How to Make Grass-Fed Beef Tender

Acabonac Farms |

Grass-fed, grass-finished - they’re phrases you’ve probably heard a lot about recently, and for good reason. With growing interest in sustainable eating, grass-fed beef stands out for its environmental and nutritional advantages over grain-fed beef. Regenerative ranching practices produce more nutritional beef with a positive impact on the environment. 

However, making the switch from grain-fed to grass-fed beef might bring up questions about how to maintain the desired level of juicy tenderness. Learning how to tenderize grass-fed beef is essential for those looking to enjoy all the benefits of grass-fed without compromising on texture or flavor.

how to make grass-fed beef tender

Grass-Fed vs Grain-Fed Beef: What’s the Difference?

Grass-fed cattle graze on open grass pastures throughout their lives, while grain-fed cows live in overcrowded, unsanitary feed-lots, eating a diet of grains packed with fillers, hormones and antibiotics. This difference in diet heavily influences the nutritional content of grass-fed vs grain-fed beef. With a higher concentration of key nutrients, including double the omega-3 fatty acids and more antioxidants and vitamins across the board, grass-fed beef is on another level nutritionally. 

Now that we better understand the difference between grain-fed and grass-fed beef, let's get into how to properly cook and tenderize beef to make the most out of its unique qualities.

How to Prepare Grass-Fed Beef for Cooking

Preparing beef for cooking to maximize tenderness involves a few key steps.

First, marinating the beef can introduce additional moisture and flavor, especially with marinades that contain acidic ingredients like vinegar or lemon juice, which help break down muscle fibers.

Generously salting the beef a few hours before cooking also aids in tenderizing the meat by drawing out moisture and then allowing it to reabsorb, seasoning the beef deeply.

Lastly, letting the beef rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking ensures it cooks more evenly, and allowing it to rest again after cooking lets the juices redistribute, ensuring every bite is as tender and juicy as possible.

These steps, combined with careful cooking, ensures any beef you buy turns out delectably tender every time.

Best Cooking Methods for Tender Grass-Fed Beef

You've put some good work in prepping and tenderizing the meat, now it's time to choose the right cooking technique to ensure a tender, flavorful result and avoid ending up with tough, overcooked beef.

Here are some of the best cooking options that ensure even the toughest beef cuts end up juicy and tender:

Slow Cooking

Slow cooking is a fantastic method for certain cuts of grass-fed beef, such as chuck, brisket, and round. The low and slow approach allows the connective tissues within these cuts to gradually break down without drying out the meat, transforming them into fork-tender delights.

To slow cook meat, you'll need a slow cooker or a multi-cooker with a slow cooking function. Some popular options include the Crock-Pot 7-Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker, Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker (which also has a slow cooker function), and the All-Clad Programmable Oval-Shaped Slow Cooker. Don't have this? Don't worry - we've got other convenient cooking methods in this list!

Specific Instructions for Slow-Cooking Grass-Fed Beef:

  1. Preparation: Season your beef generously with salt, pepper, and any other desired spices. For added flavor, you can briefly sear the beef in a hot pan before placing it in the slow cooker.
  2. Temperature and Time:  Cook on a low setting for 6-8 hours or until the beef is tender. The key is to maintain a low temperature over a long period, allowing the meat's fibers to tenderize gradually.
  3. Moisture:  Adding a liquid (broth, wine, or water mixed with seasonings) will not only prevent the beef from drying out but also create a rich sauce that can be served with the meal.

Sous Vide

Sous vide is a precise method that cooks the beef evenly through to the desired level of doneness without exceeding its optimal temperature. This method is particularly good for cuts like steak, where tenderness and moisture retention are the name of the game.

However, note that to cook using the sous vide method, you'll need a sous vide cooker, also known as an immersion circulator. Some popular options include the Anova Precision Pro, Anova Precision Nano, Joule, and Breville Joule. These devices precisely control the water temperature, ensuring even cooking throughout your beef.

You'll also need a vacuum sealer to remove air from the plastic bag and seal your beef for the sous vide process. Vacuum sealers like the FoodSaver V4840 2-in-1 Vacuum Sealer Machine, Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer Pro, or Weston Pro-2300 Commercial Grade Vacuum Sealer can help you achieve the perfect seal for sous vide cooking.

If you don't have this equipment, you might want to skip to the next cooking method, but if you've got these handy, we can jump into how to cook beef using the sous-vide method.

Specific Instructions for Sous Vide Grass-Fed Beef:

  1. Preparation: Season your steak as desired. Vacuum-seal the steak in a plastic bag, removing as much air as possible to ensure even cooking.
  2. Temperature and Time: Set your sous vide cooker to the desired final temperature of the beef. For medium-rare, a temperature of 129°F-134°F (54°C-57°C) is ideal. The cooking time can vary depending on thickness, but 1-2 hours for steaks up to an inch thick is generally sufficient.
  3. Finishing:  After cooking, quickly sear the beef on a very hot pan or grill for 1-2 minutes per side to develop a flavorful crust.

Grilling and Searing

Grilling and searing are high-heat methods perfect for steaks and smaller cuts of beef. No fancy equipment needed here! These methods can highlight the natural flavors of grass-fed beef while keeping the interior juicy and tender.

Specific Instructions for Grilling and Searing Grass-Fed Beef:

  1. Preparation: Allow the beef to come to room temperature and season it well. Preheat your grill or pan to high heat.
  2. Grilling/Searing: For steaks, cook for 3-4 minutes on each side for medium-rare, adjusting the time based on thickness and desired doneness. Use a meat thermometer to avoid overcooking; 135°F (57°C) is ideal for medium-rare.
  3. Resting:  Let the beef rest for at least 5 minutes after cooking. This step allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring that each bite is flavorful and tender.

