Old Fashioned Swiss Steak tomatoes green bell peppers

Old Fashioned Swiss Steak

In our family, one of my Mom’s frequent Sunday meals was Old Fashioned Swiss Steak. We lived a block from Church and sometimes walked, and I remember coming home to this Old Fashioned Swiss Steak in the oven. Just the smell, when we walked in the door, was enough to get our mouths watering!

Old Fashioned Swiss Steak tomatoes green bell peppers

Old Fashioned Swiss Steak

It’s funny but I didn’t remember until now that sometimes our big Siamese Cat would follow us to Church, wait for us and walk home with us! But back to the Swiss Steak. The timing was just right to pop the Old Fashioned Swiss Steak in the oven right before we left and be nearly done when we returned. Long, slow braises are the answer to all kinds of issues.

About Old Fashioned Swiss Steak:

Swiss Steak is really a plain eating old down-home recipe. With simple ingredients, and basically no extra spicing, Old Fashioned Swiss Steak really lets the flavor of the food shine through. While newer recipes may use other meats and ingredients in an attempt to improve, I’ve resisted any of these “new-fangled” ideas in this childhood favorite.

A little seasoning salt or garlic, maybe, but other cuts of beef or vegetables and a variety of flavorings from herbs to wine would take this to a whole “nuther” level. It would no longer be “Old Fashioned Swiss Steak.” At least not the one I remember.

We always had our Old Fashioned Swiss Steak with mashed potatoes. Noodles or rice would probably do, too, *shudders* but mashed are a perfect foil for the tomato “gravy” or sauce that forms in the pan as the dish cooks. You can check my recipes for Best Company Mashed Potatoes or Simple, Rustic Mashed Potatoes, or if you have an Instant Pot, my Perfect Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes if you need a recipe. For a side? Lima beans if anything. They were so popular when I was a child, and they’re hearty enough to go with all the rest of the meal. Corn is well, too small and crunchy and anything else just somehow seems out of place.

Old Fashioned Swiss Steak tomatoes green bell peppers

Old Fashioned Swiss Steak

Making Old Fashioned Swiss Steak:

I don’t know that I was ever “taught” to make Old Fashioned Swiss Steak; I just picked it up. My job, from the time I was old enough to reach the counter standing on a kitchen chair, was to pound the flour into the round steak with the edge of a plate – that’s how the hallmark texture is achieved. You’ll want to pound the steak – a lot. And when you think you’re done pounding, pound a little more.

Cube (Minute) Steaks were never used at our house for this dish. I still don’t use the cube steaks. They are uneven in texture and just don’t cook up quite right in this recipe. Pick up a round steak (they’re usually huge and not very thick) and cut it into servings sized pieces or pick up a round roast and slice it into steaks, then pieces and pound as directed. The technique is shown in more detail on my post for German Beef Rouladen with Mushroom Gravy.

And you’ll be relieved, I’m sure that you don’t have to use the edge of a plate to pound the steak…at least if you have a meat mallet of some sort. I love the old fashioned recipes, but I love the modern conveniences we have today! If you don’t have a meat mallet, then just make sure to use a sturdy plate!

Old Fashioned Swiss Steak tomatoes green bell peppers

Old Fashioned Swiss Steak

Saving Money on Old Fashioned Swiss Steak:

When shopping for the round steak, you’ll probably find that a round roast is going to be a much better bargain and will go on sale more often than a round steak. It really isn’t difficult at all to slice the roast into “steaks” and then proceed from there. This is basic stuff, but something I had to explain to my son at one time: If you have the money, its better to buy a larger cut that’s less per pound, rather than just looking at the total price of the item, especially if you can use the extra for another meal. Shopping at a low is not always intuitive.

The Swiss Steak, alone, when I made this recipe ran about $5.35, buying all ingredients on sale. Canned tomatoes are always in my pantry and any pantry ingredients I stock up on whenever they’re on sale. I want to always have enough in my pantry so I never really run out and end up paying full price for an ingredient. Peppers go on sale regularly, and it makes sense to buy enough for the current week and for the next. They’ll keep well for a week or two, and can be pricey enough that it makes sense to plan to use them when the cost is low.

Mashed Potatoes and a vegetable side are going to up the price of the meal, but a bonus: Mashed potatoes really aren’t expensive to make, especially if you pick the potatoes up in larger bags. (Store them in a dark, well-ventilated area, away from onions. Transfer them to a paper grocery bag if they’re in plastic. Even when the plastic has little holes in it, there’s still not enough air circulation to prevent condensation. You may already have the milk on hand, especially if you have a family, but do watch the price on butter. It’s often on sale during any of the big holidays and can be as much as half off. Stock up and freeze it. With careful shopping, this dinner can be on the table for under seven bucks.

Old-Fashioned Swiss Steak tomatoes green bell peppers

Old Fashioned Swiss Steak

Print

Old-Fashioned Swiss Steak

The Classic Swiss Steak from the 50’s & 60’s.

