What to Do With Leftover Tough Steak


What to do With Leftover Tough Steak

A couple weeks ago I tried to go really low budget and bought two chuck steaks for us. I put some great seasoning on them and then grilled them on the bbq…I will never do this again. Waaay too tough!

The flavor was good, but it took like 3 minutes to chew one bite. And I don’t think it was even ever really chewed completely.

I ended up being stuck with all these inedible leftovers. So, I began to rack my brain as to what I could do with this leftover tough steak.

It was a total choking hazard! I took a bite of one of the steaks the next day at lunch time, and while I was still trying to chew this beast it slipped to the back of mouth and into my throat. I had to stick my fingers back there and get it out. Not cool.

Don’t Be Fooled

Chuck SteakSadly, this is not the first time I have made the mistake of thinking I could magically take some tough chunk of meat and turn it into a perfectly tender steak. I guess we all have our delusional moments.

They just looked so pretty, sitting there all nicely cut, in their neat little package. Why did the butcher even cut these things into steaks in the first place? I mean they were labeled “Chuck Steaks” for goodness sake!

It seems every few years I have to make this mistake again, just to remind myself that it still doesn’t work.

Funny how my brain tricks me into thinking I can do something that I know I can’t. Hope I’m not the only one with these lapses in judgment…anyways, back to the leftovers.

Idea #1- Tacos/Fajitas

The next night we ended up cutting the rest of one of the steaks into really tiny pieces and making tacos. We had to make sure they were small enough pieces that we wouldn’t need to bite through them (since it was impossible to bite through them). Otherwise they would just yank everything out of the tortilla when you tried to take a bite.Frying up Leftover Steak

Then we took all these tiny bits of meat and fried them in a pan on the stove. Added a little extra salt, pepper, garlic powder/granules, paprika and squeezed some lime on it too.

For more of a fajita style taco you could also throw some chopped up onion (and cumin and bell pepper if you like) in the frying pan with them.

We pretty much always have some fresh salsa in the house (not to mention tons of hot sauces), along with tortillas and cilantro. So, after recooking the tiny pieces of meat, we fried up some small corn tortillas in a little oil and had ourselves some quite delicious carne asada style street tacos.

Hot Sauce

I doused my taco with some Marie Sharp’s Habanero Pepper Sauce to give it a boost since the salsa we had was mild. That Marie Sharp sure does know how to make a good hot sauce! Truly one of my current favorites.

>>>Click Here to see all my Hot Sauce recommendations!<<<

Idea #2- Crockpot Roast

Crockpot RoastA day or two after that I decided I better do something with that other big honking, super tough, chuck steak still sitting in my fridge. I don’t like to waste food, so I needed to come up with something.

This thing was pretty big. About 5 inches wide, 10 inches long, and 1.5 inches thick. So, I decided to turn it into a roast. Which, I am pretty sure, is God’s actual intention for this cut of meat.

I had never used a already cooked chunk of meat for a roast before. I wasn’t sure how it would work, but I thought I would give it a try.

Generally when I cook a roast in the crock pot (or oven), I do not like to add much liquid to it. To me the natural flavors and juices get diluted by adding water or whatever to the roast (But I always season the meat and usually give a quick browning in a frying pan).

Since, however, this meat had already been cooked, I knew a lot of the natural juices had already come out while I was grilling it.

I felt like this whole idea was a gamble, so I just went with it and cooked it in a way that I have never tried before.


Pot Roast Gravy
This is good stuff

First, I slapped that puppy in the Crockpot, added a little extra salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then cranked it up to high heat.

Then I started on a tasty liquid to simmer it in. I did not want something watery and bland. I remembered I had bought some beef broth packets that I had never tried out, so I grabbed two of those.

The directions say to use 1 cup of hot water per packet, but I like my au jus good and flavorful, so I cut it to 1.5 cups instead of 2.

(On a side note- these Savory Choice Beef Broth packets turned out to be a really great buy. So much easier than trying to melt bouillon cubes and way more flavorful than cubes or a can of beef broth.)

I poured that in first. Then I wanted to add a little something more, and I was still worried that this tough meat would never get tender so I wanted to add some more elements to help break it down. To help with this I then added a few splashes of red wine vinegar and about 1/4 cup of beer. I also added a few splashes of Worcestershire and a dollop of A-1 sauce for good measure.

If you do not have these awesome little beef broth packs, I would recommend using a package of powdered au jus and using less water than recommended so the broth is nice and flavorful. Or you can use beef bouillon cubes, but again, try to make the broth strong so you aren’t just cooking your meat in lightly flavored water.

