Denver steaks are one of the increasingly popular cuts of meat that come from the beef chuck primal cut, which is known for rich roasts but also produces some lesser well-known steaks. Denver steaks are relatively tender, with nice beefy flavor, and they usually feature a good amount of marbling. As long as they're trimmed and sliced properly, Denver steaks are great for cooking on the grill.
What Is Denver Steak?
Denver steaks are made from the serratus ventralis muscle, which comes from the under blade portion of the chuck roll. The beef chuck is the shoulder of the animal and it gets a lot of exercise. That means most of the muscles in the beef chuck are pretty tough. The serratis ventralis, however, is one of the exceptions; it's situated directly underneath the shoulder blade bone and doesn't get used much. This makes it one of the more tender muscles in the beef chuck.
Serratus ventralis also happens to be one of the major muscles in the classic 7-bone chuck roast. The only difference is, in a chuck roast, you're getting a cross-section of the muscle; historically, an entire beef chuck primal would be cut into slabs on the meat saw and sold as pot roast. To produce a Denver steak, the serratus ventralis is extracted all in one piece, which, to a skilled butcher, is more like surgery than carpentry. This technique came about to see if butchers could produce a higher value product from a low value cut of meat. The name "Denver" has no real significance and was chosen for marketing purposes only.
How to Cook Denver Steak
Before you begin cooking Denver steak, assess how it was cut by the butcher. For maximum tenderness, the Denver steak needs to be sliced across the grain. Ideally, the butcher will separate the front section from the rear section before slicing each part into steaks. Doing it this way creates a triangular piece of meat and allows every steak to be sliced across the grain. But producing uniformly-sized steaks from a triangle means trimming off the points, which go into stew meat or ground beef, meaning less profit.
Therefore, what often happens is that the butcher will simply slice the muscle into steaks from back to front. This is the fastest technique and it produces the most steaks with the least amount of waste. Unfortunately, that means the steaks won't be uniformly sliced against the grain, so they could be chewy. For that reason, be very careful to avoid overcooking them, as this will just make them even tougher.
You can cook Denver steaks on the grill, stovetop, or stovetop-oven combination. If grilling, you will want to marinate the meat first and grill over medium-high heat; the stovetop will take 2 to 3 minutes for medium-rare and a few minutes longer for more well done. If you choose to first sear on the stovetop and then roast in the oven, plan on 325 F for 5 to 7 minutes for medium-rare. No matter which method you choose, searing it—either at the start or end of cooking time—is ideal.
What Does Denver Steak Taste Like?
The meat from the chuck primal is generally flavorful. A Denver steak is nicely marbled with rich and beefy flavor. It has been ranked the fourth most tender cut of beef, so it has a nice texture and remains juicy as long as it is cooked properly.
Denver Steak Recipes
As Denver steak is relatively new to the butcher case, you may have trouble finding many recipes featuring this cut of meat. But if you follow some general rules to grilling a steak, you should be able to prepare a delicious grilled steak that is flavorful and juicy.
Where to Buy Denver Steak
Extracting a Denver steak does require a skilled butcher as the muscle fibers at the front part run in a different direction than the ones at the rear, adding to the challenge. It may be difficult to find this somewhat teardrop-shaped cut at your local supermarket or meat shop; if you aren't having any luck, you can order Denver steaks online from a variety of specialized beef vendors.
Storing Denver Steak
If you aren't cooking your Denver steak immediately, it will keep in the refrigerator for three to five days. You can also freeze the steak for three months and sometimes longer, depending on the source of the beef. To maintain the most freshness, remove the steak from the store packaging and rewrap in freezer bags or butcher paper, removing as much air as possible; or use a vacuum sealer if you have one.
To thaw frozen steaks, move to the refrigerator ahead of time, or place—still in the wrapping—in cold water to defrost.