This steak obviously got its name from an advertising executive since it isn't actually tender at all. It is very chewy, as is made up of connective tissue and fibrous muscle. So what is the appeal, you wonder? The price—mock tender steak is very economical, and if you learn how to cook it properly, can be a tasty dish at dinnertime.
Mock tender also goes by several other names including chuck fillet steak, chuck clod tender, shoulder tender, petite fillet, fish steak, chuck tender steak, tender medallions, and shoulder petite tender.
A Member of the Chuck Family
This tough little beef steak is from the back of the cow, part of the chuck section, specifically the point of the chuck primal next to the top blade. Chuck yields more than six different cuts of steak, each having the most complex bone and muscle makeup compared to the rest of the animal's meat. We are most familiar with ground chuck for hamburgers, but this lesser-known cut is cooked as a steak and ideally served thinly sliced.
The Best Cooking Method
Because mock tender steak is so fibrous, high heat (such as grilling or broiling) only makes the meat drier and harder. The optimal cooking method for this steak—and most chuck cuts, for that matter—is braising. Braising has three steps: First, brown the meat by searing it in a hot pan; next add a small amount of liquid to the pan and bring to a boil; and lastly lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer—this will steam and poach the meat, adding moisture and creating tenderness.
Tips for Grilling
If you prefer to grill your steak, you will need to follow a few steps before placing it on the barbecue in order to achieve a tender and tasty meat. While generally flavorful, mock tender definitely needs a good marinade if it is going to be grilled. But before you place it in the liquid mixture, it is also a good idea to use a mallet tenderizer to break up the tough fibers.
Just be sure to create an even thickness and not to pound too thin.
The marinade used should have a strong acid component (which breaks down the tough fibers), balanced with oil or fat to protect the surface of the meat and hold in moisture. Place the mock tender in the marinade the night before and flip over once or twice to make sure the marinade is evenly absorbed. For a medium-rare steak, grill the meat four to five minutes per side (for 3/4-inch thickness). Let rest and then slice thinly before serving.
Ideal for Slow-Cooking
As with other chuck cuts, mock tender can be used as stew meat. Cut into pieces and placed in a slow-cooker along with plenty of liquid, the meat will go from "mock" tender to "real" tender over a few hours. Just make sure the cooking liquid includes an acid such as tomatoes or beer to help soften up the meat's fibers.