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View Full Version : What makes for a tender steak?


f308gt4
08-25-2011, 11:04 AM
I was at a meeting for work, and we were given a dinner that included steak. The steak we received, while it did not taste as good as a steak I can make, was very tender. Almost like you could cut it with a fork.

I have never cooked such a tender steak. Am wondering how to achieve it? Is it a result of prime beef (assuming restaurant served prime beef?)? How it was cooked (it was on the rare side, normally I cook to medium rareish)? The type of beef (i.e. sirloin, ribeye, fillet mignon, etc)?

My steaks come out damn good, taste wise- but it would be neat to also have them come out this tender.

Any suggestions?

Thanks!

Grillman
08-25-2011, 11:13 AM
What cut was it?

The quality of the Beef can be very important. A properly cooked Prime Tenderloin will usually
be very tender. It doesn't have the BIG taste that a Ribeye steak has; but I wouldn't
say no to one.
That's why the Porterhouse & T-Bone are popular...you get the Sirloin and the
Tenderloin both; in one steak. The Tenderloin will be easily cut with your fork; on the
better quality meat.

Badgeman
08-25-2011, 11:19 AM
I've been waiting to see what posts other folks put for this thread, as I'm certainly not a steak expert--unless loving to eat it qualifies.

In my experience, most restaurants, except for the high price steakhouses don't use prime beef. I've been told by more than one manager that its just too expensive to put on the table. We cook alot of steaks and I do buy prime, athought not often. There is a difference in my opinion from a choice cut, I just don't know if its big enough to justify the cost. I've made Kobi steaks before and they were about as tender as eating warm butter, I just don't want to remortgage the house to pay for dinner.

My strategy involves searing on about a 750 degree cast iron pan (on the grill) then pulling the steak off, letting the gril temp settle to about 500, and finishing. It works well for my family and I don't ever get complaints about the tenderness. I know some folks add tenderizer, but I don't like how it affects the texture and flavor.

GreenDrake
08-25-2011, 11:32 AM
Probably just a better grade. See it every day.

deguerre
08-25-2011, 11:33 AM
It depends on the cut. I've never had a problem with ribeyes seared to rare/medium rare. If it's a flat iron I'll slice VERY thinly against the grain - less than 1/4 inch thick - and no tenderness problems there either - also rare to medium rare. I haven't cooked a sirloin in over ten years and rarely do porterhouses, t-bones or strips.

Cook
08-25-2011, 11:36 AM
Among other things, tenderness can be affected by intramuscular fat as well as how little/how much the muscle was used when on the hoof.

Frank Grimes
08-25-2011, 11:45 AM
Tenderness is a factor of the marbling inside the steak-the more marbling, the more likely it will be tender. Marbling is the main component when meat is graded. But the cut is also a huge factor-ribeyes and tenderloins are more tender than a sirloin.

f308gt4
08-25-2011, 11:54 AM
Forgot to mention, it was a fillet mignon.

I've cooked them before (bacon wrapped, and without the bacon wrap), and have never gotten this tenderness. Normally, though, I mostly cook ribeyes.

deguerre
08-25-2011, 11:56 AM
Ah. I never buy those. They are very tender but just don't have the flavor for me and aren't worth the expense.

jimmyinsd
08-25-2011, 12:16 PM
first its the genetics of the animal. this will often dictate whether the rest of the process turns out just OK or woo hoo frickin awesome.

secondly its the feed of the animal. this gets into a huge debate about what is better, but feed definately helps determine the animals muscle/fat make up. also how its feed out, feed lot vs range. how long it takes to get fat..imo the bigger you let it get the tougher the meat usually ends up.

now it must be butchered stress free, alot of stress at slaughter will leave the meat tough and poor tasting. after the slaughter the carcass should be cooled and aged, imo 3 weeks minimum prefer 4 but many places will only do 2. this aging process is key in breaking down the inner workings of the muscle leaving the resulting steaks and roast much more tender.

now you have to pick out the right cut. different cuts have different levels of natural tenderness, for me i am a TBone or Ribeye man, but my wife likes the sirloins and i have made some damn fine sirloins for her as well.

lastly the cooking process, again huge debate, but imo its hard to beat really hot to sear in the flavor and pulling at just past rare, allowing the the rest time to take it the rest of the way to med rare.

hopefully you found this a little helpfull.

petie
08-25-2011, 12:17 PM
I take pride in the tenderness of my backyard steaks. Here's how I do it. I pour just enough soy sauce in a flat pan to cover the bottom. Then I dowse the steaks in season salt and motreal seasoning lay them in the pan preseason the top side and drizzle soy sauce on the top. Then I cover with aluminum foil and let marinade on the counter for 3-4 hours.


---
- If it didn't matter it wouldn't matter!!!

Moose
08-25-2011, 12:37 PM
Forgot to mention, it was a fillet mignon.

I've cooked them before (bacon wrapped, and without the bacon wrap), and have never gotten this tenderness. Normally, though, I mostly cook ribeyes.

That would explain the tenderness factor, although as others have said, the grade of the meat has a LOT to do with it, if it's graded accurately. I've had some disappointing prime cuts here and there, and yet had some choice that were as good or better than prime. Your best guide is the visual appearance - the more marbling, the better.

As for doneness, you won't get that fork tender quality if it's cooked any more than a mid medium rare; after that, the meat starts to "firm up" due to moisture loss.

Here's a recent filet post of mine you might find helpful.

www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=112326 (http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=112326)

These steaks definitely had the "fork tender" quality you described.

