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What Steaks Have the Most Connective Tissue?

One of the secrets to cooking great steaks is to know how to cook them and how to pick a good one. And steaks with the most connective tissue often end up rubbery and chewy. So in case you want to avoid them, what steaks have the most connective tissue?

The steaks with the most connective tissue include round steaks, tri-tip steak, chuck steaks, flank steak, and London broil. But of all of those, steaks from the chuck area have the most connective tissue. 

The chuck area is the cow’s entire shoulder region.

The reason it’s the cut with the most connective tissue is that it’s linked to the legs, which receive a lot of exercise. So, the muscles are strong but not tender.

As the cow moves around, the chuck gets stronger and tougher.

In the article, we’ll explore which steaks have the most connective tissue and which ones are the most tender. But we’ll also look at how to cook a steak with a lot of connective tissue so it is the most tender it can be.

Let’s get into it.

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Does ribeye have connective tissue?

Ribeye does have connective tissue, but not as much as many other types of steak. Steak is essentially muscle-bound by connective tissue. Ribeye is tender as the muscles in that area have less connective tissue and get used less.

First off, what is connective tissue?

It is an integral component of steak. As the name suggests, it connects. Some types of connective tissue connect muscles to bones and ligaments, while others connect bones to bones.

There’s another variant known as silverskin, which covers the whole muscles. And, lastly, a type that covers each fiber. It’s invisible.

Connective tissue is made up of collagen membranes, tendons, and ligaments. 

The two main types of connective tissues are collagen and elastin. Now, meat is a mix of muscles, fat, water, and connective tissues.

It follows that the ribeye must have connective tissues that connect it to bones and ligaments. The ribeye is 3 different muscles: longissimus dorsi, complexus, and spinalis.

So, it has connective tissue that links it to bones and ligaments.

But it doesn’t have as much connective tissue as the chuck and the legs. Because these parts are used a lot, they are tough and can make for a chewy steak.

By comparison, the meat in the ribeye is tender, seeing as that area of the cow is not used as much.

But are all steaks chewy?

The answer, which I get into in a recent article, is, of course, no. In it, I shared the kind of steaks that aren’t chewy and how to cook ANY steak, so it’s not chewy.

But I also looked at whether steak gets more tender the longer you cook it and which ones you’ll destroy by overcooking.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How do you break down the connective tissue in steak?

Break down connective tissues in steaks by using an acidic marinade, cooking for a long time at a low temperature, or using a meat mallet to tenderize the steak before cooking.

Let’s check out these methods in greater detail.

Chemical methods

Marinating the steak is one of the methods for breaking down the connective tissue. It’s best to have the steak in contact with the marinade. That way, the enzymes can work on it.

Wine and lemon juice are great examples.

The acids in them help break down. Some fruits are also effective; the enzymes they contain work on the tissue. Pawpaw, pineapple, and kiwifruit are awesome.

Mechanical methods

The idea is to break the steak into smaller pieces which naturally breaks down the connective tissue. A meat mallet can be used to beat the steak into submission.

A needler can also be used. It’s a machine that makes fine cuts all over the meat or makes pincushions of it.

You can also cut the steak up into fine cubes.

Cooking methods 

Cook using moist heat at a low temperature and for a long period.

The heat gradually transforms (breaks down) the collagen (connective tissue) into gelatin, which is soft and flavorful. This method is ideal if the cut of the meat is tough.

A tender cut, on the other hand, can be cooked more rapidly, with dry heat, and at a high temperature. It has fewer connective tissues, so the long, slow cooking is unnecessary and would even be counterproductive.

In addition to learning how to break down connective tissue, it’s smart to know the least chewy steak.

You’re in luck because that’s what I looked at in a recent article of mine.

Are all steaks chewy? Are leaner steaks tougher than fatty steak? Can any steak be cooked to be tender? These and a few more are the questions I got into.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

At what temp does connective tissue break down?

Connective tissue begins to break down at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, the collagen begins to turn into rich, liquid gelatin. The breakdown is essentially a process of liquefying collagen. This is when the steak gets tender and flavorful. 

The conversion of collagen into gelatin starts at 120 degrees Fahrenheit and is heightened at 140 degrees, but it’s at 160 degrees and above that it reaches its peak.

At 120 degrees, the steak begins to turn pinkish, but it’s not reached the safe minimum temperature. At 140, the denaturing proper starts, the steak morphs from light pink to brownish grey. At this point, it is medium-rare. But it’s at 160 degrees that the collagen starts dissolving.

It’s fully dissolved at 180 degrees.

As we have seen, the conversion is a function of the temperature and how long the steak is cooked.

Technically, the conversion process is referred to as the denaturing of collagen. The connective tissues are being changed at the molecular level by the heat that is being applied.

Enzymes known as Calpains are also at work. They are responsible for producing an aging effect during cooking and become active between 80- and 105-degrees Fahrenheit.

What breaks down connective tissue in steaks?

Moist heat, acids, and enzymes help in the breakdown of connective tissue in steak. Connective tissues are made up of collagen and elastin (gristle). Elastin is not responsive to heat, so consequently, it should be removed before cooking starts. Collagen, on the other hand, responds to heat. 

At a certain temperature, its denaturing is triggered and occurs at higher temperature levels and over time.

Acids such as those in vinegar and lemon juice. Alcohol is also helpful because the meat is soluble in it. Beer and wine are excellent at tenderizing the steak through the contribution of tannins.

Enzymes help accelerate the cellular reactions and attack the protein networks of tough meat. Ginger and Papaya are examples of effective marinades that facilitate enzymatic marination.

But even if acids and enzymes are not available, slow cooking in moist heat over a long time would gradually break down the connective tissue in steak.

But how do you make a steak with a lot of connective tissue more tender?

I answered that in a recent article where I explained why steak is tough and chewy and what is a good steak tenderizer. I even cover what to do on a steak you’ve already cooked!

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What steaks have the least connective tissue?

Steak from the upper part of a cow that hasn’t received a lot of muscular activity has the least connective tissue, such as the tenderloin, top sirloin, ribeye, T-bone, and porterhouse steaks.

They are not used to assist the cow in walking and thus are not as tough, resulting in a tender and flavorful taste.

Unfortunately, these parts constitute less than 10% of the cow! This is why they are expensive. That’s in addition to the fact that they are delectable. They are of high quality and are rare. So, the law of demand and supply comes to play.

The best steak is rare. That’s the honest truth, no matter what my wife says. So, which grocery store has the best steaks?

In a recent article of mine, I revealed the answer. I also shared what makes one type of steak better than another. And I offered a guide on how to pick the best steak.

Just click the link to read it on my site.


In the article, we learned about the steak with the most connective tissue and found out whether ribeye has connective tissue.

Then, we checked out how to break down the connective tissue in steak. We also explored at what temperature connective tissue breaks down and what breaks it down.

Lastly, we wrapped things up by looking at what steaks have the least connective tissue.

Jeff Campbell