Steak is one of the most sought-after dishes in the world. That being said, it’s rather expensive for those on a budget. You’re not going to be able to find a perfect porterhouse steak in the $2.99 bin at your local grocery store, but you can still enjoy one of the most tender cuts of beef with a little know-how and some affordable ingredients. If you’re looking to smoke a cheap steak and make it taste like a prime cut, then keep reading! We have all the tips and tricks you need to get your hands on some delicious steak without breaking the bank.
Salt Your Cheap Meat
A pinch of salt can create a whole world of difference between a cheap steak and a juicy, tender cut. Whatever you do in the smoker will depend on this first step, and that’s why you need to get it right. So, why salt?
Cheap cuts of meat tend to contain more tendons and muscle fibers, making them harder to chew. Your goal is to transform these tough and rubbery low-grade cuts into gourmet-quality ones. To do that, you must figure out how to break down the muscle fibers and make the meat tender. That’s where salt comes in.
In simple terms, using coarse salt breaks down the muscle fibers and proteins in a slice of meat and makes it tender. Before we get to the technicalities of how that happens, it’s important to note that not all salt will do. You need salt with larger flakes, so kosher or coarse sea salt will work well here.
Cover both sides of the steak with generous amounts of salt and let it rest for at least one hour for thinner cuts. Adjust the time accordingly for thicker cuts.
What Will the Salt Do to the Steak?
If you observe the surface of the steak periodically, you’ll notice lots of water coming out of the meat. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to high school biology for a minute. Remember your teacher explaining how osmosis and diffusion work? No? Here’s a recap of that lesson in a few words.
The steak is made up of different cells. These cells have a membrane that allows the exchange of materials in and out of the cell. So, when you apply salt to the surface of the steak, the membrane will allow the salt to pull water out of the cells through what we call osmosis.
As time goes by, the meat’s natural juices re-absorb some of the salt into the steak. (That’s diffusion. The salt particles will move from where they are many to where they are few.)
Only a small amount will do that, though, so you need not worry that you’ll ingest all that salt. The absorbed salt then breaks down some of the cell proteins, making the steak flavorful and tender.
Before smoking the steak, ensure you wash off the excess salt and water. You can then season the steak with your favorite rubs or just pepper and start smoking. You can check out this article for beautiful illustrations and a tested recipe on how to turn cheap choice steak into prime steak.
Score the Cut
You can also make your cheap steak juicier by scoring it, which is simply breaking up the muscle fibers by cutting into the meat. Scoring will prevent the meat from shrinking too much during cooking, which can make it tougher and less juicy. It will also allow the marinade to penetrate the meat more deeply and the seasoning room to meld with the meat.
A deep cut will also give your steak a crispier crust (the more surface of the meat exposed to the heat will make the cooking more even and encourage the Maillard reaction when cooked at higher temperatures.)
To score a steak cut, use a sharp knife with a fine-edged blade. A dull knife will leave ragged edges on the meat, so it’s best to use a serrated knife. The first step is making diagonal cuts across the meat. Next, turn the meat 90 degrees and add crosshatch scores all over. You can score both sides of the steak.
Make sure to marinate the meat thoroughly before storing it to keep it tender, a don’t forget to serve it cut across the grain to avoid jaw fatigue.
Age the Cut
Another way of improving a cheap steak before smoking is to age it. By using a marinade, you can create the same flavor as hanging the steak for weeks. The secret is to remove water from the meat and leave everything else. This is important because reducing liquids will enhance the flavor. The meat will be tender and juicy after aging.
As you can see, there are many ways to smoke a cheap steak into a juicy and tender cut. We hope these tips have helped you learn a little bit more about how to cook the perfect steak, whether it’s a special occasion or just an ordinary night in. Visit us at the Bradley food smoking blog for more tasty recipes and food hacks.
Check out a few more steak articles here:
5 Steak Doneness Internal Temperatures & Times
The Way You Should Be Tenderizing Steak
How to Cook the Perfect New York Strip Steak
Here’s the Best Way to Tenderize Your Smoked Steaks
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