Mock tender steak, also known as “petite tender” or “shoulder tender,” is a cut of beef that comes from the chuck or shoulder region of the cow. Although it is called “mock tender,” this steak can be somewhat tough if not cooked properly. To achieve the best results, it is recommended to cook the steak using methods such as braising, slow-cooking, or marinating, followed by grilling or broiling to ensure a tender and flavorful result.
In this post, I will discuss the characteristics of mock tender steak, its various names, and the best cooking methods to maximize its flavor and texture.
What is mock tender steak?
The mock tender steak, also referred to as a petite tender, shoulder tender, or teres major, is a cut of beef sourced from the chuck or shoulder region of the cow. This area is composed of heavily used muscles, which results in a unique combination of characteristics that sets it apart from other cuts.
Mock tender is a small, elongated cut weighing approximately 8-10 ounces. Its size makes it ideal for individual servings or for incorporating into dishes that require smaller, uniform pieces of meat.
This cut of beef is relatively lean, with minimal marbling or intramuscular fat. Due to the lack of marbling, it can be less tender and juicy than other cuts with higher fat content. It has a moderate amount of connective tissue, which contributes to its toughness. Cooking methods that focus on breaking down these tissues, such as braising or slow-cooking, can help achieve a more tender result.
While the texture of mock tender steak is similar to that of the tenderloin, it is not as tender due to its location on the animal. When cooked properly, the meat can still yield a tender and enjoyable eating experience.
What does mock tender steak taste like?
Mock tender steak, a cut from the chuck or shoulder region of the cow, offers a rich and beefy flavor that many people find appealing. This taste profile is the result of the muscle fibers in the chuck area, which are used more frequently and therefore develop a distinct taste. The mock tender steak’s texture is somewhat similar to the tenderloin, but it is less tender due to the presence of connective tissue and the lack of marbling or intramuscular fat.
To enhance or retain the natural flavors of this cut, it is crucial to employ the right cooking techniques. Since the mock tender steak is leaner and has a moderate amount of connective tissue, it benefits from methods that help break down these fibers, such as braising or slow-cooking. These methods not only tenderize the meat but also allow the flavors to develop and meld with other ingredients in the dish.
Another option to improve the texture and flavor is to marinate the steak before grilling or broiling. A well-chosen marinade can add depth to the beef’s natural taste while helping to tenderize the meat. Additionally, allowing the steak to rest after cooking can help retain its juiciness and enhance its overall flavor. By using the appropriate cooking methods and techniques, the mock tender steak can be transformed into a tender, flavorful, and enjoyable meal.
How to cook mock tender steak
The best cooking methods for mock tender steak are braising and marinating, followed by grilling or broiling. Braising helps break down the connective tissues, resulting in a more tender texture, while marinating enhances the flavor and tenderness before grilling or broiling, which adds a desirable sear and caramelization to the meat.
Braising is a highly recommended method for cooking mock tender steak. This slow, moist-heat cooking technique involves searing the meat and then simmering it in a flavorful liquid for an extended period of time. The braising process helps break down the connective tissues and tenderize the meat, while the liquid imparts additional flavor and keeps the steak moist.
Marinating the mock tender steak prior to cooking is another effective way to enhance its flavor and tenderness. A well-chosen steak marinade can penetrate the meat, adding depth to its natural taste and aiding in the tenderization process. After marinating, grilling, or broiling, the steak can yield excellent results. These high-heat cooking methods create a desirable sear and caramelization on the exterior while preserving the meat’s juiciness.
How does mock tender steak compare to other similar cuts?
Mock tender steak, with its rich flavor and relatively lean profile, can be compared to other cuts of beef that share similar price ranges, taste, and texture properties. Here are some great alternatives:
- Flat Iron Steak: Also from the chuck or shoulder region, the flat iron steak is known for its tenderness and rich flavor. It is similarly priced to the mock tender steak and can be prepared using similar cooking techniques. The flat iron steak, however, has slightly more marbling, which results in a more tender and juicy texture.
- Top Sirloin: This cut is sourced from the upper portion of the sirloin primal cut, and it offers a good balance between tenderness, flavor, and affordability. Top sirloin steaks can be slightly more expensive than mock tender steaks but still remain a cost-effective option. They tend to have a more pronounced beefy flavor and a slightly firmer texture.
- Eye of Round: The eye of round is a lean, economical cut from the round or rear section of the cow. Its texture is similar to that of the mock tender steak, and it also benefits from slow, moist-heat cooking methods like braising. However, the eye of round typically has a milder flavor compared to the richer, beefier taste of the mock tender steak.