  • Author: Kay Barlow
  • Total Time: 1 1/2 - 2 hrs
  • Yield: 5-6 servings 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • about 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds beef round steak, 1 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • water as needed
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can tomatoes, crushed by hand, with juice
  • 1 or 2 green bell peppers, cut 3/8″ rings
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Place flour on a large plate and set aside. Cut round steak into serving pieces. Salt & pepper as desired. Dredge steak in flour (really press in well), then use the edge of a sturdy plate to pound the meat. Repeat this pounding process on both sides until the meat is about 1/2 inch thick and noticeably more tender. Add a bit more flour if it becomes sticky. A meat mallet may be used instead, the large pointed side.

Heat vegetable oil in a large ovenproof skillet (or Dutch oven) over medium heat; cook the onions & floured beef in the hot oil until the meat is golden brown, turning once. This will likely have to be done in batches, but the onions are best done in the first batch, then left in the pan to slowly brown and color through as the second batch cooks.

Return all meat to pan, strew with onions. Strew the bell pepper slices across the top. If you need to layer the meat, make sure each layer contains onion & pepper. Mix tomatoes with salt and pepper, pour over the top. Check the bottom of the pan. Liquid should come up nearly to the top but not over the first layer of meat. Add a little water if needed.

Bring to a simmer, cover tightly and place in a 325-degree oven until done, when meat is tender and no longer chewy, but still holding together, about 1  1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove meat, stir sauce and vegetables together and serve with meat.

Notes

Serve over Mashed Potatoes

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One of my Mom's Sunday meals was Swiss Steak & I still love it! I'm a Grandma now, five times over. That's how old this recipe is! So easy, so good! #SwissSteak #OldFashionedSwissSteak. #Swiss Steak #SwissSteakGreenPeppersTomato #RoundSteak #ClassicSwiss Steak

36 thoughts on “Old Fashioned Swiss Steak

  1. Lots of recipes out there for Salisbury Steak but seldom any for Swiss Steak, one of my old
    time favorites! Haven’t made it yet but I will soon.
    You touched on buying roundsteak, butter, and tomato products – I don’t know how I got to be the age I am (66!) and I’ve either got tomato products I never use or I’m having to run to the store or do without because I don’t know what to keep on hand. I know you don’t know how we eat (it’s just the two of us) but it’s pretty similar to how you eat I would imagine. I would really appreciate some guidance as to what canned tomato products/sizes YOU try to keep on hand. Thanks in advance and I love your blog!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Stacy,

      Thanks so much! I used to be the same way. What I started doing with tomatoes is just stocking up on the 28 or 29 oz cans of whole tomatoes when they are on sale. For the most part that works out well for me.

      If a recipes calls for tomato sauce I just whir it up in the blender. If I need diced tomatoes I just chop them up (bonus – they don’t stay hard like some canned diced tomatoes) and if I need crushed tomatoes I just crush them by hand and that’s usually a better quality anyway than the crushed tomatoes that already come in a can. Some are just mostly juice.

      Now depending on the brand when I put tomatoes in a blender for sauce sometimes they are a little bit more watery than some canned tomato sauce. I just cook what I’m making a little bit longer if it’s a long slow cooking recipe or leave out a little bit of the juice if I want a thicker tomato sauce.

      For the most part when I make food that calls for tomatoes it always seems like it needs a lot of tomato product (things like red sauces or chili and so on) so I don’t mind having large cans on hand. If I only need say 15 oz of tomatoes I just divide the can in 1/2 and put half of it into a Ziploc and freeze it. Usually an ounce or 2 difference in a recipe doesn’t matter as far as tomatoes go in most recipes.

      I deviate sometimes if the smaller 15 oz cans are on sale for a stellar price but usually, the large ones are the most cost-effective, often on sale, and often less than other tomato products.

      Of course I always have to remember to use the tomatoes in the freezer where they could accumulate so usually I put them on a shelf in the door.

      I think for some people that might seem a little bit fussy but I’ve just gotten so used to doing this over the years it’s just second nature for me. I also have always had a small kitchen (which is strange as much as I love to cook) but opening up the pantry door and having so many types and sizes of tomatoes cluttering things up has always driven me nuts… especially because sometimes you buy things specifically for recipes and then don’t make the recipe and then you’re sitting there thinking OK what can I make with this just to use it up… With whole tomatoes you can go any direction you want and never have that problem.

      Anyway I hope that helps!

      Mollie

      • Thanks, it is indeed helpful! That’s genius, Mollie, just buying one product. I knew you’d have good advice about this. Not to belabor but what do you do about when a recipe calls for tomato paste?

