So You've Overcooked Your Meat. Now What? (2024)

We've all been there. You decide you're finally going to cook up the perfect steak. You've brought home your carefully selected grass-fed meat, let it come to room temperature, and seasoned it well. You get your pan good and hot and let 'er rip. Then, just as it's starting to sear up to a crusty golden brown, a squirrel invites itself into your house and you spend the next half-hour chasing it out. Oh wait, you haven't been there? Okay: More realistically, you got drunk on that third glass of wine and ended up with dinner that's more beef jerky than beef tenderloin.

But don't head for the trashcan just yet—we called up Ryan Byrd, the culinary director at the Brooklyn-based organic butcher shop Fleisher's, for a few ideas on how to salvage overcooked beef, chicken, pork, and more.

Remember This Key Formula

Protein + Fat + Liquid = Tasty Meat. The reason overcooked meat is so much worse than, say, a batch of cooked to death vegetables, all comes down to the proteins. Raw meat is essentially a bundle of protein, fat, and liquid. When you overcook meat, you're rendering out the fat and liquid, so all you're really left with are the toughened muscle fibers.

Here's the catch: Once you cook all the fat and liquid out, you can't get them back into the meat. In other words, you can't throw an overdone piece of meat into a pot with some fat and stock and expect it to plump up to its pre-overcooked state, Byrd says. Instead, the goal in fixing overcooked meat is to mix it with other ingredients that contain fat and liquid to create balanced bites that "mask the fact that the protein is overcooked." Here, Byrd shares a few suggestions for how to work with overcooked meats. There's no magic "fix it" button, but there are ways you can make it better.

Turn It Into a Meaty Filling for Dumplings, Hand Pies, and More

A simple fix for overcooked meat is to dump it in your food processor with some olive oil, purée it, and use it as a stuffing for everything from hand pies and empanadas to dumplings and ravioli. Byrd has repurposed over-braised meat by puréeing it with the cooking liquid and a little Sherry wine to make a tortellini filling. "With pasta, you're looking for that beef flavor, but you're not necessarily looking for that fat-liquid mouthfeel," Byrd says. "You’re going to get that from your sauce and your tender pasta." The same principle holds true for pan-fried dumplings, empanadas, hand pies, and really anything you'd want to eat with a hearty, meaty filling.

This super-easy Rustic Pork Rillette is the perfect home for overcooked chicken or pork. Photo: Alex Lau

Alex Lau

Make a Rillette

Rillette just sounds fancy—in reality, this rich, fatty meat spread couldn't be easier to make. It's also one of Byrd's favorite fixes for overcooked pork or chicken. Shred the meat in a food processor with some meat stock and rendered pork lard until it becomes a paste. The food processor helps break down the toughened meat proteins, while the stock and lard provide the necessary liquid and fat. If you're into offal, Byrd also suggests mixing finely shredded overcooked chicken into a buttery chicken liver mousse or pâté.

Deep-Fry It

When it comes to overcooked beef, Byrd likes the idea of going all the way and deep-frying it. Yes, you heard that right. He especially likes this idea for overcooked brisket, which is typically dry-rubbed with salt and spices before cooking. "It's already been kind of cured the way you would a pork belly," Byrd says. Once that brisket is overcooked and starts to flake into strands, Byrd suggests going the whole way and deep-frying it to a beef-jerky-like effect. "It's very bacon-like and visually appealing because you get these big, long strands that look really cool and it'll cook up to a deep, rough brown."

So You've Overcooked Your Meat. Now What? (2024)
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