How to Make Cube Steak Tender
February 1, 2021
Americans love meat.
According to research, the only country in the world that eats more meat than America is Luxembourg. That’s because we love all kinds, even unique cuts.
If you think of yourself as a “meatatarian," then you need to give cube steak a try despite what you may have heard.
Cube steak is a beautiful cut of meat because it’s relatively inexpensive while still providing an exquisite taste. However, if not cooked properly, it can be rather tough.
Keep reading to learn all about cube steak and how to make it as tender as possible with simple recipes. When you’re ready to try it for yourself, our 100% grass-fed minute steak is a cubed steak that tastes great in all of these dishes.
What Is Cube Steak?
Let’s start with the basics. This meat comes from the hind end or shoulder of the cow. Butchers can make it from just about any part of the cow, but these two portions are the most popular because they’re tougher.
Once the meat has been removed from the cow, the butcher will run it through a tenderizer. Once complete, you’ll notice small indentations on the meat, which gives the cube steak its recognizable look.
If beef isn’t your thing, you may be able to find variations made from elk, deer, or pork instead.
What Part of The Cow Does Cube Steak Come From?
As I mentioned, “cube steak” doesn’t refer to a specific cut, though top round and top sirloin are the most popular sections to use. Instead, cube steak refers to the shape of the tenderizing machine's indentations on the meat.
Other names for cube steak include Swiss steak, cubed steak, bucket steak, or minute steak. All of the names for this versatile butcher’s cut have to do with how it’s processed, how it looks, or how quick it is to cook up.
It’s such a popular cut because it’s flavorful and versatile, but also because it’s typically cheaper. Since it’s made from tougher cuts, cube steak doesn’t command the high price of a filet or T-bone, but offers just as much flavor or more.
Making Tender Cube Steak
The butcher will have run the cut through a tenderizer before you purchase it. However, if you don’t prepare it right, you may negate that tenderizing work.
Try these techniques to ensure your cube steak recipe isn’t working against you.
Preparing Cube Steak
Cube steak undergoes a tenderizing process that breaks up the muscle fibers to make it easier to chew. But you can further enhance the texture of your steak by preparing it the right way before you cook.
A few ways to make your cube steak more tender include:
- Marinating the meat in a buttermilk or vinegar-based marinade
- Using a home meat mallet on your steaks to break down the muscle fibers even more
- Slicing against the grain before quick-cooking methods like stir-frying and sautéing
But the real trick is to make sure you’re cooking your cube steak the right way.
In the Skillet
One of the most popular ways to cook cube steak right is in the skillet over medium-high heat. All you need to do to get great results is to follow this simple recipe:
- First, season the meat with salt and pepper.
- After, prepare your large skillet by heating a tablespoon of olive oil. Once it’s hot, place the meat in the pan.
- Make sure you don’t crowd the skillet. If you don’t give each piece of meat enough room, you’ll be more likely to overcook it and make it tough.
- Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on each side at medium-high heat, totaling 4 to 6 minutes.
- Check that the internal temperature has reached 145 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure it’s thoroughly cooked.
- Once you’ve done that, your steak is good to go.
- Consider serving it with hearty vegetables to round out your meal.
Making Chicken Fried Steak
Another popular way to prepare cube steak and make it tender is to follow a chicken fried steak recipe.
Chicken fried steak is a pretty simple method: coat your cube steaks in seasoned flour, then dip them in an egg wash, then back into the flour before frying them in oil and serving them with gravy.
This adds a lot of extra calories and fat, which is undoubtedly delicious, but best eaten in moderation.
If you’ve tried making chicken fried steak before and found yourself wondering, “Why is my breading not sticking?” the answer usually comes down to two issues: either you didn’t move from breading your steak to frying it quickly enough, or your oil wasn’t hot enough. The same issues come up with breaded and fried meats of all kinds.
Why Is It Called Chicken Fried Steak?
