Petite tender, also known as teres major steak, is a cut of beef sourced from the shoulder of the cow, specifically the muscle area connecting the shoulder blade to the upper arm. It is considered a butcher’s secret due to its relatively unknown status but offers a delicate flavor and tenderness similar to that of the filet mignon, albeit at a more affordable price. The petite tender is quite lean and well-marbled, contributing to its tenderness and rich flavor. It’s suitable for a variety of cooking methods, including grilling, broiling, and pan-searing.
In the following post, we’ll explore the characteristics of the petite tender, provide tips on how to best prepare it, and delve into why this cut deserves a place in your kitchen.
What is petite tender?
Petite tender, a beef cut also known as the teres major steak, or shoulder tender, is an underrated star in the world of meat. Harvested from the shoulder of the cow, specifically the muscle connecting the shoulder blade to the upper arm, it is a small, lean, and cylindrical cut that generally weighs between 8 to 10 ounces.
Despite its size, this cut boasts a good degree of marbling, or intramuscular fat, which contributes to its rich flavor profile. However, it is not as heavily marbled as some other cuts like the ribeye. The marbling, combined with the absence of large amounts of connective tissue, results in a tender texture that rivals more well-known cuts like the filet mignon.
The petite tender is generally smooth and uniform in texture, thanks to the minimal connective tissue. It’s important to note that, like all meats, the petite tender will become tougher if overcooked, so careful preparation is essential. Despite its many merits, the petite tender remains something of a butcher’s secret, but once discovered, it often becomes a favorite for its unique blend of flavor, tenderness, and affordability.
What does petite tender taste like?
The petite tender boasts a robust, beefy flavor profile. Its rich taste can be attributed to a combination of its marbling and the specific location from which it’s sourced.
The marbling, or the fat interspersed within the meat, is responsible for a good portion of the flavor. As the petite tender cooks, this fat melts and permeates the surrounding muscle, infusing the cut with a deep, savory taste. However, it’s worth noting that the petite tender is not as heavily marbled as some other cuts, which means it has a leaner, slightly less intense flavor compared to cuts like the ribeye.
Coming from the shoulder, an area that sees less work compared to others, the petite tender is tender and flavorful without being overly fatty. This makes it an excellent choice for those who appreciate a good balance of lean meat and rich, beefy flavor.
How to cook petite tender
One of the most popular cooking methods for petite tender is grilling. Grilling imparts a smoky flavor to the steak and creates a desirable seared crust on the exterior. For grilling, it’s recommended to season the steak with salt and pepper, heat the grill to medium-high, and then cook the steak for about 4-5 minutes on each side for medium-rare.
Broiling is another excellent method for cooking petite tender. This technique uses high, direct heat from the oven’s broiler, which quickly sears the outside of the steak while keeping the inside tender and juicy. Place the steak on a baking sheet, place it on a wire rack, and broil it about 3-4 inches from the heat source for 5-7 minutes per side.
Pan-searing is yet another option that yields a flavorful crust while locking in the juices. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat with a little oil, and then cook the steak for 4-5 minutes per side.
Regardless of the method, it’s important to let the steak rest for a few minutes after cooking. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring a moist and flavorful result. Also, slicing the steak against the grain will maximize its tenderness.
Finally, remember that the petite tender, like all cuts of beef, can become tough and dry if overcooked. For the best results, aim for a final internal temperature of 135°F for medium-rare or 145°F for medium.
How does petite tender compare to other similar beef cuts?
When compared with other steaks in a similar price range, such as the flank steak or skirt steak, the petite tender offers a significant upgrade in tenderness. These other cuts are more muscular, and while flavorful, they require careful preparation and slicing against the grain to prevent them from being tough.
When it comes to steaks with similar taste and texture properties, the petite tender stands out as an affordable alternative. Its closest comparison is the filet mignon, known for its exceptional tenderness and mild flavor. However, the petite tender is often much more cost-effective while still offering a comparable eating experience, making it a great choice for those on a budget.
The hanger steak is another cut that shares some similarities with the petite tender, offering a rich flavor and tenderness when cooked properly. However, the petite tender tends to be more forgiving and tender due to its lack of connective tissue.
How to buy good quality petite tender
Here’s a list of factors to consider when purchasing steak at a butcher shop, online, or in a supermarket:
- USDA Grading: Look for a USDA grade on the packaging. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grades beef based on its quality, and this grade can provide insight into the tenderness, juiciness, and flavor of the meat. Prime is the highest grade, followed by Choice and Select. A higher grade usually means more marbling and, thus, more flavor and tenderness.
- Marbling: Even within the same USDA grade, marbling can vary. Look for a petite tender with a good amount of white flecks of fat interspersed throughout the muscle. This fat will melt during cooking, adding flavor and juiciness to the steak.
- Color: Fresh beef should be a bright, cherry-red color. If the petite tender appears overly dark or has a brownish hue, it may not be as fresh.
- Grass-fed vs. Grain-fed: You might also consider whether the beef is grass-fed or grain-fed. Grass-fed beef often has a more pronounced, earthy flavor compared to grain-fed beef. It is also typically leaner. However, grain-fed beef usually has more marbling, which can lead to a juicier, more tender steak. Personal preference will play a significant role here.
- Reputable Source: Whether you’re buying in-person or online, it’s important to choose a reputable source. A trustworthy butcher or online meat supplier will provide high-quality products and can usually offer more information about the meat’s source, how it was raised, and how it was processed.
How to store a petite tender
For fresh petite tender, if you plan to cook it within 3-5 days of purchase, you can store it in the refrigerator. The refrigerator temperature should be set at or below 40°F (4°C). To prevent juices from leaking and contaminating other foods, place the meat in a shallow, covered dish.
If you don’t plan to cook the petite tender within this timeframe, it’s best to freeze it. To freeze, tightly wrap the steak in heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap, or place it in a freezer bag, ensuring all air is pressed out. Properly stored, it can maintain its best quality for about 6-12 months, but it will remain safe to eat indefinitely if kept continuously frozen at 0°F (-18°C).
When you’re ready to cook the frozen steak, it’s safest to thaw it in the refrigerator. This slow, controlled method allows the meat to thaw evenly and minimizes the risk of bacterial growth. A small cut like the petite tender should thaw within 24 hours.
Keep in mind that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides guidelines for safe meat storage.
What is the best way to season petite tender?
Petite tender is a versatile cut of beef and can be seasoned in a variety of ways. Salt and pepper are always a good choice, but feel free to use your favorite herbs and spices. Marinades also work well to infuse the meat with flavor.
Where can I buy petite tender?
You can often find petite tender at your local butcher shop or online. If it’s not readily available, ask your butcher – they might be able to order it for you.
Can I substitute petite tender for other cuts of beef in recipes?
Yes, you can substitute petite tender in most recipes that call for a tender cut of beef. However, due to its size, it might not be the best choice for recipes that require large cuts of beef, such as a roast.
What is the price range for petite tender?
The price of petite tender can vary greatly depending on your location and the quality of the beef. On average, expect to pay between $12-20 per pound. It’s often less expensive than other tender cuts like filet mignon, making it a more budget-friendly choice.