The (Not So) Secret Techniques to get Tender Beef
You don’t need to spend all of your money on the priciest cuts of beef possible to ensure you get tender meals. Even the cheapest cuts of beef can become succulent and tender. The whole thing is that you have to break down those muscle fibers in the correct way. For example, marinating helps with certain cuts, but if left too long, it will go mushy. What can you do to ensure your beef is tender and tasty then?
It's All in the Process
Just like you wouldn’t serve a spaghetti dinner without perfectly al dente noodles, you wouldn’t select the wrong cooking process for your beef. You know that thin cuts generally benefit from fast, high heat cooking, while roasts benefit from something more low and slow. There are reasons we do this and each of them is intended to make the most out of what you are planning to cook. For thin cuts like flank, fast cooking using direct heat is generally best practice. This provides a nice crusty-sear, leaving the interior tender. Something bigger, thicker, like a roast or an insanely thick steak will benefit more from slower cooking with a sear to finish things off. Notoriously tough cuts like brisket need even more love than that, and benefit from slow smoking and roasting, sometimes for upwards of 8 hours.
How to Get Tenderness
You have a general idea of the correct technique for whatever you are cooking however, you still want to ensure the most tender and succulent meal possible – you need to impress Jim and Martha next door right? Try these (not so) secret techniques.
Salt whatever you are cooking. For steaks and pork in particular, if you can salt and then leave them for 45 minutes before you plan to cook, it will go a long way to enhancing both the flavor and texture of the meal. If you can salt the day before, and leave the meat uncovered in the fridge, even better! Why does this work? Salting will draw the moisture out of the meat, and then that moisture picks up the salt flavor and is reabsorbed into the meat while the surface dries to the touch providing an excellent surface for searing.
PRO TIP: Use kosher or sea salt when salting anything. It’s easier to pick up and distribute evenly on the surface of whatever you are seasoning.
This technique should only be used when you are cooking food that is already thin and likely to become tough. Thin steaks and chops are ideal for this treatment. Use our 48-blade meat tenderizer, the blades slide into the meat helping to break apart tough muscle fibers. You can also use the course side of a meat mallet to pound the cut. Don’t go overboard and break the meat, just hammer both sides enough to leave an impression. Either technique helps to break apart muscle fibers that would otherwise be rendered tough by cooking.
The use of enzymes or acids to break down the protein in meat is an excellent way to ensure a tender final product. Use in conjunction with the tenderizing process to really get that flavor in there. Why does this work? Because those proteins and enzymes are actually breaking down the meat where it touches. The whole thing with marinating is to watch your timing. Delicate meats like seafood should only be left for 30 minutes, while heartier things like roasts can be left up to 8 hours. Try marinating a flank steak for an hour or two before grilling.
You’ve seasoned perfectly, treated your beef right by marinating or tenderizing, now it’s time to grill it. Ensure that you are using the correct method for each cut of beef. Further to that, you need to cook it to the correct doneness. The right finished temperature varies a little for each cut of beef to get the best flavor and mouthfeel.
Rare - Great for steaks that aren’t very marbled, this is because the fat hasn’t had time to melt. Basically the outside is seared and the inside is warm and more red than pink. Top Sirloin is best served rare.
Medium Rare - The best temperature for well-marbled beef and steak, the meat’s fat has been melted creating a buttery flavor and most of the moisture in the meat hasn’t evaporated. Nice sear on the outside, reddish-pink and warm on the inside. Filet mignon, T-bone, and NY Strip are good candidates for this treatment.
Medium - Same butteriness and flavor as the Medium-Rare, but a lot more moisture has evaporated so the meat is less juicy. It has a nice sear and is hot and pink on the inside. T-bone is good medium too; however, don’t cook past this point.
Well Done - All of the moisture and fat has evaporated along with the flavors that you are eating a steak for; seared on the outside and hot and brown all the way through.
Though this applies more to steak than to roasts, you can apply similar logic, until you get to smoking. Brisket is a whole different beast whose finished temperature is 195°F, a whole 50°F more than perfect medium. This is because of the long and slow cook time.
Take a Rest
When you’re done cooking rest the meat before slicing and serving. This allows the juices to redistribute inside the beef. Allow for 5 minutes per inch of thickness in steaks and 10 minutes per pound for roasts.
Slicing your meat can make a huge difference in how tender and easy it is to eat as well. When serving, make sure you slice against the grain or perpendicular to the length of the muscle fibers. This shortens the muscle fibers of the beef and does half of the work for you when it comes to chewing.
What’s your favorite technique to ensure you have a delicious beef meal when grilling? Leave us a comment on our social pages like Facebook or Instagram and use the hashtags #BBQBeef and #NapoleonGrills.