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Why was my pan-fried medium-rare ribeye steak moist but chewy?

I cooked my first steak the other day by pan-frying it for about 3 mins each side on med-high, and let it rest for a few minutes afterwards. It was probably about an inch thick. I also lightly salted the pan before frying with rock salt. Anyway, it turned out mostly medium rare with some slightly rare parts mixed in, and it was pretty moist. As I mentioned in the title it was a ribeye steak which didn't appear to have much marbling from my limited experience. Is the possible lack of marbling the reason why it was chewy or did I do something wrong when cooking it? I didnt touch it while it was cooking except to flip it.

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  1. The grade of beef you use will have some bearing on the degree of tenderness. A lack of marbling would definitely be a culprit.

    1. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6899...

      This thread has some good ideas. I've used the jfood (and others) technique several times recently with great success. But, yeah, maybe the fault wasn't operator error.

      1. Buy Choice Beef (or better) ~~~ Learn how to select the best steak out of the 20 in the meat case ~~~ Buy a thermometer and cook to your desired degree of doneness by whatever method you choose. ~~~ To answer your question....I question that a 1" thick rib-eye cook on medium heat for 3 minutes per side was "medium rare" ....Really no way of knowing...that's what a thermometer is for.

        Have Fun & Enjoy!

        1. Definitley the quality of the cut. If it was a rib eye without much marbling, it was proably select. Where did you buy it? How much per pound? Also, different cuts of rib eye can affect quality, as can aging. Moral of the story is that cooking method is only part of the deal.

          Find yourself a good local buthcer and ask for their advice. Ask for choice cuts, look for a thick flap on the edge (I learned this from another hound on here, great tip), and ask them if the steak was aged. I pay around $21 a pound for a quality, aged rib eye.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Shane Greenwood

            $21 a pound, huh? I'll have to remember to do that the next time I win the lottery. All kidding aside, is it possible to get a nicely marbled steak with grass-fed and -finished beef? Or will everything be chewy?

            1. re: nstoddar

              It's totally possible. You just have to find the right rancher/butcher. I can count on one hand the times the number of that combo I've come across, but heck, that just inspires loyalty. Learn how to track down your local small ranchers and talk to them. Some care, some don't. I can get a FAB grassfed flatiron steak big enough for 4 (reasonable portions; 2 if you're being greedy, like me) at my local farmers market for $10. Sometimes you will find that to your taste, you want that grain finishing on a grassfed cow. That's still MUCH healthier meat than the grocery store, and you can make sure that cow never saw a feedlot.

              1. re: nstoddar

                Veter is totally right. Track down your local butchers and ranchers. I live in the SF area and we have Marin Sun Farms, Prather Ranch and a lot of Niman products here. Also, at our local farmer's markets I find smaller ranchers selling too. Ask around for butchers who do their own dry aging too. There is a big difference between grass-fed, grass-fed & corn finished, and corn fed. The $21 a pound is what I expect from a specialty butcher for a local, dry aged, rib-eye, but you can find a quality cut in the $12-$18 a pound range too. It just depends on what's available in your area.

            2. Almost certainly the grade of beef. Marbling seems to add not just succulence but tenderness (to some degree). The Fairway by me always has some prime grade beef on sale in the $8-$10 a pound range (for ribeye, strip, porterhouse, etc..), so I wait for those.

              But even if you shop for Choice grade, you can do well. There is a huge variation in Choice beef, from "almost should have been graded select" to "wow, almost could have been graded prime." Look for marbling - pick through the bin!

              I also note that Cooks Illustrated found that cooking a large semi-tough roast low and slow, then finishing with a pan sear, resulted in improved tenderness. So if you have a cheap grade of beef, that might be the way to go. I prefer a char on the outside, so I always try for better grade, high heat.

              1. surely the comments on meat quality are on the mark. i wonder, though, if you mean the same thing by "medium rare" as many others do. i ask because it seems possible--likely maybe--that a 1-inch steak cooked three minutes a side on med/hi heat would be fairly well done. (another variable here is "med/hi")

                if your steak was the same color inside as those you've enjoyed and found tender when eating out, then my observation doesn't mean much.

