There are few things more disappointing at the dining table than biting into a delicious-looking steak and having it be tough and chewy. Unfortunately, this is far too often a common occurrence, particularly for those just starting with steak cooking. So, what went wrong? Why is your steak chewy? Let’s break down some of the common reasons why along with ways you can guarantee a more flavorful steak next time.
Table of Contents
- Why is my steak chewy?
- Can you fix a chewy steak after cooking?
- Must-read related posts
Why is my steak chewy?
Your tough and chewy steak is likely due to one (or more) of these reasons: poor defrosting method, overcooking, undercooking, the choice of steak cut, or a lack of meat resting after cooking.
Poor defrosting method
If you started with a frozen steak, how you defrost it can play a large factor in how tender it will be. In fact, some choices you make can lead to a chewier steak. For instance, if you defrost a frozen steak in a microwave, you are technically cooking the steak some prior to it hitting the pan or grill. This can easily lead to overcooking. The same can happen if you defrost your steak in warm water.
Read our post on the best ways to defrost a steak to make smart choices here. Overall, defrosting using a refrigerator (overnight) is the best solution, but there are others too.
One of the most common reasons for a chewy steak is simply overcooking it. This is especially true with leaner cuts of meat, which can quickly become dry and tough when cooked for too long. The best way to avoid overcooked steak is to use a reliable meat thermometer, so you can cook a perfect steak every time.
Overall, eating your steak at medium rare (130 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit) will tend to be the best temp to stop steak chewiness. Above medium (medium-well and well done) will lead to the chewiest steaks.
If you’re concerned about cooking beyond medium-rare, try cooking your steak on a lower heat. This will take longer, but you’ll have more time to react to the temperature of your steak.
On the other hand, undercooking your steak can also make it chewy. This is because the proteins in the meat will not have had enough time to break down and become tender. The best way to avoid this is, again, to use a meat thermometer and cook the meat enough to reach medium-rare.
Choosing less tender cuts
Another common issue is picking the wrong cut of meat. Not all steaks are primed to deliver the tenderest of meals. Some cuts are simply tougher and less tender than others, no matter how you cook them. So, if you’re looking for a juicy, tender steak, it’s important to choose wisely at the grocery store or butcher. Generally speaking, the more marbled a piece of meat is, the more tender it will be.
Look for steaks with lots of white streaks running through them. These streaks are called “marbling,” and (in regard to chewiness) they indicate that the steak is more likely to be tender and juicy.
Here are a few of the most tender steak cuts to look for:
– Filet mignon: This is the king of tender steaks. Cut from the beef tenderloin, filets are known for being incredibly soft and juicy. They’re also one of the more expensive steak cuts, so save them for special occasions.
– Ribeye: This steak is cut from the rib section of the cow and is known for its intense flavor. It’s also quite marbled, which makes it tender and juicy.
– New York strip: Cut from the short loin section of the cow, this steak is a bit leaner than the ribeye, but still has excellent flavor and tenderness.
Leaner cuts like top round, bottom round, flank steak, skirt steak, and sirloin are all more prone to be naturally chewy and can become even chewier with a modest amount of overcooking.
Not enough rest time after cooking it
Finally, even if you cook your steak perfectly and choose the right cut of meat, it can still end up chewy if you don’t let it rest properly before cutting into it. When meat is cooked, its muscle fibers contract and squeeze out all of the delicious juices.
If you immediately start cutting into your steak, all of those juices will run out, leaving you with a dry, tough piece of meat. So, be sure to let your steak rest for at least five to seven minutes before cutting into it, so all of those juices can redistribute throughout the meat.
–> Learn More: Steak Resting Time – How Long Is Right?
Can you fix a chewy steak after cooking?
Unfortunately, once a steak is chewy, there’s not much you can do to salvage it. If your steak is too tough to eat, the best thing to do is cut it into smaller pieces and add it to a stew or sauce. Or, serve your overcooked steak with a decent amount of sauce on the side to provide moisture to the meat.
Must-read related posts
- How To Tenderize Skirt Steak: This steak cut tends towards chewiness, so tenderizing it prior is a good idea.
- The Red Liquid In Steak – What Is It? Many think it’s blood, but you may be surprised.
- Overcooked Steak? How To Salvage A Meal: As mentioned, you do have some options for salvaging a meal out of that tough steak.