Certain cuts of meat, particularly red meat like chuck roast, tend to be tougher and even flavorless. This is especially true if the meat is cheaper in price. If you’ve ever wondered why some cuts of meat are tougher than others, understanding some basic mammal anatomy will help answer that question.
Meat is tough because it is made of thick muscle fibers and connective tissue, which, if not cooked right, can make a cut of meat chewy and difficult to eat. The muscles that the animal uses more often and more vigorously tend to be tougher cuts of meat. Areas of the body that aren’t used as intensively, like the back muscles of a cow, usually produce more tender cuts of meat. Filet mignon for example is known for being an expensive piece of meat because it is more desirable than other types of meat. Filet mignon comes from tenderloin, which is a non weight bearing muscle, making it more tender because there is less connective tissue contained in the meat.
Of course, you can still have delicious meat that is both tender and juicy without having to pay an arm and a leg for it. There are tips and tricks that you can use to help make tougher cuts of meat tender. Some of these options though, are not exactly time efficient options and might not take into consideration the busy schedule of most people.
Marinate the Meat
Sometimes people might suggest making the meat tender by marinating it. Some might even suggest marinating it overnight. While this might be an option for some, if you have a busy lifestyle because of work or kids, you might not have time to prepare a fancy marinade and then leave the meat to marinate overnight.
Physically Tenderize the Meat
Another option that people talk about is to physically tenderize the meat with a meat tenderizer or mallet. Pounding on the meat may seem like a great way to let off some steam, but what you’re actually doing is breaking down the muscle fibers. The stronger a muscle is, the more course the muscle fibers become. This is often why a piece of meat that is not cooked properly will feel chewy. When these strong fibers are broken down by pounding on the meat, it can help to make it more tender. While this is often an effective way to make meat more tender, again, it does take time and if you’re cooking for a large family, you might not have time to pound away just to ensure tender meat.
Since these are not the most time efficient ways to help make meat more tender, let’s look at some other options. These options take into consideration how you cook and prepare the meat.
Cut Across the Grain
You may have heard of this before but might not have been sure about what exactly it means. Cutting across the grain goes back to the fact that meat can be tough because of the protein and connective tissue that is found in muscles. When you cut across the grain, it means you are cutting crosswise through the muscle fibers of the meat. Since these muscle fibers are, in part, what makes the meat chewy and tough, cutting across them helps to break up these fibers. Whether you have to cut up the meat in pieces before cooking or you are carving your steak for serving, take note of the direction the muscle fibers run and simply cut across them. This method is more time effective, but may not offer the best results.
Cook Until the Correct Internal Temperature is Hit
In some ways, cooking is a bit like science and it depends on finding the perfect temperature. Undercook your meat, and it will be chewy or even rubbery, but if you overcook it, it will taste dry and unflavorful. This is where an instant read meat thermometer comes in handy. With a thermometer, all you need to do is see if the inside of the meat is at the right temperature to determine whether or not it is done. Tougher meat cuts such as brisket, should be cooked until they reach about 195ºF. Cuts that are naturally tender such as tenderloin, for example, can be as rare as 125ºF. It will simply depend on the type of meat.
Cook it Low and Slow
The reason more expensive cuts of meat such as filet mignon can be flash seared at high temperatures is because there is no reason to cook it slowly. When you cook meat at a low temperature over a long period of time, and there is enough moisture, the steam will break down the tough collagen naturally so that it becomes tender and easy to chew. Budget cuts such as chuck roast or pork shoulder are naturally tough and are great options when cooking at a low temperature over an extended amount of time.
Benefits of a Slow Cooker
As we have seen, there are a few tricks that you can take in order to help make tough meat more tender and tasty. Some of these are more effective than others. The most effective option to get tough meat tender, is to cook it for hours, at a low temperature. This is where a slow cooker shines! Cooking these meats in liquid over a period of hours helps to loosen tough muscle fibers and results in a delectably tender, fall of the bone, juicy meat. With a slow cooker, all you have to do it pop in the items and when you come back, dinner will be served!
Check out some of these recipes featuring slow cookers that all result in delicious and perfectly cooked meat every time that won’t be chewy or tough.
For many, a pot roast was a classic dinner menu item growing up. This recipe dresses up the traditional meal with bold flavors of maple and dijon mustard, resulting in a savory and rich taste. Thanks to the slow cooker, the roast will melt in your mouth.
Due to the rich broth and caramelized onions in this recipe, this recipe will soon become a comfort staple in your home. From Sunday dinners to a weeknight classic, the prep is easy and the results are fabulous.
Who doesn’t love barbeque? This tangy bbq sauce paired with tender pieces of pulled pork will have your family asking for seconds. With just 15 minutes of prep time, you’ll be done cooking dinner with time left to spare.
Craving carnitas tacos for dinner? This recipe is just the thing. If you prep all the ingredients the night before, simply turn your slow cooker on low, and they’ll be done by the time you get home from work! Now Taco Tuesday can easily be enjoyed any day of the week.
With a spicy and sweet kick, these chicken sliders will quickly become your go-to appetizer. Whether your hosting friends over for dinner, or need to bring an item for your next potluck, this option is always a crowd pleaser.
Benefits of a Pressure Cooker
Similar to a slow cooker, a pressure cooker is also a great way to get tender meat, even from tough cuts. While slow cookers use low heat for a long time, pressure cookers utilize the power of steam to quickly cook items. Since the steam allows for high heats to be reached quickly, a pressure cooker can have the same results of a slow cooker, just much more quickly! The steam helps to break down the connective tissues so you can quickly enjoy tender and juicy meat. In fact, a tough cut of meat that would take 8 hours to tenderize in a slow cooker could only take 1 hour in a pressure cooker!
Here’s a recipe to try that serves up perfectly cooked beef that won’t be chewy or tough. Enjoy the flavors and spices of this Southern Indian Beef Curry. Prep time is just ten minutes, and it will be done and ready to serve in just 30 minutes!
6 tablespoons oil
1 beef chuck roast (2-3 pounds), cut into 1-inch cubes
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ white onion, chopped
½ cup tomatoes, chopped and drained
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 yellow potatoes, chopped
2 cups coconut milk
A handful cilantro, freshly Chopped
Rice, for serving
1. Select Sauté on the BSTY Pressure Cooker, add the oil, Adjust to "High", then press Start. Allow the pressure cooker to heat up.
2. Sear the meat in small batches for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until nicely browned. Take out of the pot and set aside.
3. Add in your minced garlic, chopped onion, tomatoes, and ginger. Mix well and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add in all the spices and mix well. Cook for 10 minutes, until a paste has formed. .
5. Place the beef back in the pot along with the potatoes and coconut milk.
6. Select the Meat function, set cook time for 35 minutes.
7. When cooking is done, select Cancel and use a quick pressure release. Wait until the pin drops then carefully remove the lid.
8. Boil the curry until it reaches the desired thickness.
9. Serve curry over rice with some freshly chopped cilantro.