By Leslie Kelly

How do you get a cheap cut of steak to taste great? That's the lesson I recently learned from Matt Broussard, aka A Cook Named Matt. I've been asking him to help me unlock the key to transforming tough meat for some time, and he recently stopped by Allrecipes' HQ to demonstrate his suprisingly easy tenderizing technique. The secret ingredient might amaze you!

Season marinated steak with salt just before grilling. Photo by Leslie Kelly

Matt, a Texas native, made the culinary pilgrimage to Seattle two years ago to work for Tom Douglas. He's a line cook at Palace Kitchen, and, in his off hours, he's constantly in the kitchen. When I first asked him how to tenderize affordable cuts of steak, the subject was sirloin. That steak is flavorful yet lean, so it can turn tough if not handled properly. After experimenting with it, Matt decided he's just not a fan because it's too lean. Plus, it's not as big a bargain as it used to be, weighing in at around $13 a pound. Instead, he turned to an old friend, skirt steak. It comes from the belly of the cow, in between the brisket and the flank. It's also lean, but very flavorful, bold, and beefy. It's long been a staple down South, and in recent years, has become more widely available.

Prepping Skirt Steak for the Grill

For this preparation, Matt marinated the steak overnight, covered in Coca Cola. That's it! The soda penetrates the interior of the thin steak and the acidity of the drink breaks down the fibers in the meat that make it tough. Before grilling, he removes it from the drink, pats it dry, and seasons with salt. It's seared on a hot grill, though he said it's also fine to cook it in a skillet on the stove top. Four minutes on each side for medium rare. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes before slicing it against the grain.

Tender and So Tasty

The sweetness of the soda is surprisingly subtle in the finished steak, but its influence is unmistakable on the beautifully caramelized exterior. It turns a deep mahogany, and the nicely charred crust offers an incredible contrast to the tender, pink interior. It's hard to imagine cooking a cheap steak any other way going forward. In other words, this lesson was indeed life-changing.

Photo by Matthew Broussard

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