Shoulder tender medallions, also known as beef shoulder petite tender or simply petite tender, are cuts of beef taken from the teres major muscle located in the shoulder of the cow. This cut is relatively small, typically weighing about 8-10 ounces. Shoulder tender is prized for its rich beef flavor and tenderness, often compared to the filet mignon, although it tends to be less expensive. It’s perfect for grilling, broiling, or roasting and is often served sliced into medallions, hence the name.
In this blog post, we’re going to explore the ins and outs of shoulder tender medallions – from selection and preparation to comparing them to similar cuts.
What are shoulder tender medallions?
Shoulder tender medallions are a lesser-known yet incredibly satisfying cut of beef. They are cut from the teres major muscle, a small, seldom-used muscle found in the shoulder (or chuck) of the cow. Each shoulder tender is typically quite small, weighing in at about 8-10 ounces, hence the name ‘petite tender’, which it’s often referred to.
The size and relative lack of physical activity of the teres major muscle contributes to the shoulder tender’s tenderness and fine texture. It has a similar texture to the filet mignon, one of the most tender beef cuts. The shoulder tender is notably lean, with very minimal marbling, meaning it doesn’t have as much intramuscular fat compared to other cuts.
Despite its leanness, it retains a deep, rich beef flavor. It’s also free of large amounts of connective tissue, which can often contribute to a tougher texture in other cuts. Apart from ‘shoulder tender medallions’ and ‘petite tender,’ this cut is also known as ‘beef shoulder petite tender’ or simply ‘petite tender.’
What do shoulder tender medallions taste like?
Shoulder tender medallions, despite being one of the leaner cuts of beef, are known for their rich and robust beef flavor. This delightful taste is a result of the cut’s specific location within the cow, the teres major muscle in the shoulder region. Being a muscle that is not heavily worked, it tends to be more tender and succulent.
The lack of marbling, or intramuscular fat, doesn’t detract from its flavor as one might expect. Instead, the lean nature of the shoulder tender provides a pure, unadulterated beef taste that allows its natural flavor to shine through. It’s this unique combination of tenderness and intense flavor that often draws comparisons with the more expensive filet mignon.
Moreover, the way shoulder tender medallions are cooked can also greatly influence their taste. Methods that promote browning, such as grilling, broiling, or pan-searing, can create a delightful crust on the surface of the meat, enhancing its taste and texture. The Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars, gives browned food its distinctive flavor, which further enriches the taste of shoulder-tender medallions.
In essence, the shoulder tender medallions’ taste is a wonderful interplay of its inherent beefy flavor, its lean yet tender texture, and the method of preparation, all of which come together to create a truly enjoyable culinary experience.
How to cook shoulder tender medallions
Shoulder tender medallions are versatile and can be cooked using various methods, each with its unique advantages.
- Grilling: This method is great for adding a smoky flavor and attractive grill marks to the medallions. Preheat your grill to high heat. Season the steak medallions with salt and pepper or your choice of marinade, then place them on the grill. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side for medium-rare or until they reach your desired level of doneness.
- Broiling: Broiling can give the medallions a crispy, caramelized crust while keeping the inside tender. Preheat your broiler and position the oven rack so the medallions will be about 2-3 inches from the heat source. Broil the medallions for about 5-7 minutes per side.
- Pan-searing: This method creates a rich, brown crust and locks in the juices. Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron works well) over medium-high heat, add a bit of oil, and then add the medallions. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side, then let them rest before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute.
- Roasting: Roasting is ideal for cooking larger pieces. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, season the shoulder tender, then sear it in a hot pan on all sides. Transfer it to the oven and roast until it reaches your desired level of doneness, usually about 20-25 minutes for medium-rare.
Remember, no matter which method you choose, it’s important to let the meat rest for a few minutes after cooking. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a moister, more flavorful steak. Using a meat thermometer can also help ensure you cook the steak to your preferred level of doneness. For medium-rare, aim for an internal temperature of 130-135 degrees F; for medium, aim for 135-145 degrees F.
How do shoulder tender medallions compare to other similar cuts?
Shoulder tender medallions can often be compared to filet mignon, ribeye, sirloin, flank steak, strip steak, and hanger steak. They share similar flavor profiles and textures. However, shoulder medallions are less expensive than some of the premium cuts of beef in this list.
- Filet Mignon: Known for its exceptional tenderness, the filet mignon is a luxurious cut that comes from the tenderloin. Shoulder tender medallions are often compared to filet mignon due to their similar tenderness. However, shoulder tenders are generally leaner and less expensive, making them a cost-effective alternative.
