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Tenderizing Cheap Beef

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Chuck steak costs a lot less than flank steak these days and can be just as tender, and perhaps even more delicious, if properly prepared. This is how to prepare a cheap cut of meat for stir-frying. I believe the Chinese call this velveting because of the resulting texture.

First you need to cut your large piece of chuck into pieces along the lines of fat, removing any membrane as you come across it.

Now inspect your meat closely to identify which way the grain is running in each piece. You want to end up with strips that are about 1–2 inches wide going with the grain, and 0.125 inch thick, cutting across the grain. Some folk say it's easier to do this if you freeze the meat for a half hour first, but I think they just don't have sharp knives.

Next comes the Chinese tenderizing part, for which you should allow a couple of hours.

You want to use about half a tablespoon of baking soda and three tablespoons of water per pound of beef. Sprinkle the baking soda over the beef, add the water, and massage the mixture with your hands so it is evenly distributed.

Set the bowl aside for 1–2 hours, then rinse the beef thoroughly under cold running water to get rid of the baking soda and its taste. When the water runs clear, drain the beef in a colander and transfer it to a clean bowl.

Last step in preparing your beef is the marinade: 2 tsp. per pound each of oyster or soy sauce, cornstarch, oil, Shaoxing wine. Marinate for maybe a half hour while you're chopping everything else.

Your beef is now ready for stir-frying.