Sunday, March 8, 2009

Beaten Meat

Kim Severson looks into the recent increase in popularity of a maligned cut of beef.

The cube steak is suddenly one of the hottest cuts of beef in the country, according to figures from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The amount of cube steak sold during the last quarter of 2008 was up by almost 10 percent over the same period a year earlier. The overall amount of beef sold went up only 3 percent.

It can be a touchy subject.

But tell people you’re on a little cube-steak jag, and the reactions you get — either pro or con — are surprisingly powerful considering we’re talking about a cutlet.

A little clarification is desirable.

The term “cube” can be a little murky. It doesn’t refer to the shape of the meat, which is usually beef but is sometimes made from pork, elk or other animals. Rather, it refers to both the shape of the dimples that checkerboard the surface of cube steak and the process that puts the dimples there.

I never bought cube steak until I met my current wife, who likes to use it for chicken-fried or Swiss steak. I usually marinate or cook a cheaper cut with lemon juice to tenderize it. If I have the time to plan ahead I use the slow cooker, which can make just about any meat edible.