Are All Steaks Chewy? [Complete Temp & Cooking Guide]


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Steaks are definitely one of the delicacies most people love. But there are a lot of different cuts to choose from when it comes to buying steaks, with some being less tender than others. So are all steaks chewy?

Here’s what I know based on my experience:

Not all steaks are chewy, and many are tender and flavorful. The steaks that come from the parts of the cow that get used a lot, often leaner muscles, tend to be tough and chewy, while parts such as the loin are not chewy at all if prepared correctly.

In this article, we’ll explore what kind of steak isn’t chewy, how to cook steak that is not chewy, and we’ll find out if steak gets more tender the longer it is cooked. 

We’ll also look at whether steak gets more tender if it is boiled and conclude with why grilled steak could be tough AND how to fix it.

Let’s dive right in…

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What kind of steak isn’t chewy?

The steaks that are the least chewy and most tender include the tenderloin where the filet mignon comes from, the rib area where ribeye and prime rib come from, and the short loin area where the New York strip comes from.

And all of those come from the midsection of the cow.

Not surprisingly, these aren’t that close to the front legs or the back legs. So in walking endlessly in fields, as cows do, they aren’t the muscles getting used the most.

So naturally, steaks from those areas are the most tender.

The parts of the cow that get exercised a lot, such as near the legs, resulting in tough cuts that would most likely end up being chewy.

Those potentially chewy cuts include:

  • Round
  • Flank
  • Shank
  • Chuck
  • Brisket
  • London broil

But what if you already have a steak ready to cook that is one of those on that list? Can you make a chewy steak more tender?

To know how to make steak more tender, check out a recent article of mine where I shared 11 simple tips. Get started by buying USDA Prime or Choice beef. Dry-age or grass-fed are also excellent options. There’s even a way to make a steak you’ve already cooked a little more tender!

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How do I cook a steak so it’s not chewy?

To minimize chewiness in a steak when cooking, apply salt to the steak for an hour before cooking and slice it against the grain about 5 minutes after removing it from the heat. But for tough cuts, cook it low and slow, marinate it, beat it with a mallet before cooking, or braise the meat.

Let’s check out a couple of these methods.

Cook Low and Slow

Heat is probably the most effective tenderizer. 

If you cook the steak long enough, the collagen, which is a part of the connective tissues that makes it tough and chewy, would be broken down into gelatin, which is soft and jiggly. Ideally, this happens between 160 and 200 F. 

This would take a long time. So, you’ll need to be patient. I bet you would forget the long hours once the aroma starts wafting around the house.

Beat the Meat

Meat is essentially made up of muscle fibers that have been toughened through use. 

One of the effective ways to end up with a not chewy steak is to simply beat the meat into submission before you start cooking it.

Actually, you don’t have to expend too much energy if you use a mallet. It would help break down the fibers, making it a lot easier to cook.

Braising 

Braising is a moist-heat cooking method where you ensure the meat is immersed in liquid and is left at a gentle simmer until the collagen is broken down.

Does steak get more tender the longer you cook it?

Not every steak gets more tender from being cooked longer. Tenderloin, ribeye, or New York strip would all get tough and dry if overcooked. But cuts such as brisket, chuck, flank, or round can be made more tender if cooked low and slow for a longer period.

And of course, the most classic example of slow and low would be brisket.

What do I mean by slow and low? Well, if I’m grilling a ribeye, I want my grill about as hot as I can get it. I have a Traeger Ironwood 650 and love it. But it only goes up to 500° F. 

So I want to cook that ribeye at that high temperature for as short a period of time as needed for the internal temperature to get to the right temp.

Not sure what internal temp is best? Here’s a guide.

Doneness Perfect Internal Temp Color of the meat inside
Rare 125° F 52° C The Center of the meat is cool and red
Medium-Rare 135° F 57° C The Center is still red but now warm
Medium 145° F 63° C The center is pink and warm
Medium-Well 150° F 66° C The center is now only slightly pink
Well Done 160° F 71° C Almost no pink
Brisket 203°F 95° C Perfect

And to check that internal temp, you’ll need a great meat thermometer like this one on Amazon. I use this one too and it’s great. And it’s not just for meat and poultry. It works great to check the oil for deep frying, making candy, and a host of other things too.

But for slow and low, I don’t want my grill (or pan or oven) anywhere near as hot as 500.

No, I might want it closer to 275° F. Then, I may want to cook it for hours. Brisket for sure needs anywhere from 8 hours to 14 hours depending on the size of the brisket and the temp of the grill (some may go down to 225° F).

