Food & Drinks

How to Make Your Bucket Steak Tender for Frying

How to Make Your Bucket Steak Tender for Frying

Also referred to as cube steak, a bucket steak is made from different tough cuts of beef, including the top sirloin and top round steak. Since it contains tough slices of beef, bucket steak needs processing to make it tender for cooking and chewing. This article tells you how to make your bucket steak tender for frying.

What Is Bucket Steak?

As mentioned early, bucket steak is a tough cut of beef made tenderized and flattened by pounding with a meat tenderizer. It is one of the most common cuts of meat used for American dishes like beef fried steak. Bucket steak is very common in different parts of the southern United States.

According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, bucket steak is one of the hottest cuts of beef in America. The association further claims that the amount of bucket steak sold in the last quarter of 2008 was up by about 10 percent over the same period in 2007. The overall quantity of beef sold during this period went up by 3 percent.

While the rise in consumption of bucket steak can be associated with the tight kitchen budgets due to the worsening global economy, this type of beef cut has had its fan base for many years. In good and bad economic times, it has continued to be a wallflower among meat cuts.

What Is Bucket Steak

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And although it is a bit outdated and mysterious, bucket steak doesn’t disappoint. However, some people feel like this type of steak represents all that was unstylish and lacking in their childhood. But they appreciate that bucket steak was once served as the convenience meal for a whole generation.

Other people argue that the tenderizing process ensures that no part of the animal goes to waste, which is very helpful for small-scale grass ranchers and butchers who have small profit margins. Some of the most common primal beef cuts for bucket steak include the chuck, bottom round, and shoulder.

Although the nutrition value of bucket steak varies with the type of cuts used, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 3-ounce piece of braised bottom round bucket steak offers 196 calories, 8.5 grams of total fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, and 28 grams of protein.

This cut of beef is also a great source of iron and a variety of B vitamins. But it is very high in calories and fats.

According to the American Heart Association, the amount of saturated fat you consume daily should not be more than 6 percent of the calories present, which is about 13 grams on a 2,000-calorie meal. Anything above this limit exposes you to the risk of heart diseases.

The World Cancer Research Fund also recommends limiting your intake of red meat, such as bucket steak, to a maximum of three services a week.

Why Is It Referred to as Bucket Steak?

The name bucket comes from the cardboard buckets that this steak is often sold in, especially in many parts of the southern US. In other parts of the country, this type of steak is referred to as cube steak or cubed steak. The term cube steak refers to the shape of the gouges left after the cubing process.

Why Is Bucket Steak So Tough?

Why Is Bucket Steak So Tough

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Traditionally, bucket steak was made from the beef round primal cuts or the shoulder center, which comes from the beef’s wedge. These cuts can also come from any other part of the animal, which is tough. Therefore, any bucket steak made from these cuts is naturally tough.

It is also important to understand that beef muscles don’t have the same structure. These muscles are the ones that form the steak. Each muscle is made up of fibers (long strands of protein put together in bundles). These bundles are also wrapped in covers of collagen.

However, some bundles have more muscle fibers than others, making the grain of their meat thicker and tougher. A good example is a brisket–a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of beef. The longer and thicker the muscle fibers are, the tougher it is.

Your bucket steak can also be tough if it’s made from connective tissues. These tissues are the thick pieces of gristle in between muscles or the sheets of fibrous collagen surrounding muscle fibers. These connective tissues are very tough and chewy.

How to Tenderize Bucket Steak

There are many ways to make your bucket steak tender. But if you do not know how to cook it properly, it will end up being tough and chewy. Here are some of the easiest and most effective ways to tenderize a bucket steak.

1. Tenderizing Bucket Steak with Heat

If your bucket steak has a lot of connective tissue, tenderize it by heating it until all the collagen melts away. The collagen starts to melt between 160 and 200F. Once the connective tissue has melted, it turns into soft and jiggly gelatin. However, you need to be patient because this transformation doesn’t happen immediately. It can take several hours.

Therefore, this method of tenderizing bucket steak requires a lot of patience. The good this is that you will reap big in the end. The resulting gelatin covers the muscle fibers, making the steak moist and juicy. You can easily achieve this through braising.

Braising is a cooking method that involves immersing the steak partially in simmering liquid, mostly water, and allowing it to boil for a few hours to break down the collagen. Traditional barbecue is another effective way to tenderize bucket steak.

This technique involves heating the air around the steak to almost 225F and leaving it like that for a few hours. The trick here is to melt all the connective tissue.

2. Tenderize Your Bucket Steak with Power

If you do not have enough time to wait for the collagen to melt through heating, you can break it down with a tenderizing mallet. Although several machines perform this function, a metal meat mallet is the most basic way to tenderize a steak.

You just place your bucket steak on a hard, flat surface and hammer it with the mallet until the collagen is completely broken down.

This mallet has two surfaces: a flat side and a rough side. The rough side of the mallet has many tiny points that enable you to cut the connective tissues and muscle fibers into small pieces for tenderness.

