I was pleasantly surprised…
…to realize I’m definitely not the only one who struggles with using up those random packages of beef that are left in the freezer after the burger and steaks are gone.
The first installment in the Cooking Through the Cow series, where we talked ’bout the finer points of beef shank was extremely well-received, which makes me even more excited to continue with the rest of the cuts.
Did I ever think my path in life would lead me to be publishing articles about beef cuts? Well, no. But here we are, and I can’t complain. 😉
The Cooking Through the Cow Series.
The goal of this blog series is to help you (and yes, me too) figure out how to best utilize the cuts of beef that might not be as popular in our modern American diets; the cuts with all sorts of wonderful attributes that tend to stay buried at the bottom of the freezer due to hesitation on what the heck to do with them.
But they won’t be lingering at the bottom of the deep freeze anymore. Because we’re gonna turn them into something delicious.
The Other Posts (so far) in the Cooking Through the Cow Series:
And today we’re talking all things Round Steak.
How to Cook Round Steak
What is Round Steak?
Round steak is the cut of meat from the rear portion of a cow’s hindquarters (aka the Beef Round primal cut). This meat is definitely more lean and tough because the muscles in the back legs are exercised frequently. The Beef Round is usually divided into four cuts of meat that can be sold as steaks or roasts: Top Round, Bottom Round, Eye of Round, and the Sirloin Tip. Round Steaks may come from a variety of places on the Round (and we’ll discuss the roasts that come from the Round in a later post.)
Other Names for Round Steak
Round Steak can come from a variety of places on the Beef Round, which often gives it a variety of names. Let’s take a closer look:
- Top Round: Steaks from this portion are often referred to as Top Round steaks, Butterball Steaks, or Inside Round steaks and can be used in London Broil and Swiss Steak recipes.
- Bottom Round: This subprimal cut is often divided into roasts such as Bottom Round Roast (also known as Beef Silverside) and Rump Roast. The steaks from this area are often referred to as Western Steaks, Bottom Round Steaks, or Western Tip Steaks and can be marinated, grilled, and sliced very thinly against the grain.
- Eye of Round: Steaks from this area of the round are called Eye of Round Steaks and can be used to make Philly Cheesesteaks among many other recipes.
- Sirloin Tip (aka Knuckle): It’s a little deceiving since this is a part of the Round, NOT the Sirloin. This portion of the Round can also be referred to as the Knuckle and gives us Sirloin Tip Center Steak, Sirloin Tip Side Steak, and Sirloin Tip Steak.
Is Round Steak the Same Thing as Cube Steak?
Sometimes folks use the terms Round Steak and Cube Steak interchangeably, which isn’t necessarily wrong, but it can get confusing.
Cube Steak refers to any cut of beef that has been tenderized with a machine. (We’ll talk cube steaks in a different post!)
However, Round Steak refers to a specific cut of beef that is taken from the Beef Round primal cut (as described above).
So Round Steak may or may not be Cube Steak, depending on whether or not it’s been tenderized. And a Cube Steak could be made from Round Steak, or something else entirely.
(The Round Steak in the above photo has been tenderized, so it’s technically also Cube Steak.)
Is Round Steak Easy to Find?
Round Steak is very easy to find; if anything, it can be a bit overwhelming, because each store/butcher uses different names for the meat cuts.
There are also different grades for Round Steak: Prime, Choice, and Select. Prime Round Steak is the most tender and flavorful and expensive. These cuts are usually found only in restauraunts and can be rare to find at the grocery store or local butcher shop. Choice cuts are found at most grocery stores and local butcher shops. They are leaner than Prime cuts. Select cuts are the cheapest option and are very lean and tough. They are usually easier to find.
Are Round Steaks Tough or Tender?
Since Round Steaks come from the hindquarters, where the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage get plenty of exercise, this meat option can be quite tough and chewy. It is also a very lean piece of beef, which causes it to be a little lacking in the flavor department.
However, it is possible to make some delicious meals with Round Steaks as long as you take measures to give them a little extra flavor and tenderness (such as marinating, tenderizing with a mallet, and slicing thinly against the grain). Like Beef Shank, Round Steak cuts are most tender when cooked with moisture, so methods such as slow cooking or braising are usually preferable (more on that in the cooking tips below).
