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Can we stew a piece of steak (or other lean meat) and make it tender?


skyhskyh
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Can we stew a piece of steak (or other lean meat) and make it tender?

Stewing in general: those rough pieces of meat initially are quite tough when stewed, then keep stewing, and they become tender.

If so, Can a piece of steak do that also? e.g. Can we stew a tenderloin steak to make it tender?

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Your post doesn't make any sense at several levels.

First of all, if the cut of meat is tender already (tenderloin), why would you think that stewing it would make it tender?

To answer your question, of course you could slow cook a piece of tenderloin but it would be one of the dumbest ways to cook a tender cut.

Slow, wet cooking methods are good for cuts with a lot of fibrofatty tissue like chuck. I think that if you cook tenderloin in liquid for a long time, you get mealy, dry meat.

The "best way" to cook different cuts of meat has been optimized over, probably, centuries. With the exception of sous vide, I'm not aware of any great breakthoughs in meat cooking technique although I did not stay at Holiday Inn last night.

Edited by CDRFloppingham (log)
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Tender and moist aren't defined by 'steak' and 'lean' I have seen chuck steaks which aren't lean and round steaks which aren't tender . I think the term steak is used by butchers to define the size of the cut, not the tenderness. Some top prime steaks are not lean. They can and should be marbled with fat. The tender cuts of meat come from the least used muscles in the cow. Those would be the cuts taken from the back of the cow, along the spine from below the shoulder blade to just before the rise of the rump. These cuts can be cut into roasts or steaks Those cuts need very little cook time. They will be tender as long as they are not over cooked.

Some cuts of meat will be juicy and tender if cooked medium rare AND sliced thin and across the grain- like a London broil- AND will be juicy and tender if simmered in a braise for a long time BUT will be very dry and tough if cooked too long an a grill OR not cooked long enough in a braise.

To get the best results when cooking meat, you should understand where the part comes from on the cow and prepare the meat accordingly. A good cookbook on good cooking methods for various kinds of meat for good results is- in my opinion- How To Cook Meat.

Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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Can we stew a piece of steak (or other lean meat) and make it tender?

Stewing in general: those rough pieces of meat initially are quite tough when stewed, then keep stewing, and they become tender.

If so, Can a piece of steak do that also? e.g. Can we stew a tenderloin steak to make it tender?

You are half way to discovering/understanding something.

Time and temperature.

The meat's internal temperature determines how "well done" (rare to 'overcooked') it becomes.

And if you cook meat for "a long time" (without it getting up to 'overcooked' temperature), it tenderises nicely.

One can make tender, juicy 'steak' out of "stewing"/pot-roasting cuts.

To control the temperature accurately and over "a long time" (could be 48 hours), the magic words for you to research (start right here on eGullet) are ...

... sous vide.

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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I think Norm Matthews is on the right track.

Skyhskyh, what are the names of the cuts of meat (or steak or tenderloin) that you are finding tough and lean?

What cooking methods have you tried already?

ETA: There's nothing wrong with sous vide, BTW, but it shouldn't be the alternative or fallback for skill with basic cooking.

Edited by djyee100 (log)
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I guess my original question can be broken down into:

1. What are the "things" that make those stewable meat tender when cooked for long time?

2. Whether the meat we usually don't stew like a tenderloin steak, also have those "things" -> if so, that means we also could stew them and make them more tender?

Skyhskyh, what are the names of the cuts of meat (or steak or tenderloin) that you are finding tough and lean?

What cooking methods have you tried already?

I don't have a particular cut of meat that I am trying to make it more tender... I am just very curious. I am just very interested to know.

And by this knowledge, I could be more creative, who knows, maybe I end up in Iron chef, and the food challenge is a piece of tenderloin, and maybe if I knew the meat can also go very tender after stewed, I could make a nice tenderloin soup? Just kidding, but I am quite curious, that's all.

Speaking of meat,

Some cuts of meat will be juicy and tender if cooked medium rare AND sliced thin and across the grain- like a London broil- AND will be juicy and tender if simmered in a braise for a long time BUT will be very dry and tough if cooked too long an a grill OR not cooked long enough in a braise.

What are the reasons to cut across the grain? Only because it "wont be chewy"? And why cutting cross grain will make it not chewy?

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Brisket and Flank steak have long fibrous and somewhat chewy texture unless cut across the grain. It makes a nicer presentation and breaks up the texture of the meat so it is easier to chew.

Stew meat needs long cooking time to break down the meat and sometimes to dissolve the collagen. Meat that is already tender does not nave thpse properties and does not need long cooking times. James Beard once said words to the effect, the better the cut of beef, the less you need to do to it.

Ribeye, porterhouse and T-bones are steaks that are tender. Tenderloin is a part of a T-bone after the bone is cut away. Strip steak is the other part from a boneless T-bone. Round, chuck, flank, and brisket are cuts that can benefit from a long cook time. You could stew a primal cut steak if you want, but it is expensive and a waste of good meat when a cut made for stew is cheaper and will taste very good when done this way.

Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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If you google "Cook's Illustrated pot roast" the mag has some great articles about pot roast & the process of long, slow cooking for tough cuts of meat. You have to sign up for trial subscription to read it.

Norm Matthews has given you a good basic summary of how to cook the major beef cuts. Also--

If you look at a chart of the animal & where the various cuts of meat come from (google "beef chart" or "meat chart"), it makes sense that the parts of the animal that move are the toughest, e.g., the shoulder and rump. Those are also the most flavorful parts of the animal. (Because they get the most blood circulation, I was told--not sure if that's the real reason, though.) The short loin near the spine doesn't move much at all. So filet mignon, sirloin, & porterhouse steaks are tender, but , IMO, they don't have much flavor.

What are the reasons to cut across the grain? Only because it "wont be chewy"? And why cutting cross grain will make it not chewy?

You always want to cut across the grain to shorten the meat fibers, so the meat is less chewy.

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I guess my original question can be broken down into:

1. What are the "things" that make those stewable meat tender when cooked for long time?

"Connective tissue" mostly, which is mostly made of collagen, and which _slowly_ breaks down during cooking.

If you get the the meat too hot, then the muscle will tighten up, permanently expelling juices and becoming tough, 'dry' and 'overcooked'. This happens well below 80C (below 175F) internal meat temperature.

Medium Rare is about 55C (about 130F). But at that temperature, collagen breakdown is really slow. So, you'd need to cook your Brisket for about 48 hours at 55C. http://egullet.org/p1697569

And it won't taste, or feel, like "stew".

2. Whether the meat we usually don't stew like a tenderloin steak, also have those "things" -> if so, that means we also could stew them and make them more tender?

... I am just very curious. I am just very interested to know.

And by this knowledge, I could be more creative ...

Like I said before, (and I will not bother saying again), the answer is sous vide.

http://egullet.org/p1283438

Learn about sous vide, and you will learn a vast amount about conventional cooking methods.

Cooking is largely about controlling heat, and sous vide is cooking for control freaks.

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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I throw all types of meat in my spaghetti (gravy)..usually always ends up tender...I think it depends on muscle fiber texture your looking for...I braided a tri tip and ended up with these long stringy meat fibers....don't get me wrong...it all went down well

Sent from my DROIDX using Tapatalk

Its good to have Morels

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I think I'm feeling the intent of the original question and it's a good one. Although I propose that we narrow in on a specific cut (or a specific comparison). Beef Round seems like a good choice. I've done a round roast sous vide and sliced it thinly across the grain and it was good. But not filet good.

Still, someone with good knife skills and a good eye could probably cut up a round roast and a tenderloin and present us with two pieces that most of us could not tell apart visually. But they'd have totally different properties.

Could we use brine/acid/braising/sous vide/jaccarding/injection/transglutaminase/molten lava/philospher's stones/Ginsu knives to transmute an eye of round into a filet?

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The answer to whether we can turn eye of round into fillet is: no they have different grain structures and physical properties.

If you can get your hands on "Modernist Cuisine," Volume 3 has a very good section on meat, muscle, and tenderness.

As Dougal said above though, you can take a highly exercised piece of meat loaded with collagen such as beef cheek (think how much this particular muscle is exercised in a day in a ruminant) and cook it extremely long and slow. This will not give you fillet, it will give you something much better. These cuts are full of flavour that is not present in the less exercised parts of the animal. When cooked properly sous vide, they become as tender as well cooked fillet but with much more taste.

This answers the question of why chefs and experienced eaters mostly prefer well cooked secondary cuts to what they consider bland premium cuts.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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The answer to whether we can turn eye of round into fillet is: no they have different grain structures and physical properties.

If you can get your hands on "Modernist Cuisine," Volume 3 has a very good section on meat, muscle, and tenderness.

With all due respect to NathanM and his contributions large and small - to eGullet and the general culinary world - I hope that discussion at eGullet will not devolve to quoting chapter and verse of MC.

As Dougal said above though, you can take a highly exercised piece of meat loaded with collagen such as beef cheek (think how much this particular muscle is exercised in a day in a ruminant)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but does the cheek - in any animal - have anything to do with moving the jaw?

