Beef cuts are known by a variety of different names, depending on where you live, and sometimes similar names can mean very different things. For example, rib or ribeye steaks are among the tenderest available, while cross rib steaks -- cut from a specific muscle in the chuck -- are tough and chewy. Cross rib steaks are lean and have excellent flavor, but must be cooked creatively.
Braising Your Steaks
One of the most reliable ways to make cross rib steaks tender and flavorful is to braise them. This means pan-searing the steaks quickly to create rich, browned flavors, then cooking them slowly in broth, sauce, or another flavorful cooking liquid. You can use either a roasting pan or Dutch oven in your oven, at temperatures of 275 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, or a countertop slow cooker. After three to four hours, when the meat is fork-tender, strain and thicken the cooking liquid to make a sauce and serve it with the steaks. They'll have the texture and beefy flavor of a good pot roast.
Tenderizing and Quick Cooking
Cross rib steaks are too tough to be grilled or pan-seared like ribeyes, but it's still possible to use those cooking methods if you tenderize the steaks first. Use a meat mallet to flatten each steak until it's at least 50 percent larger than its original size, or up to double its size. This frays and severs the muscle fibers, making them tender. The thin steaks can be fried or grilled, or prepared as "chicken-fried" steak. Alternatively, buy a needle-type "jackard" tenderizer and use it to puncture the steak and shorten the muscle fibers all across its surface. This doesn't flatten the steak, so it can be grilled normally when you're done.
Making Thin Cuts
A third way to enjoy the rich flavor of cross rib steak is by cutting it into thin slices or strips. You can treat it as a sort of London broil, by grilling it to medium-rare and then cutting across the grain into thin slices. The slices will be pleasantly chewy, with a good steak flavor. Alternatively, cut the steak across the grain into thin strips and use them in stir-fried dishes. Whether the meat is sliced before or after cooking, cutting it thin shortens the stringy muscle fibers and makes it easier to chew.
What Doesn't Work
A number of other approaches to tenderizing tough cuts of meat are not always effective. For example, the traditional advice to marinate tough steaks has little effect on tenderness. Although it adds flavor, the acidic marinade only tenderizes the surface of the meat, leaving the rest just as chewy. Only buttermilk, with its natural enzymes, has any real effect. Commercial meat tenderizers, which use protein-digesting enzymes derived from tropical fruit, are more reliable. Unfortunately, with large pieces of meat such as a cross rib steak, they're likely to give the surface of the steak an unpleasantly mushy texture while leaving the middle tough. They're most useful if you cut up the steaks for stir-fry or kebabs.
- The Meat Source.com: Cross Rib Steak (Beef Shoulder Steak)
- Fine Cooking: Marinades Add Flavor, But Don't Always Tenderize
- On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen; Harold McGee
- Photo Credit Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images