So, it makes sense that a different cut that’s tough may need to be cooked for a long time before it can become tender. 

In fact, this is actually the case if you’re cooking tough cuts such as brisket, chuck, rump, flank, and round. 

But, it’s good to note that even when the steak requires to be cooked for a long time, slow and low is the way to go, as it ensures that the meat is evenly exposed to the heat. 

If the temperature is too high, the steak will be dry tough!

Does boiling steak make it tender?

Certain tougher cuts of beef such as chuck or round will become more tender when boiled or braised. The steak is being exposed to moisture and heat, naturally, the collagen is being broken down, which is what makes a steak tough.

Boiling or braising can result in tender steak. But, it has to be done right. A gentle simmer is a way to go rather than a full boil. If the heat is too much, the reverse might be the result!

Again, those tougher cuts which could be successfully boiled or braised are:

  • Round
  • Flank
  • Shank
  • Chuck
  • Brisket
  • London broil

Elastin and collagen are connective tissue muscles that hold the meat together. 

Both are proteins that break down when exposed to heat. So, boiling steak makes it tender. But, it can be overdone.  You can undercook, which is dangerous for one’s health. And, you can also overcook the steak.

So, when you’re boiling, you want a “slow-and-steady” approach rather than boiling the steak at full blast. 

That said, boiling is probably inappropriate for premium cuts seeing as they’re naturally tender. But it is okay for tough cuts such as the chuck, brisket, and rump.

Want to know which grocery store has the best steak? 

After all, even the best cuts of beef could be chewy if the quality of the meat was poor. Check out a recent article where I compared the quality at several grocers and came up with a clear winner. 

I also included a guide on the parts of the cow different steaks are cut from. And what makes one steak better than another.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Why is my grilled steak tough?

Grilled steak could be tough if it was overcooked. For medium, the internal temperature of the beef when removed from heat should be 145° F. But if it was cooked at too low of a temperature, which requires a longer cooking time, it could also result in a tough steak.

Steaks such as filet mignon, ribeye, or New York Strips naturally lend themselves to being grilled at a high temperature for as short a period of time as needed to get to the right internal temperature.

I set my Traeger pellet grill to the max when doing steak (500° F in my case). But even higher than that is OK too. 

If I only set my grill to 350° F, a filet mignon would take a lot longer to get to medium doneness. And that extra cooking time is likely going to make it tougher and chewier too. Like most things in life, grilling requires some skill. 

Also, a good meat thermometer is crucial for helping you make sure the meat gets taken off the grill or stovetop at the right time. Again, I like this one on Amazon, and I use mine all the time.

One of the reasons I like that one is it’s not only for meat and poultry. It works great for candy, deep frying, and pretty much anything you need a quick temp read on. Over 3,400 perfect reviews can’t be wrong!

But ultimately, we need to learn how to buy the right steak and how to prepare and grill it in such a manner that even seasoned pitmasters would be envious.

To help with that, check out Is Prime Steak Worth It? A recent article, where I examined and taste-tested several types of steak to see if the extra money Prime costs is worth it.

I also explained that despite the differences between Certified Angus USDA, regular USDA Choice, grass-fed, and USDA Prime. But which one tasted best?

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Conclusion

We explored what kind of steak isn’t chewy and how to cook steak that is not chewy. 

But we also found out whether steak gets more tender the longer it is cooked. And we concluded by looking at whether steak gets tender if it is boiled and why grilled steak could be tough.

Looking for the best beef (and chicken) and unhappy with what your local store has?

Now thanks to Cooks Venture, you can get pasture-raised meats delivered right to your door with free fast shipping.

Once you try it, you’ll be astounded at how much better the quality is! Imagine the taste of that grass-fed ribeye fresh off your grill!

Use code TRYCV at checkout for $20 off your first box! – CLICK HERE to take a look.

No doubt you’ve seen Cooks Venture raved about by Forbes and The Washington Post. Now it’s your turn!

Just chose the combination box that’s right for you; beef, chicken, or the best of both. Flash frozen and vacuum-sealed means it will be farm fresh whenever you’re ready!

With every purchase, you support building a better food system for the animals, the planet, and us. Humanly raised and a proud supporter of the non-GMO Project!

CLICK HERE to see all their amazing offerings on their website.

 

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades. I worked in 9 stores in 4 states, not counting the hundred-plus stores I've assisted in other ways. I was a Global All-Star, a Gold Pen Winner, and won Top-10 Store (company-wide) 3 times in addition to Best New Store (company-wide).

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