Are Round Steaks Expensive?
Round Steaks are generally an inexpensive cut of beef. And bonus: they are just as nourishing as more expensive cuts of beef, so as you cook round steaks properly, you can still enjoy very flavorful and nutritious beef-based meals.
Versatility of Round Steak
Despite being slightly on the tougher side, round steak is still quite versatile. You can make jerky, ground beef, roasts, steaks, deli meat, stir-fry, and so much more.
How to Cook Round Steak
The best way to cook Round Steak is with moisture, which makes this cut of meat much more tender. Moist cooking includes slow cooking and braising. The difference between slow cooking and braising is that slow cooking covers the meat with liquid and cooks slowly over time, while braising cooks the meat with smaller amounts of liquid and often starts with the meat being pan-seared first to enhance the flavor.
Top Round meat is usually more tender than Bottom Round cuts. Still, if you plan to grill it, it’s best to cook it medium rare and slice it thinly against the grain, in order to prevent it from being too tough and chewy. For this reason, Top Round makes amazing deli meat (roast beef) for sandwiches. It also makes a great London broil, which involves marinating a thick slab of Top Round, and then grilling it quickly over high heat. Just make sure you always slice it against the grain to make it more tender.
Bottom Round cuts are often used to make roasts and are often used for your traditional roasts for Sunday dinners. They are also used to make ground beef and deli meat. Eye of Round is a bit tougher than bottom and top round cuts, and is best sliced up thin for sandwiches.
The Sirloin Tip can make a good steak or roast, however, the connective tissue inside can make it rather chewy unless you carefully braise it.
Round Steak Recipes:
- Canned Beef Stew Recipe
- Swiss Steak Recipe
- Homemade Beef Jerky
- Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry
- London Broil Recipe
- Slow Cooker Philly Cheesesteaks
- Fried Round Steak
- BBQ Beef Skillet
- Braised Beef with Cilantro Lime Mayo
Round Steak Quick Rankings:
- Sourcing Difficulty: 2 (1= available everywhere, 10= very difficult to find)
- Versatility: 7 (1= very versatile, 10= very limited uses)
- Price: 2 (1= cheap as it gets, 10= special occasions only!)
- Toughness: 8 (1= spoon tender, 10= shoe leather)
What are YOUR favorite ways to cook Round Steak? Please share in the comments below!
I typically slow cook all my beef, pork and chicken in a crock-pot. It makes the meat so tender, regardless of the cut, and it makes dinner much easier. Plus, it’s hard to mess up meat in a crock-pot! And I usually cook it in real butter, which makes it taste even more amazing!
Jill Winger says
Real butter + slow cookers== heck yes! 😉
How long do you cook it for? And do you add water to the slow cooker?
I love round steak! We have a bunch of venison round steak in the freezer and if the beef is lean, the venison doesn’t have any fat on it. We use it as a steak and since we like rare steak, it stays very tender!
Jill Winger says
I love venison! We’ve had so much beef lately, my husband hasn’t been hunting in a while and I miss it!
So glad I found your site! I had thin round steak and wasn’t sure how to cook them. Braising with a dark beer saved the day! Goya seasoning, 300 degrees, 2 1/2 hrs and a nap did the trick. Tender n flavorful. Thank you Jill.
I love coating my round steak in flour with salt and pepper and frying in a skillet. Once crispy, I add a can of cream of mushroom soup and a can of milk and simmer for a long time so it becomes tender. YUMMY!
Jill Winger says
Yum! I love frying ours too!
Kelly Contreras says
Jill I want to make pan seared round steaks and they are thin, how can I cook it in a quicker way but making sure it comes out tender not tough? Please help!
Great-but how long is a long time? Want to do it in the oven-Thanks
I made an amazing sweet and sour beef recipe the other night and it turned out amazing. To tender and the whole family loved it ? I used sirloin steak.
Jill Winger says
That sounds amazing!
Cindy Thomas says
Genuis idea for a series thank you so much!!
Jill Winger says
Thanks Cindy! 🙂
We often use our round steak for beef jerky, too!
Jill Winger says
Love this series! Our butcher slices the round steak into something appropriate for cheesesteaks for us, so it’s no longer one of the last cuts we use!
