Dear Home-Ec 101,
I’m really trying to cook more at home, but sometimes I’d like to make substitutions but I’m just not sure when it’s ok to substitute round steak for cube steak or vice versa. I’m just not comfortable talking to the butcher, I just want to grab whatever happens to be in the meat case and make dinner. Is that so wrong?
No, it’s not wrong at all, I know as customer it’s perfectly acceptable for me to ask the butcher questions, but I don’t want to bother him. Heck, on busy shopping days (which I try to avoid like the plague) I have a hard enough time just getting up to the beef case. I’m not sure what some of those people are doing hanging out over the meat cooler, but they sure do take their sweet time.
You’ll notice that the names of cuts of beef and pork can vary by region and country, which makes everything extra fun for the novice cook. In general cube steak IS round steak that has been run through a machine that tenderizes the cut by physically breaking down some of that tough connective tissue.
You’ll notice the round cut is from the hindquarter of the cow and is in general a tougher cut of beef. Sometimes cube steak is top sirloin that has been run through the tenderizer.
In some areas of the country you’ll also find cube steak labelled as minute steak, but in the rest of the US, minute steaks are generally thinner cuts of top round or top sirloin.
So when considering a substitution (like I’ll be doing later today in a gluten free beef stroganoff for the slow cooker), remember that cube steak is round steak that has already had some of the tenderizing work done for you. This makes cube steak slightly more versatile than round steak in the substitution game. It’s fine to substitute a more tender cut of beef for a tougher one, but the reverse is not always true.
Round steak has not had that extra tenderizing step performed so it’s best to stick with either very quick cooking methods (and very thin slices cut against the grain) like stir fry or to use a slow, wet cook like braising.
In either case, you’ll find cube and round steak much easier to slice if cut while partially frozen.
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