Swiss steak with brown gravy was a ‘feel-good' meal at our house when I was growing up.
My Mom got the recipe for swiss steak from my Grandma (they were both great cooks) and it would fill the house with delicious aromas that drew our family to the table. Mom always used round steak with the bone and it made a delicious gravy as it cooked, so that's the cut of beef that I used for years. However, once I had my “food conversion” and could no longer bring myself to buy mystery meat from the store (find healthy meat online here if you don't have a good local source), my perfect swiss steak became really tough and was no longer a meal my family asked me to make a lot, no matter how “low and slow” I cooked it!
So I did what any foodie blogger with great connections would do, I asked for help from my super smart friend, Stan, the author of these books: Tender Grassfed Meat: Traditional Ways to Cook Healthy Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue: Traditional, Primal and Paleo.
Stanley Fishman has a big helpful heart, so when I shared my dilemma, he came to the rescue.
He explained that while it can vary depending on how the animals are raised and the grass they're eating, it's normal for some cuts of meat to be tougher than others, and round steak is known to be one of these tougher cuts.
That's not all he taught me… Stan helped me with my tough grassfed roasts, too:
He also told me that this is why my arm roasts haven't been all that great either, he suggested to use shoulder/butt roasts instead…
See if your farmer will leave a good fat cap on it, as this really helps with tenderness, and flavor. I should also mention that low and slow does not work well with grassfed roasts. I found this out the hard way, and ruined many roasts before I learned this. As you probably read in my cookbooks, most of my roast recipes always involve a period of cooking at high heat at first, then lowering the temperature. The initial blast of high heat helps break down the meat, and finishing it on a lower temperature mimics the way meat used to be roasted, first over a hot fire, then a lower fire as it burned down. This, plus the marinade recipes in my books, should give you a tender roast. You could try this method with an arm roast, but I think you will have better luck with a shoulder roast.
Another tip about round steak:
By the way, grassfed round is not the best choice for broth. I recommend that you see if you can get your farmer to sell you some beef shanks, with the bone, preferably cut across the bone in two inch long chunks. This meat is full of gelatin and collagen, and this, with the marrow from the bones, will give you a wonderful broth. And the shank meat will get tender with long, slow, cooking. I recommend that you do not add vinegar to the broth when you're cooking meat, as vinegar toughens grassfed meat. You could also use grassfed chuck, with the bones, for a nice broth.”
My farmer didn't have shanks, but I found some beef shanks here.
Here's what to do for tough grassfed round steak:
Get a meat mallet! I didn't have one so I borrowed my neighbor friend's, then loved it so much I bought my own. (Click here for the one I got.) It feels kind of good to take out your frustrations on that piece of meat!
The swiss steak recipe below is from Stanley Fishman, and it's just like my Mom used to make:
Round steak is one of leanest cuts of meat, having very little fat, which makes it one of the toughest cuts of beef, especially if it is grassfed. In fact, I was so intimidated by the thought of cooking grassfed round steak that I never tried it. But when a dear friend of mine who had a lot of grassfed round steak in her freezer asked for advice on how to cook it, I decided to give it a try.
I am very glad I did, because I wound up with a delicious, traditional way of cooking round steak, which came out very tender. Our ancestors knew how to make tough meat tender. One of the old secrets that makes this dish so good is pounding the meat — it is good exercise and a great way to release frustration. I found that I actually enjoyed doing it.
Swiss steak is a very old dish in America. It is called “Swiss” because the Swiss had a reputation for being very thrifty—and round steak was very cheap. The seasonings are simple, but perfectly matched to the dish. It was the ingenuity of our ancestors that made a tender, delicious dish of a very tough cut, and tougher cuts often have great flavor when properly cooked.
Savory Swiss Steak with Brown Gravy
- 2 pounds ½ to 1 inch thick grassfed beef round steak
- ½ cup organic flour of your choice Note from Kelly: I use spelt flour or einkorn flour these days. If you're grain-free, try arrowroot flour.
