Love me tender: How to avoid tough steak

There are few foods more disappointing than a chewy or tough steak, but is the problem in the meat or the cooking? Here’s how to make sure your steaks are always tender.

Choosing your meat

Raw steak

Tenderness is directly affected by your choice of meat. Look for flesh with a fine marbling of fat as this dissolves in cooking and helps to tenderise the steak.

Animals that have been carefully reared to conservation grade and Scotch beef are likely to be most tender. It is also important that the meat should have been well hung in a cool place for about 14 days.

During the hanging, the flavour develops and the natural enzymes in the meat break down the tough tissues making it firmer, drier and more tender. The meat will also look much darker in colour. Bright red steak is more likely to be tough.

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Cooking your meat

Cooked steak tender

If you buy from a good butcher, these points will be covered. But how you cook steak and how long for also affects how easy it is to chew.

Good quality raw steak is already tender and overcooking does not tenderise it but makes it tough. Always bring the steak to room temperature for an hour or so before you start cooking.

Here’s a quick guide to cooking times:


Blue: 2 minutes (the meat should offer little resistance when pressed). Keep the heat high and if you want to cook for longer, lower the heat after the initial browning.

Rare: 3 minutes (the meat feels spongy when pressed)

Medium: 4 minutes (the meat resists when pressed)

Well done: 5-7 minutes (the meat feels firm when pressed)



Preheat the grill for 10 minutes until it is very hot and make vertical cuts through any fat around the edge of the steak at 2.5cm intervals. Brush both sides with oil and season with black pepper. Cook steak for 1 minute each side. Then reduce the heat and continue to grill for:

Blue: 2 minutes

Rare: 3 minutes

Medium: 5 minutes

Well done: 6-8


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Want more steak tips? Here's our definitive guide to the perfect steak

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