Chewy beef is a problem on any cook’s radar and one which will definitely spoil your meal. I’ve questioned whether beef I’ve cooked was overcooked or undercooked before, and so learned more about the cuts and cooking techniques for perfect beef which I will share with you here.
To determine if chewy beef is overcooked or undercooked, it usually comes down to the cut of meat. Lean cuts with less connective tissue, suck as pan-fry steaks, will overcook quickly. Tougher cuts with more connective tissues, such as stewing beef, will require much longer cooking to break this tough tissue down.
Unfortunately, you can’t swap cuts in recipes that easily. If the steak is meant for pan-frying or grilling then it needs less cooking to preserve its delicate texture and avoid becoming chewy. If the beef is a cut meant for slow cooking such as stewing, braising, or smoking then it needs longer cooking to become less tough and chewy.
See below for the cuts which are best for each type of cooking.
Types Of Cuts: Overcooked Or Undercooked
It is important to know the cut of beef that you are working with.
Steaks that are meant for quick frying will not work well for slow cooking. The meat will become dry and chewy and will not tenderize the longer that you cook it – it will just get chewier.
This is because the longer the meat is cooked, the more liquid is released, therefore making it tougher.
For the best steak tips, check out my post on how restaurants make their steaks so tender.
Beef that is meant for slow cooking will be tough from the start. This is because the meat comes from a muscle that was used a lot in the cow’s life so it has more tough tissue called collagen. The collagen molecules are twisted around each other like the fibers in a rope which makes the meat strong and tough.
This is the beef that will tenderize as it cooks because these fibers break down. You will notice that the longer it cooks, the more tender it will become. After 30 minutes or so, you will notice it becoming less chewy, but it may take several hours for it to become the texture you want. That’s why it’s best to not use a tough cut when cooking in a rush, as you can’t speed it up.
The cooking environment is also important. It is best cooked “low and slow” by using less heat and also keeping it moist by stewing, braising, or covering in foil.
Fat has a role too in keeping the meat less chewy and overcooked. The fat melts when it is cooked and lubricates the meat to keep it from going tough quickly. Steaks that have less fat will need less cooking.
Beef Cuts That Need Slow Cooking
Cuts that need slow cooking are any part of the animal which is weight-bearing or muscles that are used a lot. These cuts have different names depending on where you come from. The meat will feel tough when pressed raw and then break down while cooking
Some examples of the tough cuts that need to be slow-cooked include chuck, brisket, round cuts, and shank.
In the UK the shank and round are called shin and silverside.
Beef Cuts That Need Fast Cooking
Cuts that need fast cooking are steaks that have been sliced and meant to be grilled or pan-fried. They are soft to the touch when pressed raw and tighten up while cooking. They include all the well-known names you might find at a steak restaurant.
In the US they are known as T-bone, porterhouse, filet mignon, ribeye, sirloin, top loin, tenderloin, and flank steaks.
In the UK some names are different such as rump, fillet, and flat iron.
How Do You Know If Beef Is Overcooked?
If it’s a steak, it is overcooked when the meat is no longer pink inside. Steaks are usually cooked for 3-4 minutes on each side for medium-rare and will overcook at around 6 minutes on each side. It will look grey and dry inside when sliced open.
Beef for slow-cooking will become overcooked at a much slower rate. It will take around an hour to become tender, and then will become even more tender for several hours if cooked low enough. It will be overcooked when it falls apart too much or becomes dry in texture. Test with a fork or taste it throughout cooking.
How Do You Know If Beef Is Undercooked?
For steaks, you can eat them to your liking as long as the outside is seared to kill off any bacteria. It is undercooked when too pink inside for the person eating it. It can be checked for doneness following cooking times and by pressing a finger into the top to check how soft it is.
Beef for slow cooking is undercooked when it is still chewy! Keep tasting it and cooking it “low and slow” until it becomes tender.
Tips On Cooking Steak Perfectly
- Use a very hot pan or grill
- Use a stop watch to time cooking on each side exactly
- Rest the steak for several minutes after cooking
Tips On Slow Cooking Beef Perfectly
- Cook in liquid or trap in steam with foil to ensure it doesn’t dry out
- Follow recipe times and temperatures for accuracy – don’t cook it too high
Can You Fix Chewy Beef?
Whether your chewy beef is overcooked or undercooked, don’t despair because all is not lost! Fortunately, there are ways to get around this mishap and still enjoy your beef.
Now that you know what affects the texture and taste of your beef, you can determine whether it’s overcooked or undercooked and start looking for a solution.
How To Fix Undercooked Beef
As long as you’ve got a bit of time, undercooked meat is relatively easy to fix because all you need to do is just keep cooking. It will need long, slow cooking if you’re making a pot roast or just a few more minutes on the pan if you’re frying a steak.
The additional cooking time will melt the connective tissues in the beef into rich, natural gelatin. So resume the cooking process for a while until you do a quick check on the meat again to make sure you’ve got it right this time.
It can also help to cut your meat into smaller pieces, which will make it cook through faster – although you may have to do it in baches.
How To Fix Overcooked Beef
Overcooked meat is a far more significant challenge to salvage than an undercooked dish, simply because you cannot “uncook” your beef. The first thing you can do to improve chewy beef is to stop cooking and cut it up smaller which helps break down the meat fibers.
Next, you can try and mask that dryness by adding some elements to your dish that will make it juicier and more flavorful.
You can moisten the beef with any juices in the pan or pot that you’ve cooked it in, or you can add more sauce or gravy than you’d have originally intended to.
Beyond that, you can use your overcooked meat to make sloppy-joe-style sandwiches with a tomato-based sauce, peppers, and onions. Another way to improve the texture is to shred the beef and serve it with other things. You can use this for tacos or wraps and this way you might not notice that it was overcooked.
Hopefully, you now know more about chewy beef and whether it is overcooked or undercooked. Remember it usually comes down to the cut of beef used; leaner cuts will become chewy much more quickly than tougher cuts in the animal which require slow cooking.
To check if the beef is undercooked or overcooked, it’s important to keep checking the food regularly while it cooks.