- 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1½ teaspoons freshly ground organic black pepper
- 1 large organic onion sliced
- 8 ounces fresh mushrooms of your choice sliced
- About 2 cups beef broth preferably homemade (here's how to make homemade broth or if you just don't think you'll make it, you can buy this kind online that tastes great and is from pastured animals for the most nutrition — it's shelf stable too so you can keep it on-hand for busy days.)
- 4 tablespoons pastured lard pastured beef tallow, or pastured ghee, whichever you prefer
- Cut the round steak into 3-inch squares (approximately). Pound the squares on both sides until they are about half of their original thickness. I recommend a metal meat pounder, and using the side with the sharp projections. Pounding the meat will not only make it much more tender, but it will also release the flavor of the meat into the gravy.
- Combine the flour, salt, and pepper, mixing well. Pat this mixture into both sides of the pounded meat.
- Melt 3 tablespoons of the fat in a large frying pan, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. When the fat is hot and bubbly, brown the floured round steak slices on both sides, being careful not to burn them. The slices should be a golden brown color, not black. You may have to do this in batches, as the pieces should not touch each other while browning. Remove the meat from the pan when it is browned.
- Add the last tablespoon of fat to the drippings still in the pan, and melt it over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms, and brown them until they are nicely browned but not burned, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Remove the mushrooms and onions from the pan. Put all the meat into the pan (it is fine to crowd it at this point), then add the mushrooms and onions. Add enough of the broth to almost cover the meat and vegetables. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, just enough to keep the meat simmering, and cover the pan.
- Simmer for 1 hour, then check to see if more liquid is needed. If more liquid is needed to almost cover the meat and vegetables, add the remaining broth (and some filtered water if needed).
- Cook for 1 more hour, or until the meat is easily pierced with a fork. (If not done, check every 30 minutes, and replenish the liquid, if necessary.)
- And, lastly, serve and enjoy this tender Swiss steak with its delicious gravy.
THANK YOU STAN!
If you like this recipe for Swiss steak with brown gravy, please share it with the social links, thank you!
Get Stanley Fishman's books here:
- Tender Grassfed Meat: Traditional Ways to Cook Healthy Meat
- Tender Grassfed Barbecue: Traditional, Primal and Paleo
- Get the meat mallet here
- Click here for more main dish recipe ideas, including more grassfed beef recipes
- Have you tried making the world's most healthy bread yet? That would go really good with this recipe.
- These salad ideas would be great sides for swiss steak, too. 🙂
More on bone broth:
- Check out Sally Fallon and Kaayla Daniel's new book, basically like a broth bible!
- This post answers questions like, “Why won't my stock gel?”
- Health benefits of homemade bone broth (part 1)
- HOW to make delicious homemade bone broth (part 2)
- THREE Methods for a nourishing bone broth recipe and how to use broth when caring for a loved one with cancer
- Again, if you don't think you'll make broth or are too busy, get this delicious broth online that is shelf-stable and from pastured animals so it's so good for you!
- My post on using chicken feet: Chicken Feet in my Soup: SICK!
Meal Planning Help!
Sick of planning meals and answering the question, “What am I going to feed these people?” No matter what kind of eater you are (traditional, GF, paleo, vegetarian)… Check out these affordable interactive easy-to-use meal plans where the work is done for you. NOW recipes also available from Nom Nom Paleo, The Paleo Mom, and Wellness Mama all in one spot! You can read over my review here.
Carol C says
The Michigan weather has turned again, so I made this tonight with round steak from my BIL’s ‘Miss Steak’. I’ve never made Swiss Steak before, but my hubby and I both agree – this recipe is a keeper! Thanks, Kelly!
Hi Carol! Yes, it feels like fall out there again so this recipe sounds perfect. 🙂
Great chatting with you the other day!
Shelly Emeigh Barroner says
We raise our own grass fed, grass finished Angus beef. We don’t have a problem with tough round steak, arm roast, or any other cut of meat. It makes me wonder how many weeks the grass fed beef you buy hangs before it’s cut up. We get our butcher to let ours hang for three weeks.
