One of the marks of a well-cooked and high quality steak is a tender interior when you bite into it. Regardless of your preparation method, keeping steaks moist and tender will translate into a positive dining experience for your guests. By following a few key principles, you can avoid making tough, chewy steaks when they are on the menu.
Choosing the Right Cut
The type of steak you start out with will help produce a tender result. Cuts from the rib and loin area usually produce the tenderest steaks. Look for names such as filet mignon or tenderloin, strip loin, New York strip and rib eye. Cuts from these areas are generally the most expensive, but they are from seldom-used muscles, which means they don't have much connective tissue, increasing the tenderness factor.
Form a Crust
When you choose a steak that is naturally tender, you have the option of searing the outside over high heat and cooking the steak quickly. This forms a crust on the outside of the steak that helps keep the juices on the inside and creates a texture variation when you bite into it. Sear your steak over high heat, leaving it in the pan for at least five minutes before you flip it over. If you try to turn it before the crust has formed, the steak will stick to the bottom of the pan and tear away.
If you overcook your steak, the tenderness will be adversely affected, even if it is a tender cut of beef. You can check to see if your steak is cooked by inserting an instant read meat thermometer into the side. A reading of 140 degrees Fahrenheit indicates medium rare, while medium is around 155 F. A steak will continue to rise in temperature for about 5 or 10 minutes after it's been taken off the heat, so take it off before it reaches the optimum temperature and allow it to rest afterward.
For Tougher Cuts
Not everyone can afford the most tender steaks all the time, so if you find yourself cooking a tougher cut like top sirloin or bottom round steak, make some adjustments to your technique. You can still sear the outside, but afterward, consider braising the steak over low heat to break down the connective tissue. Beef broth and red wine are common braising liquids. Some cooks also tenderize both sides of the steak with a tenderizing mallet before cooking to break down the muscle fibers.