Thursday, May 10, 2007

Swiss Steak

After watching Alton Brown's "Cubing A Round" episode on his Good Eats show, I thought a tender Swiss steak smothered in gravy would taste good. Swiss steak has been a favorite of mine since my days as a young Navy cook. I griddled thousands of pounds of cube steak at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California's San Joaquin Valley.

"The only thing cube steak needs in a little love, a little consideration, a little home-spun know-how," said Alton in the opening monologue. Slow cooking in a braising liquid is often the best remedy to turn the "cheapest cutlet in town (into) a tall culinary shadow."

Alton's recipe easily adapts to the cast iron camp oven. He often uses home-style Dutch ovens or cast iron skillets for his recipes.

I used tenderized cube steak instead of tenderizing my own hand-cut steaks from a bottom round. I did this to save time in camp where you usually want to spend time outdoors than working over a hot fire.

Here's Alton's instructions in case you'd like to cut your own steaks:
Cut the meat with the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the flour into a pie pan. Dredge the pieces of meat on both sides in the flour. Tenderize the meat, using a needling device, until each slice is 1/4-inch thick. Dredge in the flour again and set aside.
The only thing that Alton and I disagree over is the term "Swiss steak." In my experience, Swiss steak refers to any braised, tenderized cube steak. As he points out in the show, swissing refers to the process of tenderizing tougher steaks, not the country of origin.

Alton calls his steak that's smothered with gravy Country Style Steak. He claims the term Swiss steak is reserved braised cube steak that's smothered in tomatoes and onions. My only contention is that Swiss steak commonly refers to any braised cube steak. Few make a distinction over the addition of tomatoes.


Use two 14-inch cast iron skillets to brown a large quantity of cube steak for a crown. As the steaks brown, transfer them to a 12- or 14-inch Dutch oven. Build the gravy in one of the skillets and pour it oven the steaks.

8 cube steaks, about 2-1/2 pounds
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Season on both sides of each steak with salt and pepper. Place the flour into a pie pan. Dredge the pieces of meat on both sides in the flour and set aside. Add enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of a 10-inch skillet set over medium-high heat. Once oil begins to shimmer, add sliced onions. Cook until onions are light brown and soft, about 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, add enough of the vegetable oil to just coat the bottom of a 12-inch Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the 3 to 4 steaks to the oven, being careful not to overcrowd. Cook until golden brown on both sides, approximately 2 minutes per side. Remove the steaks to a plate and repeat until all of the steaks have been browned.

Remove the last steaks from the oven. Make a slurry with 1/4-cup of the broth and 2 tablespoons dredging flour. Add the remaining beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce and thyme and whisk until the liquid just comes to a boil. Add slurry to broth and whisk until thickened. Return the steaks to the pot and make sure they are all submerged in the liquid. Spread onions over the steaks.

Place lid on the oven. Set 5 charcoal briquettes under the oven and 14 on lid. Bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until the meat is tender. Serve with mashed potatoes.


  1. I've really been enjoying reading your blog, especially your Christian commentary, and, of course, your Dutch Oven recipes! I just recently started a blog of my own DO experiences, and have linked to yours. Come check it out. I'd welcome a linkback, if you're open to it.

  2. I've been eyeing a dutch oven for a while now. Time to jump in after reading this blog for a while. Thanks.