- Chuck Eye Steak: Sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s ribeye,” the chuck eye steak is another cut from the chuck region. It shares the rich, beefy flavor of the mock tender steak but has more marbling, leading to a more tender and juicy result. Chuck eye steaks are similarly priced and can be grilled, broiled, or pan-seared for optimal results.
How to pick a good mock tender steak
When shopping for a mock tender steak at a butcher shop, online, or in a supermarket, there are several factors to consider in order to ensure you are choosing a high-quality piece of meat. Paying attention to the following aspects will help you make an informed decision:
- USDA Grading: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides a grading system for beef, which can be a helpful indicator of quality. USDA Prime and USDA Choice grades indicate a higher level of marbling and tenderness. Although mock tender steaks are generally leaner, opting for a higher grade will still yield a more tender and flavorful result.
- Grass-fed vs. Grain-fed: Beef can be sourced from cattle that have been raised on either grass-fed or grain-fed diets. Grass-fed beef is known for its leaner profile and slightly different taste, often described as more “earthy” or “gamey.” On the other hand, grain-fed beef typically has more marbling and a more pronounced beefy flavor. Choosing between grass-fed and grain-fed beef largely depends on personal preference and desired taste profile.
- Freshness: When selecting a mock tender steak, pay attention to the color and smell of the meat. A fresh cut should have a bright, cherry-red color and a clean, mildly sweet smell. Avoid meat that appears dull, discolored, or has an off-putting odor.
- Packaging: If purchasing mock tender steak from a supermarket or online, ensure the packaging is intact, without any tears or punctures. The meat should be securely sealed to maintain freshness and avoid potential contamination.
- Butcher or Supplier: Building a relationship with a trusted butcher or supplier can be valuable in selecting high-quality mock tender steak. These professionals can provide guidance on the best cuts available and may even be able to source specific grades or types of beef upon request.
How to store mock tender steak
If you plan to cook the mock tender steak within a few days, it can be stored in the refrigerator. Place the steak in its original packaging or wrap it securely in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or a resealable plastic bag to prevent any cross-contamination. Store the steak on the lowest shelf or in a dedicated meat drawer, maintaining a temperature of 40°F (4°C) or below.
For longer-term storage, freezing is an effective option. To freeze a mock tender steak, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then place it in an airtight container or a resealable freezer bag. Label the bag with the date of freezing and the type of meat to keep track of your inventory. Frozen steaks can be safely stored in the freezer at 0°F (-18°C) or below for several months.
When you are ready to cook the mock tender steak, it is important to thaw it safely. The USDA recommends three methods for thawing frozen meat: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Thawing in the refrigerator is the safest method, as it ensures the meat remains at a safe temperature throughout the process. However, this method can take longer, so plan ahead. For quicker thawing, you can use cold water or microwave methods, but be sure to cook the steak immediately after thawing to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
By following the USDA guidelines for storing and thawing mock tender steak, you can preserve its freshness and quality while ensuring a safe and enjoyable meal.
Why is it called “mock tender”?
The name “mock tender” comes from its appearance, which resembles a small tenderloin. However, this cut is not as tender as its namesake and, therefore, should not be confused with the actual tenderloin cut.
How can I cook a mock tender steak to make it tender?
To achieve a tender texture, it is recommended to cook a mock tender steak using methods that involve slow cooking and moisture, such as braising or slow cooking in a crockpot. You can also try marinating the steak to help break down the fibers and improve the tenderness.
Can I grill or pan-sear a mock tender steak?
While it is possible to grill or pan-sear mock tender steak, it might not yield the most tender result due to its tougher texture. If you do choose to use these methods, it is advised to marinate the steak beforehand and avoid overcooking it.
What are some good marinades for mock tender steak?
Acidic marinades with ingredients such as lemon juice, vinegar, or wine can help to tenderize the meat. Additionally, you can use ingredients like garlic, onion, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or herbs and spices for added flavor.
How long should I marinate the mock tender steak?
It is recommended to marinate the steak for at least 2 hours, but ideally up to 24 hours. This will give the marinade enough time to penetrate the meat and help to break down the fibers, improving the tenderness of the final dish.
How can I tell when the mock tender steak is cooked?
The easiest way to check if your steak is cooked is by using a meat thermometer. For a medium-rare steak, aim for an internal temperature of 130-135°F (54-57°C), and for medium, 140-145°F (60-63°C). Remember to let the steak rest for a few minutes after cooking to allow the juices to redistribute.
What are some side dishes that pair well with mock tender steak?
Side dishes that complement mock tender steak can include roasted or mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, grilled asparagus, or a simple green salad. The choice of sides depends on your personal preferences and the flavors you’ve used in your marinade or sauce.