How can I make my steaks tender?

Grilled Rib-eye Steaks
Photo: Ralph Anderson, Tina Cornett; Styling: Rose Nguyen

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If you have a cooking question, our expert, Marge Perry, can answer it. Marge teaches home cooks in her classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She is an award-winning food writer, longtime contributor for Cooking Light and a number of other leading food magazines, author of the blog A Sweet and Savory Life, columnist for Newsday, and has contributed to over 20 cookbooks.

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"Please, please help me make a steak my father can chew it after it's cooked. I've tried rib-eyes and porterhouse, frying it fast, slow, broiling, etc. I feel like a failure!" Bonnie

Bonnie, you are not alone in your frustration. While certain cuts are more tender than others, the key to making the most out of any cut of meat is to remember this: All meat is most tender when cooked very briefly or for hours.

Think of how a raw piece of meat feels when you press it with your finger—it gives really easily. Now think of a pot roast or brisket that's been simmering for hours: the practically falls apart as you eat it.

Cook a steak to rare or medium rare and it will be far more tender than if you cook it to medium. The toughest, chewiest steak is "well done". (In fact, if you over cook the steak to well-done, you might as well keep going—eventually it will cook so long it gets tender again).

If your Dad wants his meat cooked to medium or well-done, your best bet is to choose a filet mignon (beef tenderloin). Compared to other cuts cooked to the same degree of doneness, it will be more tender—but you should know that it is not as flavorful a cut as rib-eye or porterhouse.

For more tips on grilling meats, see our video How to Grill Steak.

Marge Perry
Jun, 2010
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