The Leanest Cut Of Steak You Can Buy Is Surprisingly Tender

Eye round (also called eye of round) might not be the most famous cut of steak out there, but it's loaded with flavor. With just a bit of technique, it can come out deliciously soft and tender, too. It is located at the top of a cow's hindquarters (above its back legs) and is a heavily muscled. Unlike other muscled roasts like chuck, however, eye round is low in fat and collagen. Where chuck will turn meltingly soft when braised for a long time, eye round will constrict and become stringy.

Instead, you can roast or pan-sear this cut until it reaches a rosy medium-rare. Eye round takes well to marinades, which help boost its beefy flavor. Use marinades with acid like lemon juice or vinegar; this breaks down the meat's protein structure and makes it more tender. You can also accomplish this by dry brining the meat, which refers to salting a roast and letting it rest uncovered in the refrigerator overnight. This allows the meat to brine in its own juices, giving you the superior tenderness of a traditional wet brine without diluting the beef's flavor. If you plan to cook eye round as individual steaks rather than a large roast, cut them small and pound them heavily to increase their tenderness.

Techniques for tender eye round beef

Eye round takes very well to roasting, and is an especially common option for roast beef. Cook the whole roast in an oven set to a lower temperature, such as 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This lets the meat cook slowly, giving you a larger error margin than cooking it in a hot oven (where it can overcook in a flash). Once the roast reaches 125 degrees Fahrenheit, pull it out and sear it in a hot pan to give it a nice crust. This is a popular technique known as the reverse sear, which can be used on many other cuts of meat. 

If you want to pan-sear eye round, use individual steaks for the task. Hit the steaks with a flavorful marinade and cook them quickly over high heat. Since you've already pounded the steaks out thin, they should cook in minutes. With the right marinade, these are great for carne asada tacos or a similarly sliced preparation.

One of the most notable uses of eye round is in Vietnamese pho. You know those super thin pieces of beef that cook in the hot broth right in front of you? That meat is usually eye round. Because the steak is sliced paper-thin, it cooks quickly in the broth and stays tender. Best of all, these pieces have tons of surface area, which means they soak up the broth's flavor.

Carving eye round for the most tender results

However you cook eye round, the way you slice it is very important. In most situations, meat should be cut against the grain. To learn how to find the grain of meat, look at a cooked steak and take note of the lines running through it. These are muscle fibers, and while they can be hard to see in some meats, they're usually apparent in steak. Muscle fibers are dense and chewy, so when you slice meat in the opposite direction of the grain, you shorten these fibers and make them easier to chew. The result is a more tender piece of meat, which is especially important for eye round and other muscled cuts.

Eye round is often cut very thin, as with pho or roast beef. While restaurants use an industrial slicer for this task, there are ways to up your game at home. If you plan to serve roast beef as a cold deli meat, you can chill the meat thoroughly in the refrigerator. Cold meat is much firmer — and therefore easier to slice — than squishy hot meat. If you're cutting raw beef, take this a step further and park it in your freezer. You want to cool the meat until it starts to firm and turn solid but hasn't frozen yet. In this state, the beef will be at its most sliceable. Just remember to cut it against the grain for the most tender results.