What is mock tender?

Mock tender, also known as shoulder tender or petite tender, is a beef cut derived from the chuck primal of the cow, specifically the teres major muscle. It is called “mock tender” because of its visual similarity to the more expensive and tender filet mignon, although it is not as tender. This lean cut of beef is moderately priced, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious consumers. It is best cooked using moist heat methods such as braising or slow cooking to help break down the connective tissue, resulting in a more tender and flavorful dish.

In this article, I will delve into the intricacies of this lesser-known cut, exploring its origins, characteristics, and optimal cooking methods. 

What is mock tender?

Facts about mock tender
Facts about mock tender

The mock tender, sometimes referred to as the shoulder tender or petite tender, is a unique cut of beef originating from the chuck primal, specifically the teres major muscle located in the shoulder of the cow. This muscle is relatively small, usually weighing between 8 to 10 ounces, which adds to the exclusivity of this cut.

One of the key characteristics of the mock tender is its minimal marbling, making it a leaner cut of meat compared to other popular beef cuts. While this may contribute to a lower fat content, it also means that the cut is slightly less tender and juicy than more marbled alternatives.

The presence of connective tissue in the mock tender affects its overall texture. This cut is often mistaken for a tenderloin due to its visual resemblance, but it is important to note that it lacks the tenderness of a true tenderloin. To achieve optimal tenderness in a mock tender, slow cooking methods such as braising or stewing are recommended, as these techniques help to break down the connective tissue and render the meat more tender and flavorful.

What does mock tender taste like?

The taste of mock tender is best described as having a mild yet flavorful beefy profile. This distinctive taste can be attributed to the specific location of the cut and the teres major muscle’s limited use during the animal’s life. Since the muscle experiences less movement compared to other muscles, it tends to have a slightly milder flavor and a more delicate texture.

Another factor that contributes to the taste of mock tender is its relatively lean composition. With minimal marbling, the cut has a lower fat content, which can lead to a less juicy and tender eating experience. Fat is known to enhance the flavor of meat, so the reduced fat content in mock tender results in a more subtle flavor compared to more marbled cuts.

However, this lean nature should not be seen as a disadvantage. The milder taste of mock tender makes it a versatile option that can absorb and complement a wide array of flavors and seasonings. By employing the right cooking techniques and pairing it with complementary ingredients, the mock tender can be transformed into a succulent and delicious dish that satisfies a variety of palates. In essence, the taste of mock tender is a reflection of the cut’s unique characteristics and its potential to adapt to diverse culinary creations.

How to cook mock tender?

To cook mock tender effectively, it is important to use slow and moist cooking methods such as braising or stewing, as these techniques help break down the connective tissue and enhance the cut’s tenderness.

Braising is a popular technique for cooking mock tender. First, sear the meat on high heat in a heavy-bottomed pot or pan, creating a flavorful crust that locks in the juices. Then, add a liquid such as broth, wine, or a combination of both, along with your desired seasonings and vegetables. Cover the pot and simmer the meat at a low temperature for a couple of hours. This gentle, moist heat transforms the cut into a tender and juicy dish.

Stewing is another suitable method for preparing a mock tender. Start by cutting the meat into smaller pieces and searing them in a hot pan. Add the meat to a slow cooker or pot with a flavorful liquid, seasonings, and vegetables. Cook the mixture at a low temperature for an extended period, allowing the flavors to meld and the meat to become tender.

How does mock tender compare to other similar cuts?

