Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Slow-cooked meat: Round steak, not grilled, but slow-cooked in a frying pan

I am yet to be convinced that grilled meat is truly unhealthy in the absence of leaky gut problems. I am referring here to high heat cooking-induced Maillard reactions and the resulting advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs). If you are interested, see this post and the comments under it, where I looked into some references provided by an anonymous commenter. In short, I am more concerned about endogenous (i.e., inside the body) formation of AGEs than with exogenous (e.g., dietary) intake.

Still, the other day I had to improvise when cooking meat, and used a cooking method that is considered by many to be fairly healthy – slow-cooking at a low temperature. I seasoned a few pieces of beef tenderloin (filet mignon) for the grill, but it started raining, so I decided to slow-cook them in a frying pan with water and some olive oil. After about 1 hour of slow-cooking, and somewhat to my surprise, they tasted more delicious than grilled!

I have since been using this method more and more, with all types of cuts of meat. It is great for round steak and top sirloin, for example, as well as cuts that come with bone. The pieces of meat come off the bone very easily, are soft, and taste great. So does much of the marrow. You also end up with a delicious sauce. Almost any cut of beef end up very soft when slow-cooked, even cuts that would normally come out from a grill a bit hard. Below is a simple recipe, for round steak (a.k.a. eye round).

- Prepare some dry seasoning powder by mixing sea salt, black pepper, dried garlic bits, chili powder, and a small amount of cayenne pepper.
- Season the round steak pieces at least 2 hours prior to placing them in the pan.
- Add a bit of water and olive oil to one or more frying pans. Two frying pans may be needed, depending on their size and the amount of meat.
- Place the round steak pieces in the frying pan, and add more water, almost to the point of covering them.
- Cook on low fire covered for 2-3 hours.

Since you will be cooking with low fire, the water will probably not evaporate completely even after 3 h. Nevertheless it is a good idea to check it every 15-30 min to make sure that this is the case, because in dry weather the water may evaporate rather fast. The water around the cuts should slowly turn into a fatty and delicious sauce, which you can pour on the meat when serving, to add flavor. The photos below show seasoned round steak pieces in a frying pan before cooking, and some cooked pieces served with sweet potatoes, orange pieces and a nectarine.

A 100 g portion will have about 34 g of protein. (A 100 g portion is a bit less than 4 oz, cooked.) The amount of fat will depend on how trimmed the cuts are. Like most beef cuts, the fat will be primarily saturated and monounsatured (both very healthy), with approximately equal amounts of each. It will provide good amounts of the following vitamins and minerals: iron, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.


Anna said...

I have ordered a half bison a number of times, splitting off some of it with others. I learned quickly to look up the various cuts and the recommended cooking methods.

I usually make Swiss Steak or some other braised dish with Round steak cuts (low heat, moist, covered in the oven or on the stove). Inevitably, despite everything I said about how to cook the tougher areas like Round, the folks who share the order with me see "steak" stamped on the butcher wrap, then they grill & kill it and think it's the meat that's the problem. Even writing "braise only" on the wrap didn't seem to help, so I started having the Round either cut as roasts or ground up - no Round steaks.

Now I'm hoping I still have a pack of Round steaks in the freezer so I can try it your way. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

What about kangaroo meat? I read that grass fed kangaroo is not only healthier (cla, etc), but also friendlier for the planet (Cows apparently produce a lot of gas!)

I bet rabbits, and ostrich would also be a greener choice, unfortunately, the established meat system is too indoctrinated in chicken/beef for this to ever change.

What I'm wondering though, is the use of the convenient slow cooker. Can raw meat be placed in a slow cooker without first browning on the grill? I would love to experiment but I'm scared that without the high frying temperatures, there could be parasites that don't get destroyed!

Jim Sutton said...

Interesting post, Ned.

We view the exogenous AGEs the same. Not something I'm going to obsess about given how long our species has been cooking meat over flames, among other reasons.

Pork chops are good slow cooked in a frying pan also. I've noticed a lot of 'water' being exuded which delays browning unless the cover is removed to allow evaporation near the end. Unfortunately, nowadays most of the fat is removed by the processor.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Anna, thanks. I do like bison prepared this way too.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Anon.

Kangaroo meat and the meat of small game seems to be very low in fat. Probably not what our ancestors consumed because of the threat of "rabbit starvation" (overconsumption of lean meat, with no fat).

Still, I think they are fine, as we can add fat to them - cook them slowly with a bit more coconut and olive oil added to the water. The coconut and olive oils combined mimic (to some extent) the fact that naturally comes with big game, which is mostly saturated and monounsaturated.

