Pounding Beef


I walked into the kitchen today and found my wife engaging in the primitive practice of pounding on a slab of round steak with the edge of a saucer. Every so often she would pause and sprinkle flour over the meat, then savagely attack it with the saucer again. I have witnessed this strange behavior for so many years, first by my mother and then by my wife, and I have generally taken it for granted. But suddenly it struck me as so Neanderthal that I should maybe ask some questions. But questioning someone who is pounding meat with a saucer can be dangerous. When my mother used to do it she had that same fierce look on her face that she had when killing a snake with a hoe. One learns to address beef pounders very humbly and gently because they are liable to be in a bad mood from having to do such base work. In fact, one of my millions of theories about the human race is that people who decide to pound beef with a saucer are already in a bad mood and are taking it out on the poor round steak.

“Honey, shouldn’t I be doing that?”

Cold stare. “No, you won’t do it right. Go out and bring in some potatoes if you want to help.”

I don’t want to do that either. “Why don’t you use the regular metal meat tenderizer?”

Even colder stare. “That thing doesn’t do the job. And the flour plugs up the teeth. Go get some potatoes out of the pit.”

Thus it shall always be.

I like to talk about pounded round steak in this holiday season of eating high on the hog—or cow— mostly because I love the stuff, and when Carol turns it into Swiss steak with onions and tomato sauce and all sorts of mysteries out of the herb cabinet, this lowly kind of cheap meat tastes as good to me as the best prime Porterhouse steak in Omaha.

As all of you know, round steak comes off the rump of a beef steer and can be as tough as old shoe leather. With the smithereens beaten out of it with a saucer, it becomes quite tender and with the magic of flour broiled into it along with herbs and seasoning, it loses all that mousey taste that untreated round steak sometimes possesses. When we were first married, we ate lots of Swiss steak because it was cheap and we were poor. The fact that I love the stuff is just another instance of how being poor does not have to be all that bad.

But the main reason I like to talk about pounding beef is that it makes a good argument against those who think the whole secret of a luscious steak is the way the steer is fed. Not so, I say. The real origin of good taste is the kitchen, not the barn. I have no patience anymore with those gourmets who say that juicy prime steaks from steers stuffed with corn are far superior to lowly grass-fed round steak. The cost of that prime steak stuffed with corn is so much greater to the environment and perhaps to health that only the ultra rich may be able to afford it in the future. Munching on savory, tender. cheap Swiss steak, one gains enough courage to say something blasphemous: Baloney to the supremacy of corn-fed T-bones.

Come to think of it, fried baloney is pretty good too.


-Hi Michele I just thought that Id clarify about the saucer that Gene is telling us about . I like to use a small plate to tenderize meat . I believe that the saucer that you have in mind would be too delicate , and could be in danger of breaking .

    Ah, I see. Small enough to hold but strong enough to stand up to the pounding. Interesting. Thanks for clarifying. 🙂

Well there’s definitely a coming switch in the mindset away from corn-stuffed beef as more and more people learn about GMO’s in the corn. Additionally, the Paleo/Primal foods movement has put an emphasis on Grass-Fed beef as it is known to contain better Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratios (fights Inflammation). Plus numerous other health benefits.
There is also a natural distaste for the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations(CAFO’s) as people learn the conditions the animals are subjected to necessitating the need for Antibiotics and Hormones to combat the problems that arise in those filthy conditions.
The problem is then that now the old-school grass-fed beef that is so good for you and good tasting is the costly, premium meat because is doesn’t fit neatly into a high output food production model.

Great discussion. I try to find delicious recipes for all parts of the cow. But I am confused by one thing – pounding with a saucer. To me a saucer is a china dish that goes under a teacup, not something I’d think was hardy enough to pound round with. Now a saucepan I can see doing the trick. Just wondering if there is different locale usage/definition of the word saucer. Always looking to expand my vocabulary. 🙂

Happy New Year from an infrequent, but admiring visitor.

Down here in New Zealand those of us who raise beef cattle have 2 types of products.which are termed by us as export and local trade. The export trade beasts are almost exclusively 2 – 2 1/2 year old steers that are grass fed. They used to be mostly black angus and/or herefords but there have been a lot of exotic breeds come in over the last 15 years or so such as Limousin, Murray Greys, Charolais etc and these have also been crossed over the traditional breeds as well. The local trade animals are still usually grass fed angus or herefords and are slaughtered at 18 months old but they are all females. The difference is the younger female animals fatten faster, have a quicker turnover, don’t have huge hooves that can pug up wet winter grounds during the extra year they are growing and to my mind taste far sweeter than the big older male animals.

Another thing that is done both by the abattoirs and the home farmer is that the beast must be hung up over night to tenderise the meat. Still not sure after 40 odd years exactly why this works but it does – probably allows the muscles to relax and cool down slowly. The animal to be slaughtered must never be stressed which is why at home we usually shot them in the paddock – this kept them calm until the last second and did not let the toxic adrenalin get into the bloodstream and taint the meat. I have seen some botched jobs where the animal was so stressed prior to death that the meat was almost black and inedible. This is another reason I do not like meat slaughtered at the abattoirs – the animals know something is up and are disturbed let alone the usually long road trip in the back of an unfamiliar cattle truck.

One final trick to tenderising meat besides the therapeutic bashing with a blunt instrument is to allow it to marinade overnight in the frig with some slices of kiwi layered on top. The acidic juices in it soften the meat quickly and effectively. I am sure that there are other veggies or fruit out there that will do the same thing but kiwi fruit is plentiful down here so we use that.

Happy holiday season to everyone and thanks for your work this year Gene, Carol and Dave. Entertaining, informative and thoroughly enjoyable as always.



I always like to say at home… the best foods are peasant foods. (Which are, no surprise, also cheap.) Beans and pasta (pasta fagiloi), soups, good crusty bread and butter….

But it’s also interesting that historic peasant foods are often reborn as either trendy or even fancy in modern times, I think.

Well said Gene,
Our favorite meal out of the whole grass fed beef steer are the round steaks, our butcher does a really good job pounding them out, a little gravy wont hurt either.
Also I think the poor cuts on a grass fed steer out flavor any grain fed steer period.
I have nothing in the saving account but a freezer full of grass raised meats.

Aaah … Swiss Steak and fried bologna are two delights from my childhood in Ohio. I never learned to make Swiss Steak. I wish I could have been a bird at the window to see your wife work her magic. Thank you for this post. I greatly enjoyed reading it.

I echo Gene’s sentiments. l I recently raised two Holstein steers on pasture, hay I cut with a scythe plus a few purchased bales and a bit of whole corn. I experience the same thing when it comes time to eat them. It seems like there are quite a few packages of round steak left after the more tender cuts are gone. So after I seared a couple of round steaks like I would T-bone cuts, I tried to chew said steaks and about broke a tooth. Then I used a bit of oil in the pan along with a bit of water, and some good tasting home-grown herbs and put a lid on the fry pan, turned the heat down and let it just simmer for another hour or two. No it wasn’t rare meat but more like Sunday dinner pot roast; in short really good stuff. The drippings form the basis for a sensational gravy.

To obtain reasonably priced round steaks and other cuts for home use I urge folks to obtain dairy bull calves when possible because they are often cheap, I paid ten dollars apiece for these two ( castrate them asap). After 18 months to two + /- years of mowing the lawn/pasture, cleaning up sweet corn stalks and providing a huge manure pack they become eligible for conversion to many pounds of delicious eating, even if some of the cuts are tough. As my mother in-law says about tough meat :”It’s tougher when you don’t have any.” It’s also a good feeling to know you provided such calves with a much better existence than they would otherwise have. I’ve seen Jersey bull calves treated like garbage many times, which is a real shame. To many folks surprise it doesn’t take much lawn pasture to provide a substantial portion of the feed needed if properly grazed (See Gene’s books for instructions.) While they’re still alive, they provide better company than a lot of humans do. Just be careful and kind but firm with them because they can kill you if they are mistreated. (I guess the same could be said for humans too.)

Packing in the potato makings for dinner is great but pounding meat cuts with a saucer or other dangerous implement is a real good way to work off stress and aggression. If nothing else occurs therapy wise, I’m too tired afterward to hurt anybody. Long live down home cooking!

And here is another reason for grass-fed beef. It fits well into a rotation and improves crop yields without the fertiliser.


Dear Gene, Carol’s recipe sounds delicious. Maybe one day you will share her recipe for hickory nut pie…that just sounds dreamy. Happy New Year to all!

There is nothing like home growed , even if it was just a carrot . It will be a way better than anything that you can buy . Love your blog Gene

I am not usually the one to do the supermarket food shopping, and even when I do, I seldom look at the beef counter, but I did do so a couple of weeks ago and man, oh man, was I ever stunned. Roast beef of various cuts was going for $17.99 to $27.99 a pound! Mind you, this wasn’t gourmet grass-fed or Angus, but ordinary supermarket beef. It’s no wonder that the size of the beef display in most supermarkets is a fraction of what it was 10 or 20 years ago. That, and of course that we are feeding more and more grain to our cars and trucks and I guess this is the end result, along with the effects of substantial drought in the past year in many parts of the country.

If I ever relocate to my land in Maine full time, I’ll be keeping at least a few head of cattle for sure.

Actually, I think what the cattle eat makes a difference. There is nothing like the flavor of our local grass fed beef. The stuff in the grocery store often tastes like manure to me (not that I eat a lot of manure, but still). Having seen the feedlots in Kansas and Colorado, there is no doubt in my mind why commercial meat tastes so bad.

My wife does something similar to Deer meat she slices off pieces of the hindquarter and runs it thru an old handturned cuber and it makes great cube steaks after they have been battered and fried and have some gravy put over them.Deer is low in cholesterol and no fat in the meat since it doesn’t marble.And since I’ve been providing them pasture and garden produce all year at least I get some return.I guess for some eating deer is way down on the Totem Pole but I perfer it to beef and almost as good as our home made sausage from hogs we raise on pasture and fatten with acrons,turnips and Persimmons.

I’ve never tried a saucer; my usual for pounding meat is the dull side of a heavy knife, so it’s even more dangerous to approach me in the process! There’s a butcher in our area who makes real baloney from beef — the kind that you got about 100 years ago. It’s so different from the stuff in stores you can’t begin to compare them, and it’s good fried, cold or cut in strips and scrambled into fresh ranch eggs. I agree with you, Gene, about the difference a good cook makes. For that matter, I would say that being able to turn less-desirable meat or produce into a tasty meal is the REAL definition of a good cook. anybody can broil a T-bone.

Love the final aside, Gene!
I always wonder about corn-fed beef…since most of the corn today is genetically modified. Just what are we putting into our bodies… directly or indirectly?
Happy New Year, cousin!

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