Everything tastes better with a side of steak! However, not every day calls for the prime rib or the sirloin cuts. If you take a trip to your local butcher shop, you may come across a chuck wagon steak. But what is a chuck wagon steak? Fortunately, it seems that your butcher is offering an affordable and delectable steak. If you haven’t heard of the chuck steak before, then here’s what you’ve been missing out on!
What is a Chuck Wagon Steak?
The chuck wagon steak is a portion of meat that comes from the chuck primal section of a cow. This is a huge section that includes the shoulder, as well as parts of the neck and ribs. To better understand the chuck and other parts of the cow, see our definitive guide to beef cuts.
This area of the cow is heavily exercised for movement and body weight support. Therefore, most of the meat around this section is tough and filled with connective tissue. There is also a lot of fat on the meat which makes chuck wagon steaks a less preferable piece of meat for fine dining. The chuck section of meat is tricky even for trained butchers to cut because it has numerous angles. What's more, the intersecting muscles cause the grain of the meat to change severely.
As the chuck section comprises a huge section of the cow, butchers have found creative ways of cutting the meat. The price of your local chuck wagon steak is incredible.
For a home cook looking to enjoy some good meat on the regular without having to break the bank the chuck wagon steak is an excellent choice. Fortunately for consumers, the meat packs equally as much flavor as more sought-out cuts of meat for a fraction of the price. If you take the road less-traveled and go for a chuck wagon steak, you're not likely to regret it!
If you're not into chuck wagon steak and want to try another great cut, check out our guide to patio steak!
Types of Chuck Wagon Steak
As the chuck primal is a huge section of the cow, butchers cut the meat differently to yield different parts. The different cuts are set apart by the section from which they are cut. Further, the amount of cartilage they have determines whether they are tender or tough. Here are some of the most popular cuts:
Chuck Eye Steak
Popularly known as the poor man’s rib eye amongst butchers, this chuck wagon steak comes from the fifth rib of the cow as opposed to the sixth through twelfth. The chuck eye steak looks a lot like the ribeye. However, butchers cannot sell it as a ribeye due to the difference in the muscle composition. The ribeye enjoys a lot more marbling that creates a buttery and tender cut of meat. Meanwhile, the chuck eye steak has less marbling and a more beefy flavor.
The chuck eye steak is also a little tougher than the ribeye. However, it is a much easier meat to prepare even for the beginner cook. This meat is perfect for the grill and you can always serve it on a signature wooden board to compliment it. Read our article find out which woods we recommend for your steak cutting board.
Flat Iron Steak
This type of chuck wagon steak is also known as the top blade steak. It is a fairly new and tender cut of meat that was originally from the top blade roast. Due to the tough connective tissue that ran through the center of the meat, the top blade roast was often a tough piece of meat. After a lot of research, researchers recommended that butchers begin to separate the cut into two tender cuts by cutting through the connective tissue. Since this cut of meat has a fair share of marbling, you can cook it in multiple ways without losing its rich, beefy flavor.
The 7-bone Steak
The chuck steak, also known as the 7-bone steak, is a crosscut of the shoulder blade and is named for the 7-shaped bone that comes attached to the meat. These chuck wagon steak cuts are often cut ½-¾ inches thick as it is a tougher cut of meat. It is best for braising and slow cooking to give the meat ample time to cook without drawing out its moisture.
The shoulder steak comes from the intersection where the shoulder clod and the pectoral muscle meet. For this reason, it has a few tender pieces and a few areas that may be tougher. The shoulder texture is perfect for meat lovers that prefer a meaty flavor that comes accompanied by some texture. This chuck wagon steak is perfect for slow cooking and has enough marbling to ensure it stays moist.
Shoulder Petite Tender
The shoulder petite tender is a smaller chuck wagon steak that could give the famous tenderloins a run for their money. This cut is located right above the top blade and is a rare cut that requires precision and skill to extract. This meat is tender and full of flavor and is the perfect substitute for tenderloins for any home cook wanting to save a buck.
This is a very lean and boneless chuck wagon steak that comes from the center of the shoulder. It has very little marbling as butchers will trim off most of its fat. This piece of meat has a light flavor that connoisseurs describe as earthy. This meat is perfect for you to grill due to its tender nature, and your guests will enjoy it best if you cook it medium rare.
Things to Consider When Buying a Chuck Wagon Steak
As you prepare to serve a chuck wagon steak, you will certainly need to consider how you will prepare and present it. For all things steak, we recommend investing in a high-quality medium-sized walnut wood cutting board.
Now that you know what is a chuck wagon steak, here's what to look for when choosing your own.
Marbling on a Chuck Wagon Steak
Steak lovers everywhere can agree that marbling builds the steak. Understanding the USDA system of grading meat will help you always pick the juiciest steak base to build your masterpiece.
How you intend to cook your steak directly affects how you choose your meat as some pieces may be perfect for grilling while others not so much. In the same breath, some parts may be better for slow cooking than others. If you would like to cook all your pieces together, ensure they are all of uniform thickness to avoid a cook that is not uniform.
Grass-Fed vs. Grain Finished
The choice between these two comes down to what works for you. Grass-fed meat is always leaner while grain-finished may have more fat. Both types of meat are wonderful additions to any recipe and you can substitute them for each other.
The chuck wagon steak is highly overlooked and could use some more love both at home and in restaurants. Chuck meat can be used for more than just ground beef and we hope you’ll be open to trying some of the suggestions we had in our article.
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