To Recap

  • Put your tough meat in the Crockpot or Slow cooker
  • Add some Salt, Pepper and Garlic powder
  • Turn to High Heat
  • Make and add 1.5 cups of Au Jus (packets, powdered, or bouillon) to Crockpot
  • A few splashes of Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of beer
  • A few splashes of Worcestershire Sauce
  • A dollop of A-1
  • Add 1 onion cut into 6 or 8 chunks (mentioned below)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic cut into thirds (also mentioned below)

Let it Cook

Ok, time to let it do its thing. Now is a good time to finish that beer you opened to use in the broth.

I let it cook on high for about one hour and then decided to turn it down to the low setting.

About an hour and half after that, I checked the meat and it was still totally tough. So I turned it back up to high.

Time For a BeerAt this point I also decided to cut up an onion (into 6 or 8 pieces) and threw it in there, along with two cloves of garlic cut in thirds.

You really shouldn’t take the lid off the crockpot when you are cooking because it lets the heat out, but since this was a bit of an experiment I had to break the rule.

I then let it continue to cook on high for about another 3 hours without lifting the lid. Plenty of time for another beer or two, and when I finally checked back in on it, it was done, and it was awesome!

Too hot to eat without majorly blowing on it, but once I was able to take a bite it was great. One of the best roasts I ever made in fact. It fell right apart with just a fork and had phenomenal flavor.

We made some garlic mashed potatoes to go with it, and spooned the delicious juices and shredded meat right onto them. Super yummy!

Cooking Time Recap

Just wanted to add up the time it took to cook the tough steak into a tender roast. It was totally done after 4 hours on high, with one and half hours on low in the middle. That equals= 5.5 hours.

If you never switched it to low and never took off the lid (put the onion in at the beginning) then it would probably be done about an hour sooner.

Final Thoughts: What to do with tough leftover steak?

Both of the above solutions for what to do with that tough grilled steak turned out really well.

The tacos were obviously a much quicker meal to prepare than the roast, and they came out really tasty.

But we had so much steak left, it was too much for just tacos for the two of us. But for a smaller amount of leftovers, or even to use it for a variety of meals like we did, this is a great option.

The roast (and gravy it was in) came out super yummy. It is an awesome solution for a bigger chunk of leftover tough steak. But it takes quite a while to cook.

It basically comes down to what you have time for, but either or both of these meals are great way to use up that super tough steak.

If you are just looking for some good recipes for another day, you should check out my easy and inexpensive carne asada recipe or my favorite baked chicken thigh recipe. And make sure to check out My Hot Sauce Shop with all my favorite condiments, spices, and kitchen tools I can’t imagine living life without.

Hope you found this helpful. If you have any questions, comments, or even some other ideas for tough steak leftovers, please let me know in the comment section below.



21 Comments on “What to Do With Leftover Tough Steak”

  1. Your intro here made me laugh. Years ago(about 20 really) I must have bought a mislabeled Chuck steak that came out wonderful on the grill. I say mislabeled, because like you, every so often when on sale, I buy them again thinking about that one. Never been able to duplicate it, because every time since then I’ve cooked shoe leather. Trying to repurpose it I want to make beef stroganoff. I was wondering about using a crock pot, Instant pot, or pressure cooker. It’s too late in the day for crock pot and you’ve answered that question, so I’m going to give the pressure cooker a try hoping for the same results.

    1. I am curious how your pressure cooker stroganoff turned out? Sounds like an interesting idea. I would think the noodles would have to go in towards the end? Possible already cooked some? Anyways, hope it came out wonderful for you! Thanks for commenting… If you get a chance, let me know how it worked out for you.

  2. I had to laugh when I read your article about what to do with leftover tough steak, It was like I was reading my own recent experience with these pretty little steaks… tougher than what I would imagine 100 yr old horse meat would be like . The meat was on sale buy one – get one. Should have been a clue. Certainly a mistake I will make again. I may be found standing at the meat department providing a PSA… stay away.

    We’re we thinking fajitas with left overs, but feared choking on them. Pretty sure, we, like you, swallowed the meat with little change from when we cut it. So, we decided not to try that experiment.

    I make my own stocks… so I used some of that and I did the crock pot method. Threw in a couple carrots and an onion. After 2-3 hours, I like you, took the lid off. Still pretty tough. So, I cooked it for a total of 5.5 hours… finally was tender like roast beef. Gravy was yummy.