The mock tender, while not as popular as some other steak cuts, offers a unique combination of flavor and texture that can be compared to other cuts in a similar price range or with similar characteristics. So here are a few great alternatives:

  • Flat iron steak, also from the chuck primal, shares a similar price range with the mock tender. It is known for its tenderness and rich beefy flavor, which makes it suitable for grilling and pan-searing. While the flat iron is generally considered more tender than the mock tender, both cuts benefit from proper marinating and cooking techniques to enhance their tenderness.
  • Top sirloin, located in the sirloin primal, is another moderately priced cut. It boasts a well-balanced combination of tenderness and flavor, making it a popular choice for grilling and broiling. Although the top sirloin is typically more tender and flavorful than the mock tender, it can be less forgiving if overcooked, making it essential to monitor cooking times carefully.
  • Flank steak, originating from the abdominal muscles of the cow, is known for its rich flavor and relatively affordable price. This cut has a similar texture to mock tender, as both have a moderate amount of connective tissue. However, flank steak is often more tender when cooked and sliced properly. Both cuts benefit from marinating and cooking methods such as braising or grilling with high heat.

How to pick a good quality mock tender?

When selecting a high-quality mock tender at a butcher shop, online, or in a supermarket, it is essential to consider factors such as grading, origin, and feeding methods. These aspects can impact the taste, texture, and overall quality of the meat. Before I explain what to look for, if you want to learn more about picking good quality steak, click on this link to learn more. 

First, pay attention to the USDA grading system, which ranks beef quality based on factors such as marbling and maturity. USDA Prime, Choice, and Select are the most common grades you will encounter, with Prime being the highest quality and Select being the lowest. While mock tender is typically a lean cut with minimal marbling, opting for USDA Choice or Prime can ensure a better eating experience.

Second, consider the origin of the meat. Locally sourced, organic, or grass-fed beef may offer better flavor and quality compared to conventional grain-fed beef. Grass-fed beef is known for its healthier fat composition, richer taste, and overall lower environmental impact. However, it can be slightly more expensive than grain-fed options. Ensure that the packaging or product description specifies “grass-fed” or “pasture-raised” to make an informed choice.

Lastly, when purchasing mock tender in person, examine the color and texture of the meat. A fresh cut should have a bright red color and a firm texture. Avoid meat that appears overly dark, slimy, or with an off smell, as these are indicators of poor quality or spoilage.

How to store a mock tender

When storing mock tender in the refrigerator, it should be kept at a temperature of 40°F (4°C) or below to slow down bacterial growth. Always place the meat in its original packaging on a plate or tray to catch any juices that may leak, and store it on the lowest shelf to avoid cross-contamination with other foods. Raw beef can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days.

If you plan to store mock tender for a longer period, it is best to freeze the meat. Wrap it tightly in freezer paper, aluminum foil, or airtight plastic bags designed for freezing to prevent freezer burn. The ideal temperature for a freezer is 0°F (-18°C) or lower. While frozen beef can technically be stored indefinitely, it is recommended to consume it within 6-12 months for the best quality and flavor.

When it’s time to cook the meat, thawing should be done safely to prevent bacterial growth. Thaw your mock tender in the refrigerator, in cold water, or using the microwave’s defrost setting. Never thaw meat on the countertop, as this can encourage bacterial growth and compromise food safety.

Following the guidelines provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) can help ensure that your meat remains safe and retains its quality until you are ready to cook it.


Can I use mock tender for grilling or pan-searing?

Although it is possible to grill or pan-sear a mock tender beef cut, it is not recommended due to the potential for toughness. To achieve better results, opt for slow-cooking methods or choose a more suitable cut for high-heat cooking, such as a ribeye or strip steak.

What are some good recipes for a mock tender?

Some popular recipes for mock tender beef cut include slow-cooked pot roast, beef stroganoff, or beef and vegetable stew. These dishes allow the meat to cook slowly in a flavorful liquid, helping it to become tender and tasty.

Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas is an accomplished chef with over a decade of experience in the culinary world, having worked in esteemed, high-end restaurants across Europe. With a talent for combining traditional techniques and innovative flair, Renaldas has refined his signature style under the mentorship of respected European chefs. Recently, Renaldas has expanded his impact beyond the kitchen by sharing his expertise through his online platform. Dedicated to inspiring culinary professionals and food enthusiasts, he offers expert advice, innovative recipes, and insightful commentary on the latest gastronomic trends.
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