A quick look at this steak, in combination with its name, could lead one to believe that the petite tender is the "chain" or "tail" of a tenderloin. However, this beautiful little gem comes from an entirely different area: the shoulder. The muscle is named 'teres major', which shares its name with the same shoulder muscle in human anatomy (and also another name for the steak itself).
Side note: What do we do with those aforementioned chains and tails? Although we are always happy to have whole Tenderloin Roasts set aside for our customers, they typically get sliced into Filet Mignons. If you were to simply slice the tenderloin into filets, you would see that they are not perfectly round medallions; more like an awkward parallelogram. There is a "chain" which is about an inch or so of meat running alongside it. These are removed for a more presentable steak. Those chains (just as succulent as the medallion itself), along with the "tails" (the tapered ends of the loin) are cubed and packaged, then sold in the farm store as Tenderloin Tips.
GVF Filet Mignon
Why are Petite Tenders such an uncommon cut? It's certainly not due to a lack of tenderness; this is the second most tender steak on any head of beef, coming close behind filet mignon. It's not due to a lack of flavor, either. Cuts from the chuck section are known for packing a nice rich, beefy flavor.
This is a difficult-to-find steak for a couple of reasons. You get only two per animal, weighing in at a half-pound each. Most notably, it takes a seriously skilled butcher to cleanly extract these from the chuck section. It is far more efficient for a meat cutter to simply remove the Flank and Flat Iron steaks, then portion the rest into larger braising roasts and ground beef. Luckily for us and our local network, we look forward to receiving our petite tenders every week.
Also known as shoulder tender, bistro tender and simply the teres major, we knew we were running a risk highlighting this beautiful cut. Only for the fear that we will no longer have a steady inventory because they really are THAT good! Quick and easy to cook, too!
As with all lean cuts, we recommend salting the steaks the day prior if possible. If you simply can't stand to wait, or even just forgot - that's okay. It'll be delicious, I assure you! Just salt as early as possible. One step that is imperative, however, is allowing the steak to fully come to room temperature by placing on the counter for at least one hour prior to cooking.
Sometimes, we really love to load up on fun seasonings and spices. This is not the case here. With such a richly flavored and lean, tender cut, we want to let all of that shine! Just some good quality salt and pepper is our go-to. Per steak, seasoning with about 1/2 teaspoon of good kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper is a good rule-of-thumb.
Petite tenders can be cooked many ways; our favorite methods being pan searing and grilling. They're even great for cooking to the side of an open campfire, especially since they are so small and light to pack...what a treat!
Whether you decide to cook on the stove-top or grill [or campfire!], one thing is certain - they should absolutely not be cooked past medium doneness. Medium-rare is ideal, but anything past medium will likely be dry and bland; certainly not a good representation of what this steak has to offer. You also want to make sure that you are cooking over screaming-hot heat! On the grill these will take only about 6-8 minutes, and about 8-10 minutes pan-searing. We highly recommend using a meat thermometer, as they are so easy to over-cook. As with every steak, it is very important to let it rest once removed from the heat. This allows the meat to re-absorb the amazing juices. Watching them run out all over the cutting board is enough to make us want to cry.
We love serving this sliced over sauteed Mushrooms and onions with a side salad simply dressed with Cold-pressed EVOO or Infused EVOO and Aged Balsamic. The mixed microgreen and shoots Salad Blend makes this meal come together in no time.