                3 Replies
                1. re: silverhawk

                  Thanks for the replies. Most of it was pink all the way through and some was still a bit red in the middle. If it was medium it would have been grey around the outside and only pink in the middle right?

                  1. re: homecooknewb

                    In Kansas City, rare is seared on the outside with a cool red center. Medium rare is seared on the outside with warm red center. Medium is seared on the outside and the center is pink changing to red. Any thing more is not recommended and results in a tough chewy steak. Your steak sounds like medium well, not recommended. My method of cooking steaks is, first, season them with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. I believe that salting the steak in advance draws some of the moisture from the surface and allows them sear better. When the steaks have warmed to room temperature, they are ready to cook.
                    To cook, put a castiron skillet on your hottest burner and heat it to smoking hot. Lightly rub the steaks with oil and throw them in the skillet, let them sizzle and pop for 2 or 3 minutes until that side is nicely browned. Flip and repeat on the other side. At this point, you should have a nice rare steak, about 120 degrees on the inside.. If you want it more welldone, put skillet and all in a 400 degree oven to finish.. 130 for medium rare, 140 for medium. As you gain more expertise, you will be able to tell the doneness of a steak by pushing on the surface. I hope that this will help you, food is a wonderful thing.

                    1. re: powillie

                      your method is pretty much what homecooknewb did. i'm guessing you're assuming a steak thicker than the one incher he/she used. if cooking inside, i too finish in the oven. it is not always easy to get a dark coat on a m/r one inch steak. maybe 60-90 seconds a side in the skillet. to get a proper medium rare with a darkcoat, i prefer steaks at least 1.75 inches thick--maybe 90 seconds a side and then 2-3 minutes in the oven.

                2. Also can marinating and/or ageing a tougher piece of meat in the fridge for a couple days make it tender enough for frying or grilling?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: homecooknewb

                    Marinating meat for that long - ie a couple of days - will inevitably lead to mushy meat. Marinade overnight at the most.

                    Aging is a whle different issue entirely, and probably deserving of its own thread (which if you do a search you will find at least a handful of very informative threads on how to age beef at home with a regular fridge and lots terry cloths).

                  2. You've gotten a lot of good replies. Here's one more, slightly weird: I had the farmer who raised a hog for me, once, tell me that the pig went "happily" into the truck and wasn't traumatized at the kill. Humanitarian reasons aside--those are good reasons, of course!--she informed me that an animal that dies under stress and/or fear will have high adrenalin levels, and that will make for tougher meat.

                    Maybe your cut of steak came from a terrified cow.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Beckyleach

                      This is true...Stress in beef cattle causes what is called "dark cutters" due to less oxygen in the muscle tissue causing the meat to be dark...not cherry red. ~~ Stress comes mostly from environmental conditions...Extreme Heat..Extreme Cold...Rainy Periods...Thunder and Lightning..Snow storms etc.....Crowding and the sex of the animal also play a role...Heifers seem to produce a higher rate of dark cutters...The "eye appeal" of beef at the retail counter is highly dependent on desirable color so the dark cutters are not often seen in retail meat markets.. "Dark cutters" are safe to eat, and their palatability is generally not seriously affected.


                    2. how was the steak sliced? much of how we perceive chewiness is when we're biting across the fibres as opposed to biting down onto the fibres (i'm almost quoting heston blumenthal verbatim). any proper ribeye cooked medium rare will almost always never be chewy - unless it was butchered improperly.

                      1. There could be any number of reasons your steak was chewy. It sounds like you did everything right.

                        You have to remember a whole ribeye is about 20-24 inches long, and a lot happens over that span. You go from the chuck end, which has that kernel of fat in the middle and a larger cap, down to the loin end which is less fatty, has a smaller cap, and is generally a little chewier. I prefer steaks cut from the chuck end of the ribeye, but I like a little fat with my meat.

                        The other thing to keep in mind is, its an animal, no two are alike, as much as they try to breed them to be. See the photo below for the differences in Ribeyes from one end to the other.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: David Z

                          Just reading through these, I notice a trend of the more well done it is, the chewier will be.

                          Well, standard, I suppose so, but I've had a well done ribeye that melted in my mouth due to the marbling, and it was moist as hell.

                          But I think the point is more rather than decide you want all your steaks done in X way, it might be better to get the meat first and decide how you want to cook it after.