Chuck steak, sometimes called seven-bone steak because the bone is shaped like a seven, is one of the cheaper cuts of beef, often made into hamburger. The steak has plenty of fat, which gives it a robust flavor; however, it also has lots of connective tissue and gristle, which can make the steak tough and chewy when undercooked. Chuck steak turns out best when cooked over a low heat for a long time using a wet cooking method, such as stewing or braising. The long, slow heat breaks down the collagen and the steak becomes moist and tender. Before wet cooking the steak, however, sear with a high dry heat to enhance the flavor.
Mix 2 cups of flour with salt, pepper and any additional spices you wish in a large bowl.
Cut vegetables into large pieces for braised steak and bite-sized pieces for stew. Common options include potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, green peppers and celery.
Wash the steak under running water. Remove excess fat and connective tissues. Remove bone, if you wish; if you are making a stew, cut the steak into bite-sized pieces. When braising steak, you usually cook it whole. Dredge the meat in the flour mixture. The flour browns nicely and thickens the sauce as the steak cooks.
Stove Top Cooking
Preheat a Dutch oven over a medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles when dropped on the cooking surface. Pour in 1 tbsp. of oil and let it heat it until it begins to shimmer and separate or starts to smoke. Place the meat in the Dutch oven and sear all sides of the meat for two minutes per side. When seared, the proteins interact with sugars in the surface of the steak, creating a crust with hundreds of flavorful compounds.
Transfer the meat to a plate. Heat 1 tbsp. of oil in the Dutch oven and then add the cut vegetables, except for potatoes. Sear on one side for a couple of minutes, then stir and sear again. Fry until browning begins on the outside, yet remains crisp-tender. Add dried spices.
Deglaze the Dutch oven, adding 1/2 cup of your cooking liquid. Use a spatula to swish the liquid around and scrape the bottom of the oven to loosen any remnants of singed steak and vegetables. Add the remainder of the cooking liquid. Common liquids include broth, wine, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and water. Generally, add fluids that contribute flavor. Add enough liquid to completely cover the vegetables and steak when making stew. You generally add less liquid when braising.
Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid and simmer according to your recipe, usually at least two hours. Stir occasionally to stop food from sticking on the bottom. The longer the chuck steak cooks, the more tender the meat becomes. If you like it so it’s fall-apart tender, extend the cooking time.
Thicken the broth, if you wish. Mix 2 tbsp. of cornstarch with an equal amount of cool water in a cup. Alternatively, make a roux, mixing equal amounts of butter and flour in a hot pan. Bring the liquid in the Dutch oven to a full boil. A little at a time, add some thickening agent to the liquid, stirring constantly. Continue until the broth reaches the desired consistency.
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Jon Williams is a clinical psychologist and freelance writer. He has performed, presented and published research on a variety of psychological and physical health issues.