7 Ways To Enhance A Cheap Cut Of Steak

From The Blog

Looking to impress at your next dinner without breaking the bank? Many overlook cheaper cuts of steak because they’re often tougher and less marbled. However, with the right techniques, these cuts can transform into tender, juicy delights that rival their pricier counterparts. Let’s explore seven sensational methods to elevate a humble cut of steak, ensuring your next meal is both affordable and mouth-wateringly delicious.

1. Marinate to Tenderize

Marinating is a fantastic way to infuse your steak with robust flavors and tenderize it at the same time. A good marinade with acids like lemon juice or vinegar breaks down tough proteins, enhancing the meat’s texture and flavor. For an effective marinade, combine acidic ingredients with herbs and a bit of oil, and let your steak bathe in this mixture for several hours or even overnight in the refrigerator.

Experiment with different ingredients to find what works best for your taste. Classic options include garlic, rosemary, and mustard. Once marinated, ensure you pat the steak dry before cooking to achieve a perfect sear. The transformation in texture and taste will surprise you, turning a budget-friendly cut into a gourmet experience.

The longer the steak marinates, the more pronounced the flavor. Just be cautious not to overdo it with acidic components, which can make the meat mushy if left too long.

2. Salt for Tenderization and Flavor

Salting is a simple yet effective way to enhance both the flavor and texture of your steak. Generously salting your steak about 40 minutes before you plan to cook it allows the salt to draw out moisture, creating a brine that is then reabsorbed by the meat. This natural brine tenderizes the steak while seasoning it deeply.

After salting, let the steak sit at room temperature. Before it hits the pan, pat it dry to get rid of any excess moisture. This ensures a crispy, caramelized crust, quintessential to a great steak experience. This method works wonders on tougher cuts like sirloin or chuck by softening them up and imbuing them with a rich, savory flavor.

Remember, the thicker the cut, the more salt and time you’ll need. Adjust your seasoning based on the size and type of steak to avoid overpowering the natural flavors.

3. Slow Cooking to Perfection

Slow cooking is an excellent method for transforming less expensive cuts into tender, fall-apart delicacies. Techniques like braising or stewing involve cooking the steak slowly in a liquid. This process not only tenderizes the meat but also infuses it with the flavors of the liquid and any aromatics added to the pot.

To get the most out of slow cooking, brown your steak first to develop depth of flavor. Then, let it simmer gently in a mixture of broth, wine, or even beer with onions, carrots, and herbs. Over several hours, the connective tissues break down, and the fibers soften, resulting in a steak that’s both flavorful and tender.

This method is particularly suited for cuts like chuck or brisket, which have higher amounts of collagen and benefit greatly from long cooking times at low temperatures.

4. The Reverse Sear Technique

The reverse sear is a game-changer for cooking thicker steak cuts. Start by slow-roasting the steak in an oven set to a low temperature. This allows for an even internal cook without overcooking the outside. Once the steak reaches a few degrees below your desired doneness, transfer it to a hot skillet or grill to sear the exterior to golden perfection.

This technique not only ensures precise cooking but also enhances the steak’s overall texture and flavor profile. It’s ideal for cuts that are typically tougher, giving them a chance to soften up before finishing with a satisfying crust.

The key to perfecting this method is a reliable meat thermometer and timing your sear just right to avoid overcooking.

5. Use a Meat Tenderizer Hammer

Physical tenderization can be just as effective as chemical methods. Using a meat mallet or tenderizer hammer can help break down the tough muscle fibers of cheaper cuts. Pound the steak evenly across its surface, being careful not to tear the meat. This not only makes it more tender but also helps it cook more evenly.

It’s a quick fix that works especially well when you’re short on time and need to make a less tender cut more palatable. Additionally, tenderizing physically allows for quicker cooking times and better absorption of marinades and seasonings.

Just remember to cover the steak with plastic wrap before you start hammering away to avoid any mess and to protect the integrity of the meat.

6. Sous Vide for Consistent Results

Sous vide cooking involves vacuum-sealing your steak and cooking it in a water bath at a precisely controlled temperature. This method guarantees that your steak is cooked evenly from edge to edge, providing a consistent texture and doneness without overcooking any part of the meat.

The gentle cooking process of sous vide makes it ideal for cheaper cuts, as it allows the tough fibers to break down over time without the risk of drying out or toughening. After sous viding, a quick sear on a hot skillet can add the much-needed crust and flavor.

While it requires some equipment and preparation, the results from sous vide cooking are well worth the effort, often rivaling those of high-end steakhouse offerings.

7. Cutting Against the Grain

Once your steak is cooked, cutting it against the grain is crucial for maximizing tenderness. This technique involves slicing the steak perpendicular to the muscle fibers, which shortens them and makes it easier to chew.

Observing the direction of the fibers before you cut and then slicing across them can dramatically improve the texture of even the toughest cuts. This simple step is often overlooked but can make a significant difference in how enjoyable your steak is to eat.

Combined with the previous techniques, cutting against the grain ensures that every bite is as tender as possible, making your economical steak choice a wise and delicious decision.

In conclusion, enhancing a cheap cut of steak doesn’t require magical skills or expensive ingredients. With these seven methods, you can elevate a budget-friendly steak to star status on your dining table. Whether marinated, salted, slow-cooked, or seared, each technique offers a path to a more tender and flavorful steak experience. Experiment with these strategies to find your favorite way to upgrade your steak and surprise your guests with your culinary prowess.

Jamie Anderson
Jamie Anderson
Hey there! I'm Jamie Anderson. Born and raised in the heart of New York City, I've always had this crazy love for food and the stories behind it. I like to share everything from those "Aha!" cooking moments to deeper dives into what's really happening in the food world. Whether you're here for a trip down culinary memory lane, some kitchen hacks, or just curious about your favorite eateries, I hope you find something delightful!

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