Ned Kock said...

By the way, virtually all of what I've read suggests that slow cooking is quite enough to kill parasites. In fact, it is often recommended for pork. Grilling will do that too though.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Jim, thanks.

Indeed, we need that fat that gets removed for health reasons. Many people think that only carbs spare muscle, especially when one exercises, but some research suggests that fat is even more effective at that.

Btw, almost nothing increases HDL cholesterol as effectively as saturated fat, including the much vilified palmitic acid.

Ned Kock said...

One more thing on slow cookers, from some reading I've done a while ago.

It seems that their temp range (175-200 F) is not high enough to remove some toxins from certain foods, even though it will kill parasites in meat.

The certain foods that I am talking about are certain grains, such as beans.

Tony said...

Here is one of my favorite cookbooks on slow cooking. It is a Beard Foundation award winner:


Ned Kock said...

Thanks Tony, that looks like a very good book.

Michael Barker said...

Ok, Ned, this sounds pretty good and I've got a piece of steak in the fridge ready to go.

I'm still a little unsure on how low the fire should be. I'm thinking that this is basically simmer.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Michael.

I keep the water just above boiling point.

Anonymous said...

a couple more references

Ellen said...

I'm going to try this method Ned, thanks.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Anon.

The first ref is not very helpful, because the subjects were already experiencing significant levels of glycation endogenously:

"Design: Twenty inpatients with T2DM [ (±SEM) age: 55.4 ± 2.2 y; glycated hemoglobin: 8.8 ± 0.5%] were investigated."

This is not only T2DM, it is uncontrolled T2DM.

I'll take a look at the second ref. Seems interesting at first glance. I hope it will not be a big waste of time like with the refs in the roasted pork post.

Ned Kock said...
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Ned Kock said...
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Ned Kock said...

Okay, just did an initial search on the Birlouez-Aragon et al. article, which is unequivocally titled: "A diet based on high-heat-treated foods promotes risk factors for diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases."

No luck in getting the full text version at this point, but I noticed something suspicious in the results section of the abstract:

"RESULTS: In comparison with the steamed diet, 1 mo of consuming the high-heat-treated diet induced significantly lower insulin sensitivity and plasma concentrations of long-chain n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids and vitamins C and E [-17% (P < 0.002), -13% (P < 0.0001), and -8% (P < 0.01), respectively]. However, concentrations of plasma cholesterol and triglycerides increased [+5% (P < 0.01) and +9% (P < 0.01), respectively]."

The full abstract is here:


What is suspicious about this? Among other things, the decrease in plasma concentration of vitamin C and the increase in trigs. These are usually telltale signs of a diet rich in refined carbohydrates and sugars.

Often researchers say things like they do in this article: "These 2 diets differed mainly in their contents of Maillard reaction products (MRPs)."

But when you get the full text version of the article, you end up seeing things something like this: "Since the diet with greater MRPs had slightly lower caloric content, a small amount of sucrose was added to the diet to ensure that calorie intake in the two diets was identical".

Yes, I am speculating here, but I've reviewed enough research articles on nutrition, and I've seen this type of thing more often than not.

If you Anon or anybody has access to the full text, I'll be happy to take a look at it.

Susan Collins said...

I'm not one for round steak, which has less flavor than most cuts. But an excellent slow-cooking method is to sear thick steaks or roasts and then slow roast in the oven at about 180°F until the desired internal temperature is reached.

Anonymous said...

fwiw, i love this book


Justin Cain said...


Check your email. I just sent you the paper. Thanks for taking the time to review these papers.


Ned Kock said...

Got it Justin, thanks.

Ned Kock said...

I reviewed the full text version of the Birlouez-Aragon et al. article that Justin sent me. I'll need a separate post to include everything.

The bottom line is that the article doesn't get even close to indicting charred meat as a source of serum AGEs. It seems to indict industrial vegetable oils though.

Anonymous said...

Question about your cooking method: Did you turn the steaks at all? I have some deer meat that I am going to use to experiment with your method. Looking at your photos makes my mouth water while my steaks are seasoned in the fridge waiting for the 2-3 hour mark before meal time.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Jeromie. No, I don't turn them. Enjoy!

Dan M. said...

What's the condition that results when you overcook meat?

Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) or advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs)?

What do you think of Hawaiian Black Lava Sea Salt? Supposedly healthier due to more minerals, but has charcoal which I would think is the same as charred meat?