Jill Winger says
Nice! It’s so rewarding to turn a “meh” cut into a favorite cut!
Toni Ufolla says
We have a meat slicer at home and slice it while still slightly frozen. We use a hot cast iron skillet to make thinly sliced round steak sandwiches. MMM!
We take are beef to the butchers, and they don’t give us beef rounds.
Jill Winger says
The round itself is large primal cuts, so it’s not something a butcher would sell or package. However, the cuts you get from the round depend on what you tell the butcher you want (steaks, roasts, etc).
Steven Peterson says
I am right now eating a fantastic piece of the best bottom round steak I’ve ever eaten. It was a choice grade, but had better fat Marbelling through it than the USDA Prime grade rib eye near it.
I’ve never seen round like this pack has. I grew up with round made into Swiss steak. I recall mom pounding the heck out of it and it was still tough.
So I decided to tenderize one w/ light pounding and a meat tenderize and left one alone.
I fried it med rare. And it’s simply great, juicy, flavorful, and quite tender. I can’t tell the difference between the tenderized & the other
Ohh that makes sense. Thanks!!
I’m working on finishing up our side of beef right now and have found that the round steaks work fairly well for any recipe in the crockpot that calls for beef that is going to get shredded. It just falls apart as well as any roast after cooking for 6-8 hours.
Round cuts were what I grew up on, as they were the most affordable (even round cuts are crazy expensive anymore, if one can’t afford or doesn’t have the space to store a portion of a cow). I agree that braising or slow cooking are the best cooking methods. Totally loving this series, and looking forward to the future posts!
Linda Sprague says
I have my round cut into stew meat because it is typically lean. I don’t like having to clean up my stew meat before I cook.
I grew up eating a LOT of round steak from the sides of beef my parents would buy annually. My mother always dredged it in flour with salt and pepper, browned it in a skillet, then put into a casserole dish with a bit of water to finish cooking in the oven. It’s really simple but SO good. Definitely one of those foods that takes me back to childhood! Personally, I like cutting mine up into cubes and pressure canning it to be used later in soups or heated up and thickened with cornstarch and then pour over gravy or egg noodles! (P.S. Enjoying this series so much! Keep up the great work!)
Pam Hightower says
Round steak makes the best steak stroganoff. Cut it into thin into strips (the size you want to eat). Dredge in flour, salt and pepper. Brown in butter. remove from the pan. Add more butter. saute chopped onion. Add more butter. Then add sliced mushrooms and saute. Add beef bone broth and a little red wine (optional). Cook till tender adding broth as needed. Add sour cream, a little tomato paste, a little Worchester sauce and heat through. adjust salt. Serve with egg noodles and parmesian cheese.
Laurie J Cooper says
This is such a timely post! I have just ordered my first ever side of beef! Thank you Jill for the wonderful information. I will be reading all the cow series! I love all beef so I am really looking forward to cooking this one up!
I used to hate cubed steak or “minute steaks” as my butcher shop calls them till I started browning both sides, place in a baking dish & add a can of cr. of chicken soup (or whatever you prefer), turn the browned pieces so both sides get the soup coating, cover with foil & bake 350 for 30 to 45 min. depending on the thickness. Makes its own gravy & VERY tender!! 🙂
Agree with the *genius!!* idea for an informative series. Love this!! We do our own beef every year and I’ve been learning to cook all the outlying pieces for the past 7-8 years but before that we would never buy the odd cuts – didn’t realize what we were missing! Good for you for helping to bring this info to more people… LOVE THAT!!
Liz (Eight Acres) says
I think learning to use the less common cuts of meat has been the best part of raising our own beef. It encourages creativity and has made me learn new techniques.
racheal carpenter says
Great read. We just sold our house and buying 27 acres to start farming. So glad I found your website!!
I have just started a blog, so very new to this. Lots to learn!
Way back when, stew meat was cheap because it was the trimmings, it still is the trimmings, but now they put a premium price on it. So many times you will find round steak and roasts at several dollars a pound cheaper than stew meat. And because most people don’t want a round steak or roast (unless its called Baron of Beef) when they are buying meat at the store, you will almost always find them further discounted. Many times in the discount bin I can pick up a five to eight pound round roast for less than two pounds of stew meat. So I pick it all up and then turn it into pot roast, stew, swiss steaks, grind it for hamburger because it’s also cheaper than lean ground beef.
