Dear Lynne,  

Why was my steak tough? The cut I bought was named “eye of round.” It looked just like an uncut tenderloin, but was far less expensive. After cutting it into 1-inch thick rounds, I cooked it very fast in a hot pan. Something wasn’t right. 

Cassell in Bloomsburg

Dear Cassell,  

You aren’t the first person to be deceived by the nasty little eye of round, and you won’t be the last. Eye of round is one of the few unredeemable cuts of meat; think tough and tasteless. Save money but eat well with chuck steak, the cut of big flavors and some tenderness.

Several cuts of chuck steak (which is the shoulder of the animal) work. The one with a long flat bone often comes from right next to the prime rib. If you look closely, you’ll see it has a piece of gloriously tender rib eye. Cut that out (freeze the rest for stew or burgers) and you will feast. One-and-a-half-inch thick steaks give you more leeway to cook them just right.

One technique to remember is steaks are more tender when cooked low and slow. Brown them over high, then for maximum juiciness, get the heat down to medium-low and cook slowly, turning often. Medium-rare usually takes about 5 minutes a side. Test by pressing the steak. Very soft is raw, slightly firmer is bloody rare, lots of give with a little bounce back is rare to medium-rare, a bit firmer is medium-rare, firm is medium, bouncing back is medium-well and beyond that the meat isn’t worth eating.

Two last tips. Always let meat rest 10 minutes before cutting it. The juices settle, the meat tenderizes and finishes cooking. With chuck steak’s chewier quality, slice the steak thinly and on an angle, which makes it more tender when you eat it.


See also: How should the butcher prepare my cow?

Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.