How do I cook tender meat?

Almost whenever I cook a roast and often when I cook thick pork chops, the meat ends up being very tough. Some recipes make it sound like if you cook it at a low temperature for a long time, it will get tender. When I lived in Jamaica, the beef others served, that was cooked all day, was fork tender. I find the longer I cook beef or pork, the tougher it gets. Thin pork steaks are fine. But any thicker meat - no matter how I cook it - seems to get tough.

I just cooked some center cut pork chops - about 3/4 - 1 inch thick - by searing them and then baking them in white wine at 350F for almost an hour. Tough.

What am I doing wrong or is it just the cut of the meat?

An hour seems a long time for a 1" thick cut of meat.

For large, longer-to-cook cuts like roasts, a cooking bag or aluminum foil tent works wonders.

Tougher cuts of meat, low temperature, high moisture is how I always do it.

Or - better cuts of meat, do not freeze, cook no further than medium-rare.

Sounds like a case of overcooking here, but I’m the wrong one to ask, as I’m the “walk it through a warm room, peel and serve” or “wave it in the general direction of the grill” type of steak eater, anything above Medium-Rare is cooked too much for my tastes

Hope that’s not true for pork, MacTech, or you’ll have worms crawling out your eyeballs.

My mom used to cook a beef roast with mushroom soup, dry onion soup mix, worchestershire sauce, all wrapped up and cooked in aluminum foil. When I do it, the meat still turns out tough.

I think that you need to do it fast and furious, or long and slow.

10 minutes in a skillet or 10 hours in a slow cooker.

Get yourself a slow-cooker. I’ve got a large chunk of top roast cooking in mine now - eight hours, with vegies and stock. The cooker keeps the moisture in.

Trichinosis has all but been eliminated from the first world at this point.
If you’re really worried about it, the trichina worm dies at 137º F, so cook your pork to 140, let carryover take it to 145 as it rests, and it will be moist and delicious…and safe, even though it’ll still have a blush of pink to it.

I’d say with porkchops they’re probably overcooked. I like mine still slightly pink and they’re very juicy.

Could it also be the way you’re slicing the meat? My mother used to make the best pot roast. But after she remarried, her husband would carve the meat and it would be tough. I think he sliced with the grain instead of against it, or something.


Parts of meat from muscular areas of animals generally have a lot of connective tissue and respond best to low and slow cooking. These include parts like shoulder, brisket, pot roast, chuck, etc. Meats from unexercised areas, like loin/tenderloin (where your pork chops come from) and most cuts of steak generally do not have a lot of connective tissue and respond best to fast cooking over high and dry heat.

Here’s what happens. The muscley parts of an animal have a lot of collagen. Collagen is tough, but it turns into gelatin at a temperature range of something like 150F-170F, give or take ten degrees. You have to take your meat, slowly bring it up to temp, keep it there so the collagen renders into gelatin and, voila, just like that, fork-tender meat. The meat itself is actually well past well-done, but the gelatin coats the muscle fibers and keeps it feeling moist.

So, it’s quite simple. Take a cut of meat suitable for long, slow cooking. If you’re doing pork, get yourself shoulder or country-style ribs. For beef, the easiest cuts are chuck, pot roast, and brisket. Let’s start with a simple pot roast. Get a chuck roast, sear it, and throw it in a pot with some veggies, seasonings, and liquid of your choice (anything from broth to wine). Bring to a boil on your stove top and immediately reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Wait anywhere from 2 to 4 hours or so, depending on the size of your roast. If it’s not tender, just wait. It will get tender.

Some people love slow-cooked pork chops cooked in a similar manner for eight hours in a crock pot. I don’t. I think pork chops are a terrible cut for slow cooking, and every example I’ve had of slow-cooked pork chops, while fork-tender, have always tasted dry and stringy to me, since chops do not have the requisite collagen to convert to gelatin and give the meat a moist mouthfeel.

Center cut pork chops are best grilled or broiled. If they’re not particularly thick – and I would call 3/4 to 1" about normal – then 5-6 minutes a side in the broiler at the medium distance setting would just about do it (equivalent of medium direct heat on a covered grill). Marinating pork for a few hours or overnight in something slightly tangy is good too. Let the meat sit for 5 minutes or so after removing from the broiler.

With beef steaks of similar thickness I would do it for only 3-4 minutes. Definitely no more than 4 or you’ll get it browned all the way through (well done), which is too far. Tougher cuts like London Broil need marinating, but classic steak cuts like Sirloin, Strip Steak or (my personal fave) Ribeye/Delmonico don’t, just a light rubbing of olive oil, coarsely ground black pepper, minced garlic and a dash of cayenne or curry powder. (Add salt after, not before cooking beef.)

You can also use a slow cooker to braise meat, this will seal in the moisture and keep it tender. But it’ll eat more like stew meat than a steak or chop.

Baking meat for an hour AFTER searing sounds like you’re going for shoe leather. The only meat you should cook that way are enormous roasts, like prime rib, in which case you should use a meat thermometer you can check on without opening the oven to make sure you’re not under- or overcooking it.

Another way to eat pork chops is Asian style: slice 'em thin, optionally batter them with spices, and fry 'em in a pan. Much quicker (they’re cooked in like 3 minutes) and very tasty!

Don’t cook them for an hour. They are going to be way over done and dry that way. Put a thermometer in the dead center and pull them out at 155 or so. They will carry over to 158 or so which is good for pork, a little pink is fine, and desirable.

If you are frying or bbqing a steak only turn it ONCE. Flipping it over and over forces all the juices out. Cook it most of the time on one side, turn it over and just sear the 2nd side. And if you are one of those who cannot stand pink inside, well you are never going to experience a good steak.

Pot roast in a pan with about 1 inch of water, cover with foil. Takes about 3 1/2 hours. Uncover for the last hour or so to brown the top.

Pork has less fat marbling and will dry out faster than beef.

Why am I searing my pot roast? I do this because the cook books say to and I sauté garlic in the oil to start things off but I feel like it’s a waste of time.

The Maillard reaction will add some extra flavor. If you flour the meat and then sear it, you’ll also get the beginnings of a roux.

You don’t need to sear it. It brings extra flavor to the table by browning the outside (the Maillard reaction), but it’s not going to make it more tender or more beefy. Anything more than a simmer is going to make it tougher though.

Flavor, flavor, flavor. (And disregard any books that say it’s locking in juices–it’s not.) You have to get the pan nice and hot, and your roast should get some nice brown spots on it. A good sear should look like the meat on the left. Not gray, but a nice, crispy brown.

A good sear makes a big difference in terms of flavor. No, it’s not necessary. but searing adds another layer of flavor that is usually desirable (not always–there are certain stews and sauces where searing the meat is generally not done, in order to keep the flavor more delicate.)

So, everyone in the room is too cool to say it, huh? Ok. Nzinga will say it.

That’s what she said!

There. It is done.

We used to have a few chefs around here (Chefguy?) who were great at answering these questions.