How To Fix Tough Cooked Steak? [8 Ways To Tenderize Steak]

When you bite into a steak, you expect it to be cooked through and soft. But often, they can be tough, chewy, and overcooked. We’ve been imagining those juicy meaty juices oozing from the sweetness of that glorious flavor.

It can feel wasteful and embarrassing when it happens in the middle of a dinner party. So ask yourself why my steak is tough and chewy, and how to make tough steak tender.

To make tough steak tender, beat it with a mallet and add salt before cooking. If cooked for too long, the beef will be quite tough, so make sure to cook your beef correctly! Allow it to rest for 5 minutes after cooking if you prefer your meat extra tender.

There are a variety of ways to tenderize steak – some of them are quite simple! Tender steak doesn’t have to cost a lot or require a very particular cut. With just a little extra effort, even cheaper and less-known cuts will be meltingly delicious.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to chat with your butcher, they can generally provide a lot of other useful tips about different cuts.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • Why is steak tough and chewy?
  • How to make steak tender
  • How to make tough steak tender after cooking and much more!
How To Fix Tough Cooked Steak

Why Is My Steak Tough and Chewy?

Steak is a type of beef cut that comes from the meaty, tough muscle of an animal such as a cow. It’s usually eaten cooked and can be grilled, boiled, fried, or roasted.

Steaks are tough because they are made up of muscle fibers that are woven together. The more the steak is cooked, the tougher it becomes.

There are a variety of reasons why your steak may be tough & chewy. Besides the quality of the meat, it can depend on how it was stored, prepared, or cooked.

  1. The first reason a steak may be tough and chewy is that it came from low-quality meat. No matter how perfect your cook if the quality of the steak is bad, it will never turn out that way.
  2. If the steak is aged, it will be tough and chewy. Most beef is either dry-aged by hanging in a cool place for around two weeks or wet-aged for about four days.
  3. The more fat in the cut, the more tender the meat will be. Regardless of the type of steak you’re cooking, the fat content will usually determine whether it turns out chewy or tender.
  4. Overcooking is the main reason that steak made by home chefs is tough and chewy. The cooking process should be done in a calculated manner, with a meat thermometer inserted into the meat to check its temperature. Cooking a steak for too long can lead to dry, tough meat with a high concentration of collagen, making it difficult to chew.

How to make tough steak tender? 7 Best Ways to Tenderize Steak

This article will give you 7 easy tricks on how to make tough steak tender.

1: Quickest Way To Tenderize Steaks

Tenderizing is the process of breaking down the interior fibers of meat so that it is easier to cook. This process is useful for cooking tough cuts of steaks.

There are a few ways to tenderize steak, but it depends on what kind of steak you have and the way in which you plan to prepare it. It is often considered best for meat that needs time to cook or marinate.

You can tenderize steaks by slow cooking, marinating, or pounding them.

Tenderizing steaks is traditionally done at home with a meat mallet or rolling pin, but scoring it with a knife, or poking holes into the surface with a fork are also good alternatives.

1: How to Tenderize Steak with Meat Mallet

A meat mallet is designed to cut up the meat, to make it softer and tastier. A mallet looks like a hammer with blunted spikes at the top. You can poke & pound the steak with the spikey hammer so that it’s more juicy & tasty. It is the easiest way to make tough steak tender.

The question is how to use it?, how hard do you hit? how long do you hit? do you season the meat before or after tenderizing? The below video will answer all these questions.

2. How to Tenderize Steak with Meat Cuber

A Meat cuber is a machine that can flatten out beef. They are great for tenderizing large hunks of meat. Simply place the cut of steak into the machine and turn the handle so that the spikes can tenderize it.

3. Meat tenderization powder

Instead of using a knife or meat mallet, meat tenderization powder can be used to break down muscle fibers in cuts, providing a more appealing texture.

Some steaks cut, such as filet mignon, is already lean and do not require tenderizing. However, tougher cuts of meat like chuck steak, flank steak, skirt steak, sirloin steak, and tri-tip steak can benefit from tenderizing.

