Divas on a Dime: Enjoy tender, juicy steak without spending a fortune

It happens. I get emails asking for advice. This one pops up often enough that I’m dedicating this column to it. “My family loves a nice juicy steak, but our budget doesn’t allow it. When I buy the cheaper cuts of beef they turn out tough and chewy. What can I do to make the cheaper cuts turn out better?”

The truth is, if you ruin a ribeye it’s on you. But making cheaper cuts of meat come out tender requires skill and I’m here to let you in on the secrets.

First, here are the less expensive cuts I’m talking about: London broil, petite sirloin, skirt and flank steak, top round, bottom round. If it goes on sale for under $5 a pound I’m talking about it.

Here are nine strategies for making your less tender steaks come out delectable every time.

Marinate the heck out of them. You gotta think ahead because these cuts require a marinade to help soften tissue and infuse flavor. While a tender cut might only need 30 minutes in the marinade, a tougher cut needs 12 to 24 hours. Make sure your marinade contains salt and sugar for flavor balance.

Add an acid. When making a marinade be sure you include a mild acid like wine, vinegar, lemon or lime juice or even yogurt to soften the protein fibers. They infuse flavor, too. Bonus.

Employ natural enzyme tenderizers. Adding papaya and pineapple juice to marinades and enzyme powders to rubs naturally tenderizes meat. Pineapple contains a natural meat tenderizer enzyme called bromelain, while papaya contains an enzyme called papain. You find these enzymes in juice or in meat tenderizer powders found in the supermarkets.

Score! Use a sharp knife to make shallow, cross-hatch patterned score marks on both sides of the meat. They should be less than 1/8 of an inch deep to slice fibers, add to the absorption of marinades and prevent steaks curling during cooking.

Get a meat tenderizer tool. Look for this amazing kitchen gadget online. Tenderizers have very sharp stainless-steel needles that make tiny holes in the meat, breaking down tissue while letting the marinade saturate deep into the meat and lets heat penetrate, which lowers cooking time. Win, win, win!

Don’t cook cold steaks. Let your steaks come to room temperature before cooking. Heat shocks cold meat, causing it to contract. A room temperature steak takes less time to come to a safe cooking temperature, so it doesn’t lose as much moisture.

Don’t overcook them. You want these steaks cooked rare or medium rare at the most. If you like well-done steaks, you’re not going to be happy. Eat chicken.

Get enough rest. Rest your steaks at least 10 minutes before cutting into them to allow time for the juices to redistribute. If you don’t, the juices run all over the cutting board instead of your mouth.

Slice thoughtfully. Cut thin slices against the grain of the meat to make even tough steaks seem tender.

I hope this inspires you do watch the sales for a nice cheap hunk o’ beef to cook to Diva perfection.

Frugal Food by Patti Diamond from Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous! Website and blog – www.divasonadime.com Join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom.