How To Save Overcooked Beef

Oh no! Your beautiful cut of beef has been transformed from a fresh chunk of possibilities into an overcooked, grey mound of chewy nothingness. You had such high hopes for this pricy piece of protein, too. Maybe it was going to feed your guests tomorrow night, while the leftovers promised to supply you with a few days' worth of meaty sandwich goodness. Now all your plans are shot. And so is your costly beef. 

Or is it? What if there was a way to rescue your ruined roast, thereby saving your dream dinner party and your long-anticipated lunches, even if it sounds impossible? Surely "un-cooking" a meal is like "un-ringing" a bell — a feat only possible in another realm buried deep within some undiscovered black hole. However, it turns out that culinary lifesavers have concocted ways to save leathery beef, and none of them involve turning back time or performing weird meat-related sorcery. In fact, some of these hacks are super easy, even for the wet-eared novice.  

Shredding your beef can save the day

Before taking steps to rescue your beef, it is important to understand what happens to it when it's overcooked. Bon Appétit explains that when meat is uncooked it consists of liquid, fat, and protein, but when it's overdone, you basically remove its liquid and fat, leaving behind the chewy muscle. Unfortunately, it's impossible to put the fat and moisture back into your meat. All you can do is add things that will surround or encapsulate the beef and, by extension, make it taste more succulent. You won't be able to save your roast as an actual roast, but you will be able to turn your beef into something else. 

One of the most suggested ways to salvage beef that has been cooked to death is to shred it as thinly as possible and slather it with sauce. While the meat itself will still be dry, the abundance of surface area will enable it to suck up much more moisture (via Food Network). You can, then, create a saucy sandwich, a pasta dish like classic beef stroganoff, a meat sauce, or even chili. Bon Appétit warns against using it in a soup, however, saying that you'll have plenty of moisture but no fat. As a result, it will taste as though you've simply plunked overdone meat into a bowl of soup because, well, you have.

Fear not. If you don't relish the thought of shredding your giant chunk of meat, there are a few other tips you can try. 

Beef jerky, anyone?

Kick Ash Basket says that you can put your protein disaster into your slow cooker and simmer it in some water or stock to make it more tender. Meanwhile, Martha Stewart recommends chopping your pot roast into cubes and using it in a beef stew, instead. 

Still, Rachael Ray offers a completely novel suggestion. She says you can "slice it against the grain and put it in a bath of stock or bone broth." Once you've done this, it will become brisket-like and can be used in a hash, ragu sauce, or fajitas. Finally, Ryan Byrd, the culinary director at Fleisher's Butcher Shop, told Bon Appétit that the best thing to do for an overcooked brisket is to deep-fry it to create a "beef jerky effect." This may not be how beef jerky is actually made, but it might suffice.

While you'll never get your cooked-beyond-recognition beef back to a medium-rare steak or beautiful pink roast, these protein "first aid" tips will, at the very least, return it to an edible state. It's all about being flexible and willing to change gears.