- Ribeye: This cut is celebrated for its rich flavor and tenderness, largely due to its generous marbling. In contrast, shoulder tender medallions are leaner but still deliver a rich beef flavor and a tender texture, providing a leaner option for those who enjoy the tenderness of ribeye but prefer less fat.
- Sirloin: Sirloin is a versatile and popular cut that’s typically more affordable. It has a robust beef flavor but can be less tender than a shoulder-tender medallion. While both cuts offer a strong beef flavor, the shoulder tender offers a more tender bite.
- Flank Steak: This cut from the cow’s abdominal area is lean and flavorful but can be tough if not prepared correctly. Unlike a flank steak, shoulder tender medallions are tender by nature and do not require marination or slow cooking to achieve a tender result.
- Strip Steak: Also known as the New York strip, this cut is known for its balance of tenderness and robust flavor. While both cuts offer a good balance of flavor and tenderness, the shoulder tender is leaner and often more affordable.
- Hanger Steak: This cut is known for its beefy flavor and relatively tender texture, but it’s not as tender as the shoulder tender. Hanger steak also has more marbling and can be a bit chewy if overcooked, while shoulder tender medallions are more forgiving due to their inherent tenderness.
How to pick shoulder tender medallions
When choosing shoulder tender medallions, whether at a local butcher shop, supermarket, or online, there are several key factors to consider:
- Quality Grade: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a grading system for beef, including Prime, Choice, and Select, which is determined by factors like marbling and the age of the animal. While shoulder tender is a lean cut with minimal marbling, the overall quality grade can still provide an indication of the meat’s quality. Prime and Choice grades usually promise higher quality compared to Select.
- Color: Fresh beef should be a bright, cherry-red color. If the meat is grayish or brown, it might be older and not as fresh.
- Packaging: If buying pre-packaged shoulder tender medallions, the packaging should be intact, and the meat should be surrounded by a small amount of blood. Large amounts of liquid could indicate that the meat has been stored for a while.
- Grass-fed vs. Grain-fed: This is largely a matter of personal preference. Grass-fed beef is often leaner and has a distinct, earthy flavor compared to grain-fed beef. Grain-fed beef, on the other hand, usually has more marbling and a classic beef flavor.
- Source: Knowing where your beef comes from can be important. Many high-quality online meat purveyors provide detailed information about the origin of their beef, the breed of the cattle, and their farming practices.
- Butcher’s Advice: Don’t hesitate to ask your butcher for advice. They can provide valuable insights into the freshness, quality, and best ways to prepare the cut.
How to store shoulder tender medallions
If you’re planning to use the shoulder tender medallions within a few days of purchase, you can store them in the refrigerator. Keep the meat in its original packaging until you’re ready to use it. The ideal temperature for your refrigerator is 40°F (4°C) or below.
If you plan to store the medallions for a longer period, freezing is recommended. Raw steaks can be frozen for up to 12 months without significant loss of quality. To freeze shoulder tender medallions, wrap them tightly in heavy-duty aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or place them in a freezer bag, ensuring all air is squeezed out. This will help to protect the meat from freezer burn.
When you’re ready to use the frozen medallions, it’s best to thaw them in the refrigerator. Depending on the thickness, this could take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. It’s important not to thaw meat at room temperature, as this could lead to bacterial growth.
Remember that once the meat is thawed, it should not be re-frozen. If you’ve thawed more than you need, it’s best to cook all the medallions and then freeze the cooked leftovers, which can be safely stored in the freezer for 2-6 months.
Are shoulder tender medallions the same as Filet Mignon?
No, shoulder tender medallions are not the same as filet mignon. Both are very tender cuts of beef, but filet mignon comes from the beef tenderloin, a different part of the cow. However, shoulder tender medallions are often considered a more cost-effective alternative to filet mignon.
How should shoulder tender medallions be seasoned?
The mild flavor of shoulder tender medallions pairs well with a wide range of seasonings. Salt and pepper are the basics, but you can also use garlic, rosemary, thyme, or a variety of marinades to enhance the flavor.
How long do I need to marinate shoulder tender medallions?
If you choose to marinate the shoulder tender medallions, a minimum of 2 hours is usually recommended. However, for the best flavor infusion, it’s ideal to marinate them overnight in the refrigerator.
Can shoulder tender medallions be cooked from frozen?
It’s best to thaw shoulder tender medallions before cooking for even cooking and the best texture. If you need to cook them from frozen, add additional cooking time and cook on a lower heat to ensure they cook through without burning on the outside.
What sides pair well with shoulder tender medallions?
These medallions pair well with a variety of sides. Classic options include mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables, a simple salad, or a hearty grain like quinoa or farro.