How to cook and tenderize steak and burgers from tough grass-fed beef

7 Tips to Make Grass-Fed Beef Tender

Here are the top 7 ways to ensure your beef always comes out tender, instead of tough: 

1. Choose the Right Cut

The key to tender grass-fed beef starts with selecting the appropriate cut for your cooking method, as each cut has unique characteristics that influence its tenderness and flavor.
  • Filet Mignon: Ideal for quick searing or grilling. Delivers tenderness and subtle flavor.
  • Flap Steak: Best when marinated and grilled or pan-seared quickly. Known for its rich flavor and tenderness when sliced against the grain. Try this delicious sautéed onions and mushrooms flap steak recipe!
  • Ribeye: Great for grilling or broiling, offering rich flavor and juiciness from its marbling.
  • New York Strip: Suited for quick, high-heat cooking. Offers a balance of tenderness and flavor.
  • Sirloin: Versatile for grilling or pan-searing. It offers a leaner option while retaining tenderness.
  • Brisket: Requires low and slow cooking, like smoking or braising, for deep flavor and tenderness.
  • Skirt Steak: Best marinated and seared quickly. Ideal for fajitas and other high-flavor dishes.
  • Flank Steak: Benefits from marinating and high-heat cooking. Lean and flavorful, great for slicing.
  • Short Ribs: Excellent for slow cooking methods. Results in tender, fall-off-the-bone meat. Check out some of these popular ways to cook short ribs.


2. Bring the Meat to Room Temperature

Remove the beef from the refrigerator and let it sit out for a bit until it reaches room temperature. This step is crucial for larger cuts, as it makes sure that the meat cooks more evenly. Cold meat thrown onto a hot cooking surface can seize up, leading to a tough chew (that’s the last thing you want).


3. Use Salt and Marinades

Salt the beef generously a few hours before cooking to help break down the proteins and tenderize the meat. If using a marinade, especially one with acidic components like vinegar or lemon juice, allow the beef to marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. These ingredients not only tenderize the meat but also add that scrumptious depth of flavor.


4. Select the Right Cooking Method

Based on the cut of beef you've chosen, decide on the most suitable cooking method. Tender cuts can be cooked quickly over high heat, while tougher cuts should be cooked slowly at a lower temperature. Matching the cooking method to the cut is essential for tender, juicy results.


5. Don't Overcook It 

Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the beef closely. Grass-fed beef cooks about 30% faster than grain-fed beef, so it's easy to overcook. For medium-rare, remove the beef from heat when the thermometer reads 135°F (57°C), as the temperature will continue to rise slightly while it rests.


6. Rest the Meat

Let the beef rest for at least 5 to 10 minutes after cooking, covered loosely with foil to keep it warm. Resting allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring that every bite is moist and tender. The larger the cut, the longer you let ‘er rest.


7. Slice Against the Grain

Look for the direction of the muscle fibers in the beef and slice perpendicular to them, rather than parallel. This technique cuts through the fibers, making the beef easier to chew and enhancing its tenderness.


sliced and cooked tender grass-fed filet mignon steak

100% Tender Grass-Fed Beef from Acabonac Farms

Now that you know how to tenderize grass fed steak, it's important to ensure you're sourcing your meat from trusted, local sources.

At Acabonac Farms, our commitment to sustainable farming practices ensures that our 100% grass-fed meats are not only nutritious but also contributes to the health of our planet.

Choosing our grass-fed beef guarantees you're getting the highest quality, environmentally friendly meat available. See our selection of tender 100% grass-fed beef.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cooking Perfectly Tender Steak

How long should grass-fed beef be marinated?

For thinner cuts, such as steaks, a few hours up to overnight will do just fine. Larger or tougher cuts can benefit from longer marination times, up to 24 hours. Think of marinating like giving your beef a good, long soak in a flavor bath.The key is to allow enough time for the acidic components of the marinade to begin breaking down the muscle fibers, enhancing both the tenderness and the flavor of the meat.

What are the best marinades for tenderizing grass-fed beef?

The best marinades that will make your grass-fed beef tenderized contain a balance of acidic ingredients, fats, and flavorful herbs and spices. Acidic components like lemon juice, vinegar, yogurt, or wine help tenderize the meat. Olive oil or other oils can help keep the beef moist and carry the flavors of garlic, onions, herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano), and spices into the meat. For an Asian twist, ingredients like soy sauce, ginger, and sesame oil can also create a delicious marinade. 

How long should I let grass-fed beef rest after cooking?

For steaks or smaller pieces, a 5 to 10-minute breather under a loose foil tent is perfect. If you've tackled something bigger, like a roast, give it a good 10 to 20 minutes. Resting time allows the juices within the beef to redistribute, ensuring a moist and tender result. After cooking, let your beef take a moment to gather its thoughts. 

Can I cook grass-fed beef from frozen?

No, we do not recommend cooking grass-fed beef from frozen. Thawing large cuts slowly in the refrigerator is the way to go. Cooking beef from frozen can lead to uneven cooking, with the exterior becoming too done before the interior can catch up. 

What are the ideal cooking temperatures for cooking tender steaks?

As a general guideline, for steaks, we’ll want to aim for the following internal temps:

  • Rare: 120°F to 125°F (49°C to 52°C)
  • Medium Rare: 130°F to 135°F (54°C to 57°C)
  • Medium: 140°F to 145°F (60°C to 63°C)
  • Medium Well: 150°F to 155°F (66°C to 68°C)
  • Well Done: 160°F (71°C) and above

Ultimately, the ideal cooking temperatures for depend on your desired level of doneness and the cut of meat. For roasts and larger cuts, lower temperatures over longer periods are key to breaking down connective tissues without drying out the meat. 

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