The eye of round is considered one of the leanest and toughest cuts of beef. With very little marbling or fat running through the meat, eye of round steak can end up chewy and dry if not prepared properly. However, there are several methods cooks can use to transform this affordable cut into a tender, juicy steak. By utilizing mechanical tenderizing techniques, proper marinating, and the right cooking methods, you can make eye of round steak as tender as more expensive cuts of meat.
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Mechanical Tenderizing Techniques
One of the most effective ways to tenderize eye of round steak is through mechanical tenderizing techniques that physically break down the tough muscle fibers. Here are some of the most common mechanical techniques:
Pounding with a Meat Mallet
Using a meat mallet to pound the eye of round steak is one of the simplest ways to tenderize it. The pounding action helps break down the collagen and muscle fibers that make this cut tough. When pounding the steak, use a heavy mallet and cover the meat with plastic wrap so the mallet doesn’t rip the meat. Pound on both sides until the steak is about 1/4-inch thick. This thinner cut will be much easier to cook to tenderness.
Scoring the Meat
Scoring is the process of cutting shallow crosshatch slits across the surface of the meat. This can be done with a sharp knife before marinating or cooking. Scoring allows marinades and heat to better penetrate the steak. Make sure to score both sides of the meat in a crisscross pattern.
Using a Jaccard Tenderizer
A Jaccard tenderizer is a handheld tool with dozens of sharp, closely spaced blades. By pressing the blades into the meat, the tool will cut through the connective tissue and fibers to make eye of round more tender. Jaccarding is quick and creates instant results.
Marinating the Meat
A proper marinade can also help tenderize eye of round steak while infusing it with lots of flavor. The acidic properties of the marinade will help break down tough muscle fibers. Here are some top marinade options:
Marinades containing acids like vinegar, wine, yogurt, tomato juice, or citrus juice are excellent choices. The acids in these ingredients will work to tenderize the meat. Allow the steak to marinate in the fridge for at least 2-4 hours.
Enzyme-rich marinades made with ingredients like pineapple, papaya, ginger, and kiwi can also help tenderize eye round steak. These fruits contain enzymes like bromelain and papain which help break down the tough muscle fibers. Marinate the steak for 1-2 hours to prevent the meat from getting mushy.
Dairy-based marinades like buttermilk, yogurt, and sour cream contain lactic acid which breaks down collagen. The enzymes and proteins also boost tenderization. Marinate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
Choosing the right cooking technique is key to keeping eye of round steak tender and juicy. Use these methods:
Slow cooking methods like braising or stewing allow the meat to become fall-apart tender after hours of gentle simmering. Brown the meat first, then cook low and slow in liquid for 2-3 hours until fork tender.
Braising involves browning the meat first, then cooking it in a small amount of liquid like broth at a low temperature for a long time. The extended cooking tenderizes the meat. Braise for 1 1/2 – 3 hours.
With sous vide, the steak is sealed in a bag then cooked for 1-4 hours in hot water maintained at a precise temperature. This tenderizes the meat while retaining moisture. Finish by searing.
Reverse searing is perfect for eye of round roast. Cook at 250°F in the oven until it reaches your desired doneness, then sear the outside in a hot skillet. This keeps the meat tender and juicy.
Tips for Preparing Eye of Round Steak
Follow these tips to maximize the tenderness of your eye of round steak:
Choose the Right Cut
Select whole “baseball” or “top round” cuts rather than pre-sliced steaks which can be less uniform in texture.
Trim Excess Fat and Connective Tissue
Trim off any excess fat, silver skin, or connective tissue which can cause chewiness if not removed.
Season the Meat Properly
Generously season the meat before and after cooking to enhance flavor since eye of round is lean. Use salt, pepper, herbs, and spices.
Allow the Meat to Rest
Letting the steak rest after tenderizing and again after cooking allows juices to redistribute so meat stays moist. Rest for 5-10 minutes.
Slice the Steak Thinly and Against the Grain
After cooking, slice the steak thinly across the grain. This shorter muscle fiber length makes each bite more tender.
Conclusion: Enjoying Tender Eye of Round Steak
With the right preparation techniques, eye of round steak can become as tender and delicious as expensive cuts like ribeye or tenderloin. Investing some extra time into mechanical tenderizing, proper marinating, and the ideal cooking methods transforms this affordable cut into a satisfying steak. Tender and flavorful eye of round steak can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes, from steak sandwiches to fajitas, salads, and more. With a few simple tricks, you can serve incredibly tender, budget-friendly steak any night of the week.