    I have 6 more small “steaks.” Torn between tossing them to the buzzards and coyotes and cooking them. I think I’m going to simmer them … forever… and make beef barley soup. Thank you for your suggestions. Truly enjoyed your information.

    1. So funny! I can totally relate! I just hate throwing away food if it can be saved…even if it takes 8 hours to get tender lol. Glad you were able to do something with it, and I’m glad I could give you some helpful suggestions. I fall prey to these cheap steaks every few months. It always ends up in the crock pot after the initial disheartening attempt to make them tender and tasty. I have tried everything to tenderize them, but in the end it never works. So crock pot it is…thanks for your feedback!

  3. Somehow, I always end up with some tough steak leftovers. But we came up with a solution years ago, and this is always my “go-to.” Super easy and fast and generally delish! I have made this with steak that was marinated with an orange flavor marinade, a soy marinade, whatever–it doesn’t matter. Here it is:
    * Boil up some pasta.
    * While that is happening:
    * Trim all the fat & grizzle off the meat.
    * Cut into pieces, toss it in the food processor and pulverize!
    * Saute’ it in a generous amount of butter and good olive oil with a substantial amount (4-5 cloves) of minced garlic. (I keep peeled garlic cloves in a bag in my freezer, btw–super easy and always tastes fresh.)
    * Cover thickly with some of your favorite jarred marinara (the meat should still be prominent in the sauce) and heat.
    * Serve over the pasta. Enjoy!
    Good to go (with stuff I normally have in the house) in the time it takes to boil up the pasta, and the beauty of this is that you have a completely different dinner that doesn’t feel like “leftovers”!

    1. Very interesting! This sounds like a great option for my readers. Super inventive idea! Apparently, lots of people end up stuck with tough steak, as I have received more response to this post than any of my others. I went camping a few weeks ago, and over did my whole batch of steak due to super windy conditions. The charcoal just wouldn’t cooperate. I ended up just saving it, bringing it home, and doing my crockpot resolution. Came out super tender and delicious as usual, but I really appreciate having another option! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I tried this with some expensive ribeye steaks that were too tough when I cooked them on the grill. I did not have red wine vinegar or red wine but I added soy sauce. I use soy sauce when I make a lot of marinades for beef or chicken and this was perfect. The meat fell apart when I was taking it out of the crockpot and I made BBQ sandwiches with it just added the BBQ sauce when I put on the bread, it turned out very good. I have enough meat leftover to put in the freezer to use for sandwiches, tacos, or many other things. Thank you for saving the day with some good steaks!

    1. Awesome! I’m so glad I could help! Your version sounds delicious too. Figuring this kitchen hack out has saved me a few times now. So great when something bad can be turned into something good! Thanks for sharing!

  5. This recipe works, l cut the cubed meat into 1/2′ x 1″ put it in a pressure cooker, added barley, waited til it was hissing, lowered heat for 35 minutes, perfect thick soup. tks.

    1. Interesting twist on my recipe! I like it! Nothing worst than super tough steak…So glad it worked for you. It has actually saved me a couple times now. Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

  6. This idea is terrific. I followed the recipe all the way except for the extra garlic and I added mushrooms. It was delicious and the steak fell apart. So much better than the tough, chewy stuff we had the night before. I’m going to use the for pot roast in the next week or so. I expect it will be wonderful. Thanks for sharing this online.

    1. I was so excited with this fix for leftover tough steak. I am so glad I could help you out! Thanks for letting me know how it worked out, and for putting your own spin on it. 🙂

  7. I’m going to try the roast idea very soon! My husband grilled three chuck steaks last night, and the best thing about them was the seasoning as they were tougher than shoe leather. Like Jamie, I was in budget mode. I’m going to use your method to try making a shepherd’s pie. Thanks for the ideas!

  8. I tried this today with some very tough leftover steak. OMG….I was pleasantly surprised! I tossed it all in the crock (minus the beer because I didn’t have any) and let it go on High for about 4 1/2 hours. It came out so tender and delicious….I will definitely do this again. Thank you!

    1. Hi there! I am so happy to hear this worked as well for you as it did for me! I was actually just thinking about this delicious recipe yesterday, because I have some leftover steak in my fridge right now. Thanks so much for the comment. Make sure to keep checking back for more interesting and helpful posts.

      1. Lol. I have to say it tasted way better than any stew I have ever had. But ya, the concept is pretty much the same. Thanks!

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