Why Your Steak’s Mushy

Steak as soft as a bowl of oatmeal? Not on our watch! Follow these tips for the perfect cut of beef every single time.

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Let’s delve into one of those trickier issues that us meat lovers run into every now and again, and that issue is mushy steak.

Now, I love me a steak as much as anyone does, you can count on that. But there’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down to a big, juicy steak only to find out it’s as soft as the bowl of oatmeal the missus had that day for breakfast.

But don’t go getting all down in the dumps, friends, because there’s a fix for everything—and mushy steak ain’t no exception. Just listen up and follow these easy steps that I’m about to lay out for you, and you’ll never have to worry about sinking your teeth into a steak as soft as oatmeal ever again.

What Makes Steak Mushy?

What causes a steak to turn out mushy instead of perfectly tender and juicy?

To give you the long story short, there could be a few different causes, and you’ve got to figure out which one applies to your particular situation.

Wrong Grade of Beef

Let me ask you this: What quality of beef are you using? Believe it or not, the wrong USDA grade of beef can definitely contribute to mushy steak.

I’m no expert on the finer points of beef grading, but I do know that there are three main categories of beef: Prime, Choice, and Select. And when it comes to steak, you want to stick with the top two grades: Prime and Choice.

These grades of beef are more marbled, meaning they have a higher fat content which helps to keep the meat moist and flavorful while it cooks. Select grade beef tends to be leaner and less marbled, which can lead to drier, tougher meat. This may not be a problem for a slow-cooking method, like braising or stewing, it can definitely cause problems when grilling up a steak.

Marinating the Steak Too Much

Have you ever marinated a steak for a little too long and ended up with a piece of meat that’s reduced to mush?

If so, you know what it feels like to sit down to a dinner that’s supposed to be juicy and flavorful, only to find out it’s barely edible. But why does this happen? Why does marinating meat too long make it mushy?

The answer lies in the acidity of the marinade. Most marinades contain some form of acid, like citrus juice or vinegar, which helps to tenderize the meat and add flavor. However, if the marinade is left on the meat for too long, the acid can start to break down the proteins in the meat and make it overly tender.

Learn all about this—and an alternative technique I cannot recommend enough—in our post titled, “Can You Marinate Steak Too Long?”

Overcooking the Steak

This is probably the most common cause of mushy steak.

When a steak is overcooked, the meat dries out and its mouthfeel worsens. While that might not sound like a big issue in theory, it results in a steak that’s too dried out and can feel like those cheap, five-dollar supermarket steaks in your mouth.

To avoid overcooking your steak, make sure to use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. A medium steak should have an internal temperature of around 145°F (63°C). This is the temperature to which the good folks at the USDA recommend cooking your beef to so it’s safe to eat.

Beef is one of those meats that doesn’t get better the longer you cook it. Arm yourself with that meat thermometer—a good one doesn’t cost too much—and you can kiss mushy steak goodbye.

Cutting Against the Grain

Cutting the meat against the grain can also lead to some mighty mushy meat, no matter how well you cooked it.

The “grain” of the meat refers to the direction in which the muscle fibers run. And if you cut your steak against those fibers, you’re bound to end up with a piece of meat that’s too tender for its own good.

Fortunately, the remedy’s easy. What you’ve got to do is slice your steak with the grain, not against it. This will help to preserve the integrity of those muscle fibers, resulting in a more chewable cut of meat with the right mouthfeel.

Next time you’re slicing up your steak, take a moment to study the grain of the meat and make sure you’re cutting with it.

Trust me when I tell you your jowl muscles will thank you.

In Summary

Thanks for reading this far, and I do hope you found this helpful.

It turns out you can avoid the pitfalls of mushy steak and enjoy a perfectly tender and flavorful piece of beef whenever you fire up the grill.

Whether it’s choosing the right grade of beef, marinating with care, cooking to the proper temperature, or slicing with the grain, there’s a solution to mushy steak, and you have all of them.

By Sammy Steen

Sammy, Barbehow's editor, is a die-hard carnivore, barbecue whisperer, and self-proclaimed master of the grill.

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