The Complete Guide to Cooking a Traeger Ribeye Steak

Flank steak: Flank steak can be a rather tough cut of beef. But, because it lacks fat, it will soften up in the marinade if you use either lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to tenderize it.

Skirt steak: Skirt steak is a long, thin strip of meat that comes in handy for fajitas and beef teriyaki. It’s actually quite tough on its own, so it can help to soften it up with a mallet or marinate the meat before grilling.

Sirloin steak: This tough cut of meat from the cow’s back can be tenderized and grilled slowly for a longer time, which ends up producing a juicy, delicious & flavorful sirloin steak.

The Best Way to Cook Sirloin Steak on Traeger Grill

Tri-tip steak: Tri-tip steaks, known for their triangular shape, can often be tough and chewy. Salt and marinating will help to break down the protein cells and create a nice sear on the grill.

2. Marinade to make tough steak tender

Marinating your steak in acids or enzymes can help break down the meat’s fibers and makes tough steak tender. This process also infuses the steak with flavor from the marinade.

To coat the meat in an acidic solution, add lemon juice, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, or buttermilk to your marinade and let it soak for 30 minutes to an hour or 2 – depending on the size of the cut. Monitor the steak periodically; if the marinade is breaking it down too much, remove it from the marinade.

Try not to overdo the marinade because it adds flavor more than tenderness.

Papaya, pineapple, kiwi, and mangoes are all tropical fruits that contain enzymes that can tenderize meat. These fruits contain papain and bromelain which break down the tough fibers of meat like steak and chicken.

Simply adding a small amount of fruit to your marinade is one way you can kick off the tenderizing process.

Marinating is the best technique to make tough steak tender especially when cooking meat like flank steak or skirt steak.

3. Tenderize Steak With Salt

Whether you’re marinating the steaks or not, make sure to add salt to them. It is a secret ingredient used by most chefs that makes tough steak tender and juicy instead of tough and chewy.

Salt is a great way to remove some of the moisture from a steak. The salt will help break down the protein muscle fibers and make them tender.

The salt will make sure that the meat is not too dry, and it will also make sure that the juices are not lost and makes the flavor more concentrated.

When you add salt to the steaks they will become deeper red in color which means it’s working and will taste better. You can simply rub kosher salt on the steaks and can keep them for a longer period of time for a night or two.

Note: Salt toughens the meat, add a second ingredient that may be black pepper or sugar in addition to the salt. It will counter-effect the toughening effect of salt and will also give a crispy crust to steak when cooked.

4. Keep the steaks at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking

Don’t refrigerate the steaks for 30 minutes before cooking. This is particularly significant with lean cuts steaks. Since there’s not a ton of fat on these cuts, they can be overcooked easily. Allowing the meat to sit on a room temperature counter for 30 minutes to an hour prior to cooking will assist it with cooking more evenly.

5. Cook Steak to the Right internal Temp

Steaks can be dry when they are overcooked and chewy when they are half cooked. A meat thermometer comes in handy to make tough steak tender.

If you like your steak juicy, tender, and soft, you presumably love medium rare steak.

Medium rare steaks are Cooked to 130-135°F (54-57°C), at this temperature the steaks muscles are simply beginning to contract however aren’t yet removing their juices in general, and, for some individuals, that implies lawlessness.

Some people, ride the line excessively near uncooked, and they lean toward something somewhat more noticeably cooked and done.

The medium steak temp is 135-145°F (57-63°C) and gives a somewhat less raw feeling to the steak, though also less tender and juicy. (The most effective way to get that temperature spot on is, obviously, to utilize a quick and precise Thermapen® ONE thermometer.)

6. Set the steak to rest for 5 minutes after cooking

It is important to let the steak rest after cooking, at the very least for about 5-10 minutes. This will allow it to reabsorb and distribute the moisture that has been constricted within it during the process of cooking.

A lot of people tend to cut into their meat right away.

