As beef jerky goes, the kind made from cube steaks is exceptionally flavorful. Whether you’re hoping to make this delicacy yourself or just want to learn more about it, our guide has you covered.
Cube Steak Jerky
Cube steak has been fed through a tenderizing machine, which gives the meat deep grooves on the surface. These pockets can trap excess moisture, so the pieces might take longer to dehydrate when making beef jerky. For similar reasons, the jerky might turn out too salty, so scale back on the sodium if you’re planning to dehydrate the cube steak.
What Is Cube Steak?
Never heard of cube steak? Or maybe you’ve heard of it, but aren’t sure exactly what it is. Let’s start with the basics. Though this isn’t the most versatile steak on the market, it is one of the most affordable.
Cube steak, or cubed steak, is an inexpensive cut—usually top round or sirloin—that’s been fed through a mechanical tenderizer. You can tell when this has been done, because the steak will be very thin, with a visible crosshatch pattern on the surface.
The tenderizing machine breaks down the meat’s fibers. If you’re familiar with the way marinades work, you’ll already know that this results in meat with a softer texture.
If you’re making chicken fried steak, which is steak that’s been battered and fried and served with gravy, cube steak is a popular option. The meat is tender enough to benefit from the quick-cooking technique, but not as tender as a cut like filet mignon.
Because it’s so thin, cube steak freezes well. We would recommend taking it out of its original packaging before freezing it, though. The packages are often not airtight, so the meat will be prone to freezer burn.
Instead, wrap the individual steaks tightly using plastic wrap, then add a layer of aluminum foil. Seal the packages well and label them with the contents and the date. You can stack several of them atop one another in the freezer.
About Cube Steak Jerky
Is it a good idea to make jerky out of cube steak? Sure, but you’ll have to pay attention to a few details while you’re preparing it.
The grooves on the surface of the cube steak will serve as pockets for the marinade that you use. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that the excess moisture will take a while to dry out, leading to a longer dehydrating process.
There’s also the fact that the marinades used for jerky usually contain a great deal of salt. So the end result might be far saltier than you were expecting.
You can offset these issues by drying the cube steaks thoroughly before adding it to the dehydrator and backing off on the sodium content of your marinade. It’s also a good idea to plan on giving the meat a longer stint in the dehydrator, just in case.
If you don’t mind taking these extra steps, cube steak is an excellent choice for beef jerky. The meat takes well to marinades, and the resulting jerky will be flavorful, with a pleasing texture.
There’s another benefit to making beef jerky out of cube steak: These steaks are easy on the wallet. Since you’re probably used to shelling out a lot more money for top round, eye round, or bottom round roasts to make your jerky, this is a welcome change.
How To Make Cube Steak Jerky
The following recipe assumes that you’ll be making jerky in 2-pound batches. You can halve or double the recipe as needed, depending on the size of your dehydrator and how much time you have.
Pro Tip: There’s no need to use high-end Worcestershire or soy sauce for this recipe, but it helps if you can find a low-sodium version of the latter.
2 pounds cube steak (preferably made from top round steak)
For The Marinade:
- 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
1. Lay out a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap. If using plastic wrap, spray the surface with water before proceeding.
2. Place the cube steaks on the sheet, taking care to leave at least 2 inches between each steak. Cover with another sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap.
3. Use the flat side of a meat tenderizing mallet to pound the cube steaks. When you’re through, the surface area of each steak should have increased by 15 to 20 percent.
4. Remove the flattened cube steaks to a cutting board. At this point, you can put the steaks in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to firm them up. This will make the meat easier to cut into strips.
5. While the meat is in the freezer, make the marinade. Combine all the ingredients in a large nonreactive bowl, stirring well to combine. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon zip-top plastic bag.
6. When you’re ready to slice the steak, use a sharp knife to cut it into strips measuring about 1/2 inch wide.
7. Add the sliced steak to the marinade and gently massage the bag to ensure that the pieces are fully saturated.
8. Place the bag in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours, or overnight. If you weren’t able to find low-sodium soy sauce, it’s better to err on the shorter end of this time spectrum. Otherwise, you’ll risk making jerky that’s overly salty.
9. Remove the meat from the marinade and gently pat the pieces dry with paper towels to blot away any excess liquid.
10. Load the strips of marinated steak into your dehydrator, then follow the manufacturer’s instructions for making beef jerky. Be sure to use the instructions for steak pieces rather than ground beef.
11. Be prepared for the dehydrating process to take 15 to 20 percent longer than usual. That should give any remaining pockets of marinade the time they need to dry out.
12. Test the strips to ensure that they’ve fully dehydrated. When you’re satisfied with the texture, take them out of the dehydrator and store in an airtight container.
How Long Does Cube Steak Jerky Last?
You can expect your homemade jerky to keep for up to 3 weeks when sealed in a simple airtight container or zip-top bag. If you have a vacuum pump that can remove excess air from the sealed container, it can last up to 3 months.
There’s no need to refrigerate beef jerky, as the dehydrating process allows it to remain shelf-stable. However, doing so might extend its shelf life by a week or two. We don’t often test this theory, as the jerky doesn’t hang around long enough for us to find out.
The Bottom Line
Cube steak isn’t our preferred choice when making beef jerky. Most of the time, we prefer to start with a top or bottom round roast, then carve it into pieces ourselves.
However, if you’re short on prep time or money, cube steak jerky is a fine alternative. It tastes great, lasts just as long, and won’t break the bank. Just remember that the strips might take a bit longer in the dehydrator.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!