First of all, the name of your cheese sauce cracks me up! I have never heard of shredded drunken goat cheese, but I need to find me some of that!

    I've never had the nerve to try cheap cuts of meat, because I am afraid they will be shoe leather. Thanks for experimenting this cut of meat and posting this recipe. I hope I can find some drunked goat cheese!

    Kim in MD

  8. I love how you can turn even a cheapskate steak into a masterpiece!

  9. I'm loving your thought about switching them out for fajitas. I'm always so leery of those cheap thin steaks. I wish I knew more about the cuts of meat and where they come from. I need to put one of those diagrams on my iPhone and reference it when I'm in the store. What I really love about this post is that sauce recipe. Sounds FANtastic.

  10. Your results look amazing! I love all the tenderizing tips. I'm going to try this soon. Thanks, Chris!

  11. Well either way, cheap is cheap. I noticed a new sale policy at Wal-mart. 50% off all yellow tag meat after 3, or something like that. If you know it well enough it is a really great deal. I need to get more acquainted with my cuts.

  12. Great tips, Chris!That sandwich looks delicious!

  13. great looking sandwich Chris - I've not seen these in the store. Your sauce sounds killer.

  14. Okay, so want this sandwich AND the shrimp for lunch RIGHT NOW. Why do I come to your site when I am hungry?

  15. I am so glad to have stumbled into your blog today, mostly because of the "Don Quixote Riding A Drunken Goat Cheese Sauce". I have been eating Drunken Goat Cheese and Manchego lately, on a Spanish cheese spree, but never considered making of sauce of the two. Brilliant! ~Nancy

  16. I'm going to have to make the sauce just because of the name alone! (besides, it sounds really good too).

  17. love your lightening fast reflexes, that's a great photo!!

    1. At first, I thought that I was looking at a part of a clear plastic fork. Good photographic artwork!

  18. Lol I cut these all the time were I work but an all purpose meat! Nic work 😃


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