Have you ever seen a chuck arm steak in a store and wonder what to do with it? Or even what it is? Well I have that answer for you. The chuck arm comes from the chuck primal on the cow. The chuck primal is located towards the head of the cow. The muscles in this area get a lot of work, so the meat tends to be tough. The positive thing is that cuts from this area are plentiful thus cheap. The arm cut is located in the bottom half of the chuck primal. This cut doesn't have as much fat in it than other cuts of chuck like the chuck eye which is perfect for pot roasts and can be made into a grilled steak. But the arm wouldn't work as well for either. I definitely would never grill it, as it will be really tough. The only way to cook it is by braising it (which is cooking in a small amount of liquid). Braising the meat low and slow will give the connective tissues time to break down so that when you eat the meat, it won't be so tough.
Here is how I cooked my chuck arm steak.
1 pound chuck arm steak
4 oz. tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
canola (or vegetable) oil
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Before you begin to braise your meat you have the chance to add some additional flavoring by searing it. Heat up a grill pan (cast iron would be great) over high heat with a little bit of oil in the bottom, just enough to cover. While doing that season both sides of the meat with kosher salt. When the pan is hot in about 4-5 minutes, place the steak on the pan. Wait about 1 minute and then flip and cook for 1 more minute. Since this is a steak cut, so it's a thinner piece than a roast, we just want to cook it quickly to give it a good sear to add additional flavor. We definitely do not want to cook the steak entirely now. Once the steak is done searing, remove it to a plate.
Now it's time to prepare the braising liquid. Take the 2 cups of mushroom or beef broth and mix in the 4 oz of tomato paste until combined (the acids in the tomato will help break down connective tissue). Then add 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, mix to combine. Place your steak onto some heavy duty aluminum foil. You will want to completely cover the steak in foil so make sure you have enough. The reason for this is to make the best braise the meat needs to be completely surrounded in the liquid. With the foil you can accomplish that. Just make to place the entire thing in some kind of pan because no matter how good you seal it, there is still a good chance some liquid will escape. Better for it escape into a pan than onto the bottom of your oven.
Place in the oven and cook for about 1 hr 30 minutes to 1 hr 45 minutes. This should give the connective tissues enough time to break down so that the meat will be tender and not long enough to dry out the meat. Alton Brown said in one of his book that meat in the oven acts like a sponge that is being rung out. It's liquid escapes to the outer surroundings. Since the arm steak has less fat than other chuck cuts, there is a greater chance for the meat to dry out, even though it is surrounded by liquid.
When your meat is done, give it at least 5-10 minutes to rest before cutting into.
So now, next time you see an arm steak in the store you will know what to do with it. It is possible to turn this cheap, tough cut into something to enjoy!
Need more help figuring out what different cuts of beef are good for? Check out the entire collection of posts on the different beef cuts and how to cook them.