So, if your bucket steak has a lot of connective tissues and you do not want to wait for hours to tenderize it with heat, a mallet with a pointy side is a good choice.

The indentations left on the steak by the mallet look like cubes. That’s why a bucket steak tenderized through this method is commonly referred to as a cube steak. Although a cube steak won’t be as succulent as a boiled beef chuck, pounding is the easiest and fastest way to tenderize meat.

Pounding the steak also helps to flatten it, making it easier and faster to cook. A flat steak also cooks evenly. If you want your bucket steak to retain its juice, make sure it doesn’t take long over the heat. The more the steak is exposed to heat, the drier it becomes. So, by flattening it with a hammer, you reduce the cooking time.

3. Tenderize Your Bucket Steak with Finesse

You can make your bucket steak tender by slicing it into thin pieces that are cut against the grain. Edge steaks have long muscle fibers that sometimes run the length of the steak.

So, if you slice them along the grain, they will feel like chewing rubber bands. But slicing them against the grain shortens the fibers, making them easier to chew.

The good thing is that most bucket steaks that need slicing along the grain have very noticeable grains. Therefore, you can easily tell the direction of the grains and how to slice them.

Bucket Steak Recipes

There are many bucket steak recipes that you can try for both professional and everyday cooking tasks. But the one you choose depends on your taste and reasons for cooking. Here are some of the most popular bucket steak recipes.

· Fork-Tender Bucket Steak and Gravy Recipe

Fork-Tender Bucket Steak and Gravy Recipe

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A bucket steak and gravy is one of the most common beef meals in America today. The steak is fork-tender, spicy, and delicious.


• 1-Pound of bucket steak
• Half-teaspoon of kosher salt
• Several grinds of black pepper
• Half-cup of all-purpose flour
• Half-teaspoon of garlic powder
• 2 Tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil
• 1 Onion cut in half, then sliced into strips
• 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms
• 15 Ounces of beef broth
• 2 Dashes of Worcestershire sauce
• 2 cups of cooked rice


1. Mix the flour and garlic powder in a bowl and sprinkle salt and pepper on the bucket steak.

2. Cover the steak with the flour mixture, making sure it is evenly covered, and shake off excess flour. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.

3. Fry the steak in hot oil until it turns brown.

4. Place the pieces of mushroom and onions over the steak evenly and add broth to cover the content.

5. Add Worcestershire sauce and leave it to boil. Reduce the heat and leave it to simmer for about two hours. Make sure the pan is loosely covered when simmering. When it’s ready, serve it over rice.

· Bucket Steak and Mushroom Gravy Recipe

Bucket Steak and Mushroom Gravy Recipe

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• Flour
• Pepper
• Salt
• Onion powder
• Garlic powder
• Olive oil
• Cube steaks
• Mushrooms
• Beef broth
• Onion soup mix
• Cornstarch
• Water


1. Add the flour, pepper, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder to a small bowl and mix them. Add the cube steaks and cover them with the flour evenly.

2. Add olive oil to a medium-sized skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Add the flour-covered steaks in the oil and cook each side for about 3-4 minutes. Remove the steaks from the pan.

3. Add sliced onions and let them cook for 4-5 minutes. Then add mushrooms and cook them until they turn golden.

4. Add in the beef broth and onion soup mix. Put the cornstarch, water, and whisk in a small bowl. Add gravy and mix. Add the cube steaks back to the pan and let it simmer until the sauce starts to thicken.

· Bucket Steak Parmigiana Recipe

Bucket Steak Parmigiana Recipe

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• Flour
• Salt
• Pepper
• Eggs
• Water
• Crushed saltines
• Grated parmesan cheese
• Dried basil
• Cube steaks
• Canola oil
• Tomato sauce
• Sugar
• Dried oregano
• Garlic powder
• Part-skim mozzarella cheese
• Shredded Parmesan cheese


1. Mix the flour, salt, and butter in a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and add water. Put the cracker crumbs, grated Parmesan cheese and basil in another bowl.

2. Cover the steaks with the flour mixture and dip them in the egg mixture. Then, cover them with the crumb mixture. Add oil to a large skillet and place it on medium-high heat. Cook the steaks until they turn brown.

3. Remove the steaks from the skillet and place them in a greased 13×9-inch baking dish. Bake them while uncovered at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes. Mix the tomato sauce, sugar, oregano, and garlic powder, and spread the mixture over the steaks. Bake them for another 10 minutes.

4. Spread the mozzarella cheese over the steaks and sprinkle them with the shredded Parmesan cheese along with oregano. Bake them for another 2-3 minutes until all the cheese is melted.

In Summary

Now that you know how to make your bucket steak tender for frying, make sure the next bucket steak meal you prepare for your family is fork-tender and delicious. Furthermore, you can draw inspiration from the above bucket steak recipes.

Featured image source: Pinterest

About Author

Priscilla Dreher

Known for her travel blogs, Priscilla Dreher started out as sociologist in her career only to combine her love for writing with her penchant for philanthropy in the later years. A widely traveled author, Dreher has championed many human rights causes and continues to advocate for socio-political inclusivity in all her writing.