There's also the cooking method itself:

Contrary to popular belief, starting a steak with a high heat sear will result in considerable moisture loss, which is why I use a reverse sear that cooks the meat much more evenly. If anyone ever doubts this, just Google "Finney Reverse Sear". This method has been demonstrated and tested to be superior than the traditional hot sear method time and time again in numerous test kitchens. You also won't get that nasty grey outer ring of meat under the surface, which is always tougher than the inner part.

Last but not least, is making sure your meat is fully at room temp before you cook it; doing so will also ensure an evenly cooked steak.

Hope this helps...

Flask
08-25-2011, 04:04 PM
I agree with Moose on all his points. Taking the time and picking through steaks for marbling at the store is the way to go.

deepsouth
08-25-2011, 05:14 PM
meat tenderizer?

Camille Eonich
08-25-2011, 05:16 PM
All of the above and I will also add that a well aged steak well be more tender than the same piece of meat not aged.

bluetang
08-25-2011, 05:20 PM
As stated above, genetics play an important role; typically a Brahman influenced steer is less tender than a straight angus. Also the cut itself will yeild a more or less tender steak. A muscle of posture is going to be more tender than a muscle of locomotion. There can be improper slaughter proceedures that can lead to a less tender steak, such as "cold shortening". This is where the carcass is chilled too fast after slaughter and the muscles fibers (actin and myosin) actually bunch up into shorter and tougher fibers. These days cold shortening is pretty rare. They can also run the cuts through a commercial Jaccard tenderizer which severs the fibers with small needles,thus "creating" tenderness.

boogiesnap
08-25-2011, 06:56 PM
where do you get your steaks from?

i can EASILY tell the difference between big stores and smaller regardless of grade.

however, i'd be hard pressed to say, i've come across a not fork tender filet.

unless otherwise requested i cook ribeye.

IMHO, all other cuts don't have the balance of tenderness and flavor.

but, of course, to each their own.

caseydog
08-25-2011, 07:17 PM
Tenderness has a lot to do with how hard the muscle had to work when it was on the cow. So, choosing your cut is important.

I like ribeye the most, for it't balance of flavor an tenderness. It has a good amount of fat, though, so it is not for everyone.

Tenderloin is lean, but from a part of the cow that didn't do much work, so it is lean and tender, but doesn't have a lot of flavor. That's why top steakhouses often serve it with a sauce of some kind.

NY Strip has awesome flavor, but is not quite as tender and juicy as ribeye, IMO.

Sirloin is cheaper than ribeye and NY Strip, and it has good flavor, but it is just not tender enough for me.

Marbling is important, too. Big chunks of fat in the middle of red meat on cheap steaks is not marbling. You want little veins of fat throughout the meat. That's where USDA grading comes into play. A prime ribeye will have better marbling than a lower grade ribeye.

As for cooking, I like HOT and fast on my ribeye's, strips and tenderloins. Same goes for flat iron steak. A nice char on the outside, and medium rare to medium inside. But, if the meat is good quality, I have found that the doneness is not a big issue for tenderness, unless you really overcook it. I've made some well-done steaks for my SIL that were still moist and tender.

CD

bam
08-25-2011, 07:30 PM
Forgot to mention, it was a fillet mignon.

I've cooked them before (bacon wrapped, and without the bacon wrap), and have never gotten this tenderness. Normally, though, I mostly cook ribeyes.

It was the grade.

elchupahueso
08-25-2011, 07:51 PM
[...]Contrary to popular belief, starting a steak with a high heat sear will result in considerable moisture loss, which is why I use a reverse sear that cooks the meat much more evenly. If anyone ever doubts this, just Google "Finney Reverse Sear". [...]

Interesting technique. Sounds a lot like the sous-vide steaks that David Chang does. He vacu seals the steak in a bag with whatever marinade/flavoring he wants, then pops it into the bath and lets gently cook to the desired doneness. Then when the orders come in, they just pop that bad boy on a rocket hot griddle to sear the outside and give the steak a nice crust. Boom, all done and very precisely controlled.

MG_NorCal
08-25-2011, 08:05 PM
Interesting technique. Sounds a lot like the sous-vide steaks that David Chang does. He vacu seals the steak in a bag with whatever marinade/flavoring he wants, then pops it into the bath and lets gently cook to the desired doneness. Then when the orders come in, they just pop that bad boy on a rocket hot griddle to sear the outside and give the steak a nice crust. Boom, all done and very precisely controlled.

If you like smoke flavor :wink:, use your smoker set to around 180* to bring the steak to just short of the finish temp.
Then sear hard and fast.
This does not dry the steak out. It does render the fat and tissue without overcooking, making it more tender.
It takes some practice with your equipment and a thermapen to get it right though.

tomslusher
08-25-2011, 08:33 PM
All of the above and I will also add that a well aged steak well be more tender than the same piece of meat not aged.

I know this is my first post, but there may be more to come. This is one thing I know something about. Albet, very little, but something.

This guy is on the right track. As far as beef goes, aging is everything. Most good meat markets hang beef for 3 weeks, which is minimal. The best steak I ever put in my mouth by far was from a place in Tampa that takes that 3 week old steak and hangs it for 7 more. It was cooked rare and you could cut it with a toothpick.

Prime rib is one of the tenderest hunks of beef you can get. You know why, it's damn near rotten. The bacteria that attacks beef breaks down the muscle the longer it ages. The best way to prepare a steak is not only cook it starting from room temperature, take it out of the fridge in the morning and cover it in saran wrap and leave it for the day on the counter. Bright red beef is not your friend.

Aging makes beef tender. Taste comes from marbling and a few other factors, most being cut.

I hope I didn't overstep my bounds, being my first post. I've been lurking here for awhile.

thanks for listening,

tomslusher

Dallas Dan
08-25-2011, 09:04 PM
I've tenderized cheaper steaks by poking both sides with a fork. It seams to really help.