I am sick and tired of getting tough, gristly cube steak for my chicken fried steak. What cut should I ask a butcher for to get fall apart tender, flavorful cube steak? And is the cut requested before tenderizing? And...why is it called cube steak?
"Cube" steak is the label put on meat that's put through a tenderizer, which makes countless little indentations in its surface. It's should be a top round or bottom round steak that's been put through the tenderizer; that is, it's top or bottom round if your meat supplier doesn't slip something else in there. Just about anything put through a tenderizer is going to look just like "cube" steak.
Select a nice cut of either top or bottom round, about 1/2 inch thick. Try to find one with little or no sinew or, if you can't achieve that goal, have your meat vendor remove nasty sinew. Then have him/her put it through the tenderizer for you. Tell him/her to take it down to about 1/4 inch thickness.
Also, once you've dredged it in flour/egg/flour, let it rest on a plate for about 15 minutes before frying it. Fry it fast and hot .... but control the heat so it doesn't burn of course. It should be golden brown when you put it on the rack in the oven to hold until gravy is made and it's serving time.
I used to find chuck cube steaks and they were the tastiest. Now I only see round and we're not fond of it. Chuck is such a versatile piece of meat with good flavor. Maybe give that a try.
A long time ago, 'cube' steak was made from larger pieces of trimmings that were created when working with chucks, and rounds. These 'scraps' were piled up on a cutting table, and at some point during the day ran through a Hobart (or equivalent) meat tenderizer. ~ Often times a finished 'steak' would consist of two or more pieces, shaped and bound together by folding, turning and repeatedly running them through the tenderizer...So rather than any specific cut of beef, any larger pieces of trimmings was fair game. ~ The smaller stuff went to the grinder. ~~ This could explain why you may get a "good" package one time, and a "bad" package the next...or have a combination of good and bad within any given package ~~ Round steak, usually bottom round was sometimes dropped through the tenderizer or "cuber" as it is sometimes called..(thus the name) once or twice, and simply labeled as Tenderized Round Steak...Good for Swiss Steak, but not that sporty for Chicken Fried Steak IMO... A good place to start is to make friends with one of the meat cutters in your market...tell him/her what you want...Some good tender Cube Steaks...Most will gladly try to please you. ~~ When they do, be sure to compliment them profusely on how good they were next time you see them. HTH
re: Uncle Bob
One of my jobs in college was a kitchen assistant and I made the cube steaks in the Hobart. I just ran the meat pieces I was given, combining the pieces until the size the chef told me to make. I never knew what I was "cubing" nor did I care to ask way back then. I got a couple or great packages of cube steaks at my local market and did exactly what you suggested; praised the cutter to high heaven and even put his name in my phone so I would remember. Unfortunately I did not ask the cuts used and when he made them a month later they were no where as good. I will ask for the cuts suggested and make good friends with the meat cutter.