Recipe: Turning Tough Meat Tender- Marinated Round Steak
Round steak is a tougher cut of meat, but that means you should be able to get a good deal on it at the grocery store or local meat market/butcher. If you buy your meats directly from a farmer, and buy a quarter or a half a cow, you are going to have some tougher cuts, such as round steak, when you pick up your meat. There are, however, two easy ways to turn that tough, but more affordable, cut of meat into a delicious meal- slicing against the grain, and marinating.
Cutting Against the Grain
If you look carefully at your meat, you will see lines. These are the muscle fibers, which shows you the “grain” of the meat, kind of like a piece of wood. You want to slice against the grain. So, if your muscle fibers are running east to west as it sits on your cutting board, you want to cut north to south. This effectively shortens the muscle fibers, and gives the meat a more tender quality. Why? Because muscle fibers are strong. Cutting across the strong muscle fibers weakens them. The weaker the muscle fiber, the more tender the meat.
The purpose of marinating meat is two-fold. First, it infuses the meat with additional flavors. Second, depending on the marinade’s ingredients, it can help tenderize the meat. Acids, such as vinegar, help break down the muscle tissue.
For this dish, I used moose round because I happen to have a lot of it in my storage freezer, but this would work with any round steak you have. I cut the round as thinly as possible. I was going for shaved steak, but it ended up slightly thicker. I didn’t weight the meat, but I’m guessing it was about 4 lbs.
I had some left over homemade salad dressing (recipe can be found here) and decided to use it as my marinade. I set it to marinade in the refrigerator overnight for a full 24 hours before cooking. You can marinate meat for less time, a minimum of about 30 minutes, but marinating overnight really improves the texture.
- Round steak, sliced as thin as possible, against the grain
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 bell peppers, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 4T Pastured butter
- 2 cups brown basmati rice
- 4 cups filtered water
- Milk or cream, 1/4 cup
- Pinch of basil
- Salt & Pepper
Start with the rice. Add the water, rice, basil, and a little salt and pepper into a pan and set on high until it boils. Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer and cook on low heat and stirring frequently. Keep checking it, or it will stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Ask me how I know! When the rice is done, stir in 2T of pastured butter to finish it.
While the rice is cooking, heat up 1T of butter in a skillet (I use cast iron) and add the onions, the peppers, and then finally the garlic. When both the rice and the onion, pepper, and garlic mix is done, combine them with the rice and set inside the oven to keep warm.
Add a little more butter to the skillet, and then add the marinated, thinly-sliced round steak. It will cook quickly because it is sliced thin. It will cook in just 3-4 minutes. If you overcook it, it will be dry. There is a difference between dry and tough, but neither make for great meat eating.
After all the meat is cooked, there will be some of the marinade in the pan that has come off of the meat. Add the milk to the pan and heat to bubbling while stirring continuously. It will eventually become thick and pull away from the pan. If you don’t know what that means, when you drag a spoon along the bottom of the pan, the sauce should trace behind it. Still clear as mud? Cook and reduce liquid until desired thickness.
To serve: Arrange the meat on top of the rice and veggies, and pour the pan sauce on top if you want it too look nice. Or, mix it all together and dig in. Eat!
This really came out tasty, my husband loved it, and we had plenty of left overs. With several more packages of moose round still in the freezer, I’m sure I’ll be making this again.
Note for cooking with cast iron:
I poured all the sauce into another pan so I could wash and season my cast iron as soon as possible. The acid in the vinegar ate away at some of the seasoning. All that was needed was a rinse and a quick wipe under hot water (love the non-stick nature of cast iron!), dried off with a towel, and then set it back on the burner with the remainder of the pastured butter. It was heated until it started to smoke, then I cut the heat. Once it had cooled down a little, I wiped off the excess and it was smooth as glass once again.