Round and Round

Could this be the square peg that solves the round conundrum?

I keep seeing round at the market, but usually I just buy chuck or rib eye. Or once in a while brisket. Because I know what to do with those things. So I got a great big hunk of eye round, determined to Figure It Out.

I learned that round is the very leanest cut of meat there is. It comes from the nether end of the animal. I haven’t yet figured out why it’s called “round.” Lots of connective tissue. The lean means it’s easy to dry out with too much cooking. The connective tissue means it’s going to be tough without lots and lots of slow cooking. So, how to prepare?

In the past, I made it into pot roast. As predicted by the caveats above, after lengthy cooking, even at low temperature, it was super dry, even though it was reasonably tender, and and even though it was braised in liquid.

This time, a friend suggested cutting it into 1/2-inch steaks, marinating it overnight and then grilling briefly, 4 minutes a side. I learned since that’s called London broil, which is a method of cooking tough meat, and not a specific cut. London broil can be grilled, broiled, pan fried or roasted.

Donald and I sliced four steaks off the cylinder of round and marinated them. We used tamari (wheat-free, natural, traditionally brewed soy sauce) and various spices. The idea is that the enzymes in tamari break down the tough fibers.

The next morning, I applied my perfect steak method to two of the marinated round steaks to give the best chance at tenderness. After bringing them slowly to near 100, I seared them in hot cast iron on the stove. They were tasty. Not dry. Adding a pat of butter atop them on the individual plate helped, too. But they were tough. Not too tough to eat, but not ideal, either.  I wanted to find something that didn’t work my jaw that hard.

Instead of grilling the other two marinated steaks, as we had planned, Donald ground them in the food processor, mixed in a generous amount of bacon fat (we always have plenty on hand), formed them into burgers and cooked them in cast iron. They were delicious, but still on the jaw-working side.

What to do with the rest of the round? We thought about how to roast or braise it, and we thought of cutting some into strips for stir-fry — turns out round is a popular cut for that, but then we decided to splurge on a gadget we’ve been wanting forever: a blade meat tenderizer.

These things have lots of tiny blades that you push through a cut of meat, breaking down the fibers and therefore making it more tender. Long, slow cooking gelatinizes these tough connective-tissue fibers.

Remember that the purpose of the tamari was also breaking down fibers. Cutting into steaks — that is, cutting across the grain — also shortens fibers. As you can see, it’s all about mitigating that fibrous connective tissue! Two cuts that have little connective tissue are rib eye and tenderloin — that’s why they’re so tender even without long cooking.

We put the rest of the round roast in the freezer to keep it fresh while we’re waiting for our 48-blade Jaccard Supertendermatic to arrive! I can’t till it comes and I can find out how it affects the cooking of this tasty, but tough cut. Then I’ll be able to report more about it.

Have you tried using a blade tenderizer? How do you like it?

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