Can I slow-cook tough beef?
April 3, 2014 2:02 AM   Subscribe

I apparently over-cooked some stir-fry beef. It's edible but horribly tough and sort of tasteless, though it's very lean, good beef. I want to know if I can salvage it by slow-cooking it overnight. Anyone?

I hardly ever cook meat but I found some nice organic beef (stir fry style) for cheap today. I looked up how to cook it online, it said quick and hot in a wok (though I don't have a wok so I used a frypan). I cooked it according to the instructions but maybe for too long because I was nervous about it being rare (not being much of a carnivore). Anyway this super lean, nice quality beef is now really tough. Is there any way I can salvage it?

There's some good suggestions on this post but it's for pork, I'm wondering if I can apply the slow-cooker advice to beef... (thought I would not use BBQ sauce but veggies etc with tomatoes for moisture.) Anyone ever slow-cooked already tough beef?
posted by beccyjoe to Food & Drink (13 answers total)
Here is the thread I referred to
posted by beccyjoe at 2:05 AM on April 3, 2014

Sadly, I think it's toast. Lean beef is the worst to use in a slow cooker as it has no fat to help break down to provide the tenderness that you look for in slow cooking. I guess you could try it (you have nothing to lose at this point, right) but prepare for disappointment. Sorry. I had to learn the hard way too.
posted by Jubey at 3:26 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Shame. I don't think further cooking will help much. I'd be tempted to mince it and throw it into a pasta sauce or something like that.
posted by Decani at 3:37 AM on April 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

You could try marinading a batch in beer or cider to see if that tenderizes it.
posted by epo at 4:54 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

What I'd do is chop it up very finely and make tacos with it.

Lean meat doesn't do well in a slow cooking. It also tends to be tough as a rule.

But chopped up in tacos, with a delicious sauce on it, YUM!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:26 AM on April 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

Another idea: cut into small pieces and make a beef and vegetable soup. And rather than slow-cooking, maybe pressure-cooking is the way to go.

(I usually make my soups in a pressure cooker. 10 minutes cooking under pressure and 10 minutes resting is all it takes for everything to be nice and tender. No guarantees as to how to tender pre-cooked beef will be, of course.)
posted by The Deej at 5:42 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you do slow cook it do it in beef broth, that should add some flavor.
posted by mareli at 7:52 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with the idea that you can't make the beef more tender once it's overcooked, it least in that form. Those proteins have all contracted and squeezed all the moisture out and can't really be relaxed again, and even if they could there's no way of getting that moisture back in. What's great is that people all over the planet has figure out the solution to this: you cut up the beef into small pieces. Then those tough fibers are shorter and easier to chew, and when you add a sauce that will also add some fat and moisture back into each bite (just not in the meat). With the smaller pieces there's more surface area for the sauce to coat, so that will help increase the effect. If it's a flavorful sauce, then you also get increased saliva production and THAT helps make it seem more tender.

A couple of other ideas to use those tiny pieces: in a shepherd's pie, some sort of sandwich (think sloppy joes), mixed with appropriate veggies and spices and used as stuffing for anything stuffed (bell peppers, wonton wrappers, dumplings, pocket pies, cabbage leaves, whatever), or mix it with some mashed-potatoes and make croquettes. Soups would be good too, as long as you keep the cut small.
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:28 AM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Ah, Gygesringtone reminds me that my dear old mum, who was a good cook but did like her beef overdone, used to mince the remnants of the Sunday joint and make a pretty acceptable shepherd's pie with it.
posted by Decani at 8:31 AM on April 3, 2014

Grind it up into meatballs with some fattier meat. Marinate it, add an acid like a fruit juice or vinegar, I've heard yogurt works too though I've never tried it, to it as it will help tenderise the meat, it helps if you can poke some holes in the meat first.

Whack the meat slices with a meat mallet, use the bumpy end or attack it with a fancy meat tenderiser which will put lots of little holes in the meat helping to break up the fibres that make it chewy.

Don't over cook the meat, make sure it's still pink, say medium rare, in the middle, which is hard with a stir fry.

If it's not already cut up make sure it's cut across the grain so you are cutting up the tough muscle fibres.
posted by wwax at 8:59 AM on April 3, 2014

Was your organic beef also grass-fed beef? If so, one thing to note in the future, since you don't eat much meat, is that grass-fed beef is naturally tougher than other beef.

The reason: Cattle that are grass-fed take longer to grow to market size that grain-fed cattle. They are therefore older -- and tougher -- when they're processed.

This fact brought to you by my grass-fed-beef-raising mother-in-law.

posted by mudpuppie at 11:28 AM on April 3, 2014

Thanks everyone for the great advice and suggestions. I did end up slow cooking it, and it got a bit less tough but is still way too tough, and didn't absorb any of the flavour of the tomatoes or other vegetables. So it will be edible but not amazing.

Tacos - great idea!
posted by beccyjoe at 4:08 PM on April 3, 2014

Actually, I would like to amend that last comment. After eating a bowl of my twice-cooked beef and veg stew, I have to say it is pretty great. The meat is not AS tender if it was the first time it was cooked but it is a lot more tender and breaks apart quite easily. Cooked 12 hours on LOW with over-ripe tomatoes, potatoes, carrot, leek, red onion, rosemary and stock. Quite delicious and I would say "salvaged".
posted by beccyjoe at 5:59 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

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