...and cook it extremely long and slow. This will not give you fillet, it will give you something much better. These cuts are full of flavour that is not present in the less exercised parts of the animal. When cooked properly sous vide, they become as tender as well cooked fillet but with much more taste.

That's why I thought that it would be most instructive to select two similar cuts, rather than one lean cut like a filet and another fatty one like cheek.

This answers the question of why chefs and experienced eaters mostly prefer well cooked secondary cuts to what they consider bland premium cuts.

But it ignores the question that was asked. Can we make a lean cut more tender?

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The answer to whether we can turn eye of round into fillet is: no they have different grain structures and physical properties.

If you can get your hands on "Modernist Cuisine," Volume 3 has a very good section on meat, muscle, and tenderness.

With all due respect to NathanM and his contributions large and small - to eGullet and the general culinary world - I hope that discussion at eGullet will not devolve to quoting chapter and verse of MC.

That wasn't a quote from the book, I was just suggesting you look at it for information.

...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but does the cheek - in any animal - have anything to do with moving the jaw?

A beef cheek is the facial cheek (Masseteric) muscle of a cow. What doesn't it have to do with moving the jaw?

...

But it ignores the question that was asked. Can we make a lean cut more tender?

I actually thought I was answering this question: Could we use brine/acid/braising/sous vide/jaccarding/injection/transglutaminase/molten lava/philospher's stones/Ginsu knives to transmute an eye of round into a filet?

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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NYE with BF and his friends, time to cook up some steaks and salmon filet. Friend decides he's going to 'slow cook' the steaks, I'm not sure why but decide not to get involved. Little bit later check in the kitchen and see steaks in a saute pan half full of beer at a bare simmer. WTF? OK... I only tried 1 bite, but it was the weirdest crunchy texture I've ever encountered in meat. So, I wouldn't recommend cooking it that way. :laugh:

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That wasn't a quote from the book, I was just suggesting you look at it for information.

Well, okay, perhaps a glance at Homer's Odyssey will help you (with what? I don't know. But I also don't know what you think MC will teach me.)

A beef cheek is the facial cheek (Masseteric) muscle of a cow. What doesn't it have to do with moving the jaw?

I believe you're confusing googled masseteric references with actual animals. Bessie's cheeks aren't responsible for her most dangerous bite force.

Edited by IndyRob (log)
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Bessie's bite force is immaterial to what I said, the masseter muscles help cows shut the jaw and move it laterally, allowing them to grind their food. This is how cows "chew their cud." The fifth picture down on this web site shows the masseter muscle on a buffalo. It is obvious how it is involved in chewing.

Moreover, "...ruminant species that ingest more grass have relatively larger masseter muscles" Clauss, M., Hofmann, R., Streich, W., Fickel, J. and Hummel, J. (2008). Higher masseter muscle mass in grazing than in browsing ruminants. Oecologia. 157 (3) p.377-385. Either this happens through magic or through the use of the masseter muscle in chewing. I prefer to think it's the latter.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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... I also don't know what you think MC will teach me.

C'mon, I'm sure that even you might learn something! :smile:

I don't have MC - its way beyond my discretionary spending limit.

But I would certainly snap up a future conventionally-priced paperback edition...

... not least because I knew that meat "cheeks" don't quite correspond to human cheeks.

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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... I also don't know what you think MC will teach me.

C'mon, I'm sure that even you might learn something! :smile:

I've got room for plenty of learning, especially about jaw muscles being cheeks apparently. I've also got room for MC, when I feel that I can make the investment. But when someone posts a reference to a chapter of a tome I (or most of us, for that matter) don't have, I don't know what it's meant to mean.

"Aha, V2, Ch3, Pg 336!"

"Yeah, but V3, Ch2, Pg 202, paragraph 3. Got you there!" :huh:

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Can we stew a piece of steak (or other lean meat) and make it tender?

Stewing in general: those rough pieces of meat initially are quite tough when stewed, then keep stewing, and they become tender.

If so, Can a piece of steak do that also? e.g. Can we stew a tenderloin steak to make it tender?

Lots of detailed and well-argued advice upthread. Bottom line is 'Yes', qualified by 'If you keep the temperature low (apart from an initial quick sear, to build flavour) the entire cooking time, which is likely to be quite a few hours'.

. . . .

I don't have a particular cut of meat that I am trying to make it more tender... I am just very curious. . . .

What are the reasons to cut across the grain? Only because it "wont be chewy"? And why cutting cross grain will make it not chewy?

Hey, curiosity is good, without it we'd probably still be eating a very limited selection of things.

Slicing across the grain cuts the meat fibres into very short lengths, so they no longer require much breaking apart with your teeth, so the meat registers as 'tender'.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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