Beef sales are up 3% but cube steak sales are up 10%. It’s a fitting tribute to the economy according to the New York Times article Turning to Cube Steak, and Back to Childhood.

The cube steak is suddenly one of the hottest cuts of beef in the country, according to figures from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The amount of cube steak sold during the last quarter of 2008 was up by almost 10 percent over the same period a year earlier. The overall amount of beef sold went up only 3 percent.

It doesn’t take a wizard to figure out that the economy’s swan dive has much to do with the cube steak’s resurgence. But even before kitchen budgets became tight, the cube steak had its fan base.

Through good times and bad, it has remained a wallflower among meat cuts. Old-fashioned and a little mysterious, it’s a steak without pretension, or maybe a hamburger with humble aspirations.

“Oh, I just really love them,” gushed Kathy Sullivan, 66. A Rhode Island resident, she has warm memories of cube steaks served alongside her father’s homemade piccalilli relish. Later, she pan-fried them for her own children. But only good ones, she said, made from slices of sirloin or round steak she had the butcher cube by hand.

Susan Schultz, who lives in Fort Atkinson, Wis., fondly described the slightly pink centers of cube steak sautéed in nothing more than butter and seasoned with a little salt and pepper.

“It was kind of an upgraded hamburger if you couldn’t afford steak,” said Mrs. Schultz, who raised two children on pan-fried cube steaks. “I’m going to have to have one now.”

The term “cube” can be a little murky. It doesn’t refer to the shape of the meat, which is usually beef but is sometimes made from pork, elk or other animals. Rather, it refers to both the shape of the dimples that checkerboard the surface of cube steak and the process that puts the dimples there.

Although pounding tough pieces of beef to make them more tender has a long history in the Southern and Western United States, it wasn’t until patents on mechanized cubing machines were handed out in the 1930s and 1940s that the cube steak became an inexpensive butcher shop staple.

The machines are usually stainless-steel cases with innards fashioned from rollers covered in dozens of teeth sharp enough to pierce flesh cleanly. There are top-feeding home machines with cranks that do the job, too.

It’s an interesting article and although I posted positive excepts, I assure you it’s not a one sided love affair. One person quoted said “I fed it to the dogs”.

Personally, I like cube steak fixed exactly like Susan Schultz in the article who sautées the steaks in butter, seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Coated in a bit of flour is fine too.

How Much For Cube Steak?

Kim Severson, the author of the article talks of paying $8 a pound for grass-fed cube steaks, and half that for conventionally raised beef. I am not sure where Kim shops but those prices are outrageous.

Traditionally cube steak is made from round and one can get round steak on sale for $2.00 to $2.79 a lb easily, and sometimes for much less. Moreover, it’s a little known secret but you can buy round steak and have the butcher run it through the cuber twice for free.

You can also buy chuck roast at $1.69 or so on sale and have the butcher grind that into ground beef for free. The result is you get handpicked fresh ground chuck for $1.69 yet you might pay $2.59 or more for packaged ground chuck of questionable quality and age.

Cube Steak Recipes

For those looking beyond the simple recipes above please consider Beef Cube Steak Recipes featuring Beef Cube Steak Stroganoff, Ginger-Cinnamon Rice Cube Steak, Curried Beef Cube Steak with Sweet Potatoes, Zucchini Beef Cube Steak, Orange Braised Cube Steak, Cube Steak Parmesan, Beef Cube Steak with Mushrooms and Red Wine, and Whiskey Barbeque Beef Cube Steak.

If you insist on one more, please consider Country Fried Cube Steak with Mushroom Gravy.

Cube Steak, It’s what’s for dinner.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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