Kelly the Kitchen Kop says
Hmmm, I’m not sure @Shelly…
I made this last week with cubed chuck pieces and served it over egg noodles. Perfect comfort food!
Awesome, thanks for your feedback, Annette!
Fortunately we have our own grass fed beef, but I am surprised at the comments re toughness of grass fed rounds. Due to local demand for whole inside rounds for roast beef dinners we have very few round steaks to retail and I get to sample very few and had not tried any for many months. I had believed that the inside round was fairly tough and generally tried it as stir fry at high heat for less than 1.5 minutes total and then wrapped in tin foil to rest for five minutes for tender best results.
I operate a beefmobile to retail our beef direct. Because we run the cooler and freezer with a generator whilst on the road, I also have a hot plate and cast iron frying pan on board and prepare samples fried in butter from time to time to dispel the common perception amongst new customers that grass fed beef is tough.
Much to my surprise when I was in my 70’s I have discovered there is very little difference between marinateing steaks and the best if they are cooked rare and let rest. I use butter because the smoke point is about 350 degrees and not hot enough for carcinigents to form, yet hot enough to seal the steak. I used to time the steak for two minuteson each side before rest until I discovered that about a minute on each side is enough and the turn the heat off and rest. About 5 minutes rest gives maximum tenderness.
Last week I had a round steak spare and decided to try with the above method and was very pleasantly surprised and have eaten much worse expensive grain fed middle cuts, strip loins included.
If I remember rightly Stanley Fishman states that grass fed beef takes much less cooking time and I can attest to that. For the past two years we have left all our bull calves entire, marketing them mainly between 16 and 28 months.
The perhaps exceptional round steak came from a 18 month bull with absolutely no grain, hormone implants etc., raised on grass, out door wintered and fattened on grass, as close to wild as possible. We are told by native customers that the taste and flavour is close to or better than a young bull Moose from the best part of New Foundland.
Before going to grass fattened beef pre BSE in 2003 we had fattened many thousands of head finished on grain rations, however I had spent my youth in grass fattening country in the UK, Roman Wall, English Borders countryside. Here cattle had been grass fattened for thousands of years. Our herd is influenced by British breeds, including, Angus, Galloway, Shorthorn and British Whites. The beef is very fine grained and Genetic testing on over 300 head of grass fats indicated the belted Gene is generally present.
I have come to believe because of the carotenoids in the grass being ten times that of the best greens, cabbage, spinach, kale etc., that these converted into essential and other natural fatty acids result in cattle up to ten times higher in such anti cancer anti inflammatory properties than grain fattened meats. If you can get it, such beef is the best of the best, as proven down through history.
I made this with bison stew meat instead. I subbed arrowroot for the flour.
It couldn’t be a simpler recipe and it’s crazy how you open the cover and all of the sudden, you’ve got this luscious gravy in there!
I love round steaks! I have ours cut about 1″ thick. My preferred way to cook it is in either the pressure cooker or crockpot. I brown it in a skillet over medium high heat, add an onion, salt, and pepper, then pressure it for about 40 minutes. OR, I put it in the crockpot and cook on low for at least 6 hours. Either way I cook it, I make a basic brown gravy with the broth, and serve it over rice. It is one of my family’s favorite meals. My mother-in-law taught me how to cook it, and although she only ever had access to grocery store beef, it works really well with my grass-fed beef. Yum yum! I think I will have to put round steak on the menu for next week!
I use round steak for jerky because there’s no fat to go rancid. I have also used round steak for fajitas successfully. It has to be in small strips and cooked very fast.
I need to try this recipe. I’m sure my husband will love it. The only thing is, I’m trying to avoid grains.
I just added some grain-free options/ideas to the post, thanks for the reminder!
The arrowroot worked like a charm and all my peeps LOVED the dish!
Thanks SO much Kristine for the great feedback!!!