Which is counterproductive because the juices will flow out of it and make it dry. If you are cooking steak for dinner at home, it is important to let the steak rest. This will make the steak tender, taste juicier, and bring out more flavor.

An average guideline for a steak is five minutes per inch in thickness or ten minutes for each pound of meat. This will help in keeping the juices to stay inside the steaks, which is great for preventing dryness.

Here are three ways you can measure how long to rest your steak or meat before its served:

  • If you’re pressed for time, aim to give your meat a minimum of 5-6 minutes to rest before cutting. If you let it rest for longer, even better!
  • For a thick cut of meat, allow it to rest for 10-20 minutes before cutting.
  • Allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes per inch of thickness.
  • When you are finished cooking the steak, transfer it to a dish or serving platter and loosely cover it with aluminum foil. This will maintain the heat of the steak. After the appropriate resting time, remove the foil and cut and serve it.

7. Slice the steak against the grain 

The best way to cut a steak is to slice it against the grain. This technique will make the meat more tender and easier to chew. Grain is the direction that which the muscles are aligned.

In Beef cuts, the grains of the meat are easier to identify in tougher ones, like flank, hanger, and skirt steak – they have a more defined pattern. In leaner cuts – such as tenderloin – the grain isn’t as clear.

The first step is to identify where the muscle fibers in the meat are aligning, then slice in the opposite direction.

We go against the grain by cutting across it or shortening fibers, rather than cutting in the same direction that they are laid. This will make steak tender more flavorful, juicier, and easier to chew.

Reasons Why Steak Can Become Tough After Cooking

There are a few reasons why steak can become tough after cooking:

1- Overcooking

I think the top reason why a steak become tough is overcooking. Overcooking a steak can cause the meat to become tough and chewy.

When meat is cooked, the proteins in the muscle fibers shrink and become dense, which can cause the meat to become tough. It’s important to cook the steak to the appropriate temperature and not overcook it.

2- Not letting the steak rest

As I mentioned above after cooking a steak, it’s important to let it rest for a few minutes before cutting it. This allows the juices in the meat to redistribute and be absorbed back into the meat, making it more tender and juicy.

3- Not tenderizing

Some cuts of steak are naturally tougher than others, so it’s important to tenderize the meat before cooking it. You can choose any method from the list at the top to physically break down the fibers.

4- Choosing the wrong cut

Different cuts of steak have different levels of tenderness. For example, a ribeye steak is typically more tender than a flank steak. It’s important to choose the right cut of steak for the cooking method you plan to use.

7 Most Tender Steak Cuts In The Market

Related >> The Complete Guide to Cooking a Ribeye on Traeger

How To Fix Tough Cooked Steak?

Tenderizing a steak after it’s cooked is not ideal, as the heat from cooking will have already caused the proteins in the meat to contract and toughen.

However, you can try the following techniques to soften tough cooked steak.

1- Slice it thinly

If you slice the steak thinly against the grain, it can help break up the tough fibers and make the meat easier to chew.

2- Add a sauce

A flavorful sauce can help mask the toughness of the meat and make it more enjoyable to eat. Try a sauce with acidity, such as chimichurri or salsa verde, which can also help break down the meat fibers.

3- Sous-vide

Sous-vide is a cooking technique where food is vacuum-sealed and cooked in a water bath at a low, consistent temperature.

Sous-vide can help tenderize tough meats, so you could try cooking the steak sous-vide after it’s already been cooked. However, this can be a more time-consuming and specialized technique.

Wrap up: How To Fix Tough Cooked Steak

Probably the easiest way is to tenderize the steak before cooking it with a meat mallet. Almost every kitchen has a meat mallet. Always use salt to season steak before the tenderizing process. You need to use one more extra ingredient with the salt.

Salt toughens the meat, and add black pepper or sugar in addition to the salt. It will counter-effect the toughening effect of salt and will also give a crispy crust to steak when cooked.

Related Articles:

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Best Traeger Steak Temp And Time Guide You’ll Need

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