The name chicken fried steak confuses a lot of people, and for good reason. Chicken fried steak is named in honor of the cooking method, not because of the cut of meat. The process of dredging cube steak in flour and egg wash, then frying it, is almost exactly the same as classic fried chicken.
Even the Encyclopedia Britannica agrees on the origin of the name.
Cube Steak and Gravy
Adding gravy to your recipe can keep your steak tender, and it’s the ingredient that makes this dish truly comfort food.
Here are your options:
Slow-Cooked with Gravy
Consider using a slow cooker to gradually heat your cube steak in beef broth over many hours without having to worry about it.
To follow this recipe, you’ll still need a skillet; however, you won’t heat it as long as the recipe above. Cook the cube steak in oil for about 1 or 2 minutes on each side.
After you’ve browned the meat:
- Move it into the slow cooker.
- Let it cook on low for 6 to 8 hours to end up with perfectly tender cube steak.
- Once the slow cooker finishes cooking it, top it off with some delicious gravy to take your dish to the next level.
Pan-Fried with Gravy
You could also add gravy to a pan-fried cube steak recipe to increase its delectability.
Consider giving this recipe a try:
- First, coat the cube steak in a mixture of salt and pepper, onion powder, paprika, garlic powder, and flour.
- Then add cooking oil to the pan on medium-high heat and add the meat once the pan has heated up.
- After cooking it for 5 minutes on each side, remove the meat from the pan, place it on a plate, and cover it with aluminum foil.
- Now it’s time to turn your attention to making the gravy.
- Using the same pan, add ranch mix, beef broth, and onions. Heat this mixture until the onion becomes translucent.
- After that, all you need to do is add the cut back into the pan for a few moments to heat it back up, and you’re ready to serve.
- Consider pairing with mashed potatoes to create a hearty and full meal.
Storing Cube Steak
Once you’ve cooked your amazingly tender cube steak recipe, you might be wondering what to do with any leftovers (if you have any!).
After the cut cools, place it in a Tupperware container that will keep the air out. Then you can choose to put it in the refrigerator if you plan to eat it in the next few days, or you can put it in the freezer if you think you might not get to it for a bit longer.
Reheating Cube Steak
When you’re ready to enjoy the rest of your delicious meal, there are a few ways to go about reheating it.
In the Microwave
While this method is the simplest, it also holds the most significant potential for drying out your cube steak. Be careful not to overheat it. It’s best to heat it in short increments and test the steak after each one.
On the Stovetop
To use this method, you’ll start much like you did when cooking the steak:
- Add olive oil to a skillet
- Once the olive oil is warm, add your cut
- Carefully watch your steak and flip it every minute until cooked to your liking.
While this may take a tad longer, the moisture savings are worth it.
Why Is Cube Steak So Tough?
Despite the tenderizing that cube steak gets, a lot of home cooks find it comes out tough. The main reason for this is the nature of the cut itself. It comes from some of the tougher cuts on a cow, and on a 100% grass-fed, pasture-raised cow, these cuts can end up even firmer than average.
The top round and top sirloin have a lot of connective tissue, and that makes them more likely to be chewy and dense. Tenderizing the cuts with a machine helps break down the fibers, but it’s not always a perfect solution.
The biggest factor in a cube steak’s texture is cooking. If you cook it too long on high heat, the muscle fibers will tighten up, leaving you with a tough and leathery chew rather than a juicy and tender cut. That’s why we recommend cooking it quickly or going the low-and-slow route with plenty of liquid to braise it in.
Just because cube steak is inexpensive doesn’t mean that it can’t make a tasty meal for your family. With this versatile cut of meat and the right recipe, you’ll cook a filling and delicious dinner of comfort food while staying within your budget.
Any dish will taste better with our 100% grass-fed beef, ethically raised on regenerative pastures. We’ve got you covered with delivery from our family farm to your door, anywhere in the continental USA.