I love your blog. Beautiful family. Over the years I have ruined many beef cuts. I’ve learned a good marinade always helps, as well as a slow braise, or a dry roast on some of the tougher cuts. Family doesn’t like stringy beef regardless how tender. I’m lucky to (finally since moving) have a good butcher up the road where I can even inquire where the cow came from. Supermarket and bulk store meats suck.
Amy AKA The Hippy says
I slow cook a lot of these cuts, and I actually prefer jerky made with round steak over most other cuts. I have to be careful with the cheaper cuts, tho. Without the fat left on, they dry out, and I have a teenage stepson who refuses to eat anything that is even remotely close to the fat or gristle. Ugh. I get so frustrated at the amount of meat left on his plate!
Thank you so much for this series! I doubt you saw these posts coming when you started writing, but they are so helpful to a lot of people.
I love to make pasties out of round steak. Succulent hand meat pies with cubed round steak, potatoes, carrots and onions, some add rutabaga. I think it’s a Michigan thing. It is said that the miners in the Upper Peninsula used to put the hot pasties inside their shirts to keep them warm on the way to the mine.
Val Workman says
Debbie, so fun. We are using round steak in our pasties today. A hot smoking (285-290) for 4 hours for flavor, then cubed and skillet fried with vegetables and gravy make this a favorite! We use Navaho fried bread for the pastie shells. I’m from Marquette Mi, now enjoying Texas beef, and certainly recommend the pastie path, our kids used to love eating them in school lunches. Great blog series, accurate info!
Has anyone used top round as meat for stews or curries in an Instant Pot? If so, what is the timing for it to become tender. With some Indian cuisines the meat is browned in the spices and onions and ghee then topped with raw rice and one cup of water and then after pressure is reached cooked for five minutes with a quick release. Maybe the beef should be cooked for a while before adding the rice for the 5 minutes it needs….anybody??
I was searching for someone to say whether or not round steak would turn out ok in an instantapot. I found your question but as luck would have, no one answered it.
I actually cooked one the other day in instant pot. I seared / browned both sides before hand then added broth and some water bc I didn’t have enough broth and it turned out so tender! Farmhouse on boone has a 1 hour roast instant pot recipe and since this is a tougher cut I followed that recipe.
Hope this helps ?
I just saw this post. Personally I love to cook tough/lean cuts in my instant pot. I cube them, dredge in a little flour, salt & pepper, brown on sauté, then cook with sautéed onion, garlic, broth, worcestershire, a little red wine for 20 min. Of course season however you’d like. It’s great over rice, or IP risotto (:
Please return and finish the cow series ? I love it! Pandemic has me in a meat CSA and I’m getting lots of cuts I’m unaccustomed to cooking
Jon ODonnell says
I usually make a large top round and serve it with a green Peruvian sauce or chimichurri sauce. With the leftovers I make either a Pepper Steak or a Thai Beef Salad later in the week. Yum!
Jelina Roy says
The steak that stays in my memory was a NY strip cooked in a skillet on the range. I was a college student living off-campus. It so far exceeded any steak I had had up to that point that it has become a legend. Now, as a (much) older adult, I like grilling steaks on the back patio with my husband, having a beer, eating boiled peanuts, and talking, while we wait for the charcoal fire to come up. In other words, the steak is great; but I like the ritual, too.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I learned the hard way that store bought corned beef brisket has up to as much as 38% (by weight) of a ‘solution’ of water and various salts. That’s why a 5 pound brisket in the package ends up only being 2-1/2 pounds after cooking. So now I buy a bottom round roast and cure it myself. Curing takes 5 days per inch of thickness according to the Morton Tender Quick package, so you need refrigerator space to let it hang out in for about a month. Then soak in water to remove some salt.
Eye round steaks become fork tender after about an hour of braising in beef stock. Season with S&P, flour both sides and brown in a hot skillet. Top with two sliced onions, add a pint of stock, cover and barely simmer until tender. The onion sauce is really good too.
I know I am late to the party on this post, but round steak is always left in my freezer when we butcher a calf. Glad to know I am not the only one, and to see some different ideas on cooking it.