“When it comes to the best beef stir-fry, what cut should I use?” It’s a great question! Does the most expensive steak give the greatest flavour? Or are the often overlooked cuts the better choice, given the right treatment? It was time to step into Marion’s Test Kitchen to find the best beef for stir frying.
The different cuts of beef
I chose five different beef cuts – chuck, rump, sirloin, scotch and eye fillet – that were widely available in my local supermarket and used them all in a classic super-tender beef stir-fry recipe of mine.
They ranged from the most expensive eye fillet (often considered to be the most tender) down to the cheapest chuck steak, otherwise known as gravy beef. In fact, the price difference between the cheapest and most expensive was pretty big: $3.75 compared to $16.
Chuck steak is mostly made up of muscle and connective tissue, and to be honest I hadn’t previously considered it as stir-fry material. Here goes!
Slicing your beef
How you slice your steak for a stir-fry is so important, and plays a huge role in how tender your meat will end up. The general wisdom is that you want to be slicing across the grain of your meat.
If you take a look at your steak, you should be able to see the grain running in a certain direction. Should you cut with it, your pieces will have long grains running across their surface area, making them harder for you to chew. Take your knife and cut across it instead, and you’ll immediately see the difference in how your slices behave.
For bigger pieces like rump steak, where the meat almost separates into sections with their own grain, I would suggest dividing these sections up firstly. Once that’s done, treat each section as a separate cut with its own grain direction. Check the video above to see what I mean.
Oh, and very importantly: keep your slices THIN. No more than 3mm (⅛”) is what you should be aiming for.
Once I’d done my all-important marinating (check my article on how to cook beef stir-fries for the full lowdown on what secret weapons you need), it was time to cook, then test.
Gotta admit: I had high hopes for the premium cut. However, as I was stir-frying with the slices, they broke up a lot in the wok. By the time I was done, the finished dish looked like I’d used beef mince instead! Taste-wise, it was still very tender, but the beef almost ‘disintegrated’ in my mouth – just far too quickly for my liking.
These strips kept their shape in the wok, which is what you want in a beef stir-fry. Nothing bad to say about this one: it was tender, it tasted nice and soaked up the sauce perfectly. Thumbs up. But can we do it cheaper?
Sirloin (striploin) steak
It was actually kind of hard to tell the difference between this and the Scotch fillet! So for the cost saving between the two, this is my top contender so far in the taste test.
There was a noticeable difference in the beef stir-fry tenderness when I got to the rump. It was by no means tough, but it definitely wasn’t as tender as its predecessors.
Chuck steak (gravy beef)
Well wasn’t this a surprise: I found this cut to be far more tender than the rump… it was on par with the sirloin and scotch fillet, even. Totally unexpected, and really great considering the price difference.
The verdict? So long as you follow the tips for cutting, prepping and cooking your steak, you can absolutely get away with a budget-friendly cut of beef when making a super-tender beef stir-fry.
Check out my beef chuck stir-fry recipes for even more inspo!