        • FrugalHausfrau

          I don’t think there’s a good sub for tomato paste so it is a product I always buy. The other thing in the tomato family I use a lot is Rotel, and I buy that, too. But now you really have me thinking…

          I think the only time I get specific about tomatoes is my Dad’s Spaghetti Sauce because he’s adamant (He’ll be 91 in March and tested positive for Covid last week but is doing ok!) the recipe be as exact as possible.

          Usually if a recipe calls for something special like one of the tomato products that have herbs or garlic, and so on, I just add those ingredients to the recipe myself. Almost any recipe I’ve made that calls for one of those cans with something added in calls for those same herbs or garlic anyway.

          Every now and then I will buy fire roasted tomatoes for a recipe because that’s not as easy to duplicate but generally I stick with the basics!

          And as Forest Gump said over and over in the movie, “And that’s all I’ve got to say about that!” I think, anyway, lol!!

          Mollie

          https://frugalhausfrau.com/2017/09/30/dads-spaghetti-sauce/

          • Thank you so much Mollie, and bless your dad! I miss mine terribly. 😢 My mom too! I love what you wrote about walking to church and the cat coming with you, waiting on you to get out, and walking back with you! Such a different time it was..

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Lol! Well I am glad you loved it but it sounds like you’re a kindred spirit. When someone is fussing about food i just think…” More for me!” Thanks for commenting and giving me a chuckle, too!

      Mollie

  2. I’m curious as to why the meat was dredged in flour before pounding with meat mallet. I would think it would after pounding essentially remove all or most of the flour. I’ve always tenderized meat prior to dredging. Is there a reason I don’t know about?

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Pam, it’s really the original way to do this, and there are very few recipes I’ve ever seen with this treatment. I don’t really know why or how, just that is how I have always seen Swiss Steak done.

      The flour gets really worked into the outer layers of the meat and doesn’t really form a crust like dredged meat does, and the pounding and adding flour as needed basically uses up (if done right) almost every bit of the flour.

      It does help with the browning, but the difference is kind of like the difference between the crust of, say a chicken fried steak, where the crust forms on the outside creating a beautiful, crispy texture as opposed to just browning the meat for this recipe, where the flour really isn’t distinct. It also helps with thickening the gravy a little and I think it helps the steak hold on to the gravy. Also, since this is a smothered recipe, it’s possible that once dredged, any coating would just dissolve into the sauce and/or become mushy.

      I have actually never tried pounding and then dredging. I recently remade and took some new pics of my Swiss Steak, but next time, I think I will try your way just to see if there is a difference!

      Mollie

      https://frugalhausfrau.com/2014/09/07/chicken-fried-steak/

      • I wish my great aunt Zelda were here so I could ask her what she did. She is the only one in the family who ever prepared Swiss Steak. It’s a dish my mother has never created to my knowledge. Surprisingly, as much as my body seems to dislike COOKED green peppers giving me tummy aches and other problems, this is the ONE dish I seem to be able to eat. Why, I don’t have a clue. I can eat raw green peppers all day long if I want, cooked, no way. Every other person has always told me they’re the other way around, they can’t tolerate raw but can eat cooked fine. In fact, I used to eat green pepper sandwiches like others do tomato sandwiches. It’s what my dad ate as a child and its what he taught me. Just green peppers, white bread and mayonnaise. Since I have to eat gluten free now I haven’t had one in years and miss them. But gluten free bread is still awful enough its not pleasant enough to eat untoasted, at least for me. But for some reason, I was always able to eat my aunt’s Swiss Steak and I used her recipe which like many old recipes mostly has ingredients and very few instructions. I think years ago it was such a given every young girl would be taught cooking and the acceptable techniques it was assumed detailed instructions, as we see in recipes today, wasn’t necessary. I have quite a number of recipes like this, especially cakes and I’ve just had to rely on my overall knowledge of baking to bake them. I want to give this one a try when I’m able. I think I’ll do an experiment, do one each way and see the final results and which I like best.

        • FrugalHausfrau

          That is so funny about the peppers because I’ve heard the same thing. My Dad ate PB and Mayo sandwiches, btw! And I wish I had an Auntie Zeida! 🙂 And you are so right about the cooking “lessons” and those old recipes. I’ve even googled a set of ingredients before (use google advanced) to see if I could come up with instructions for some of my Grandma’s! Let is know of your results!!

          Mollie

    • Mj

      My nana & mom always tenderized the flour into the meat. It makes the meat so moist!!!! She also would put ketchup on the meat 30 minutes before it was done!! I love the smell of green peppers cooking but can’t eat them. So I just removed & gave them to my brother!!!

      • FrugalHausfrau

        Hi MJ thanks for stopping by in adding your comment. I am laughing about sharing with your brother. That sounds ideal! The ketchup one is a new thing for me but I could see it would add a little bit of tangy sweetness. 🙂

        Mollie

      • I can’t eat green peppers either, if I do I taste them for DAYS. This started in my teens. I never did really like the taste of them though. My mother LOVES stuffed peppers and made them fairly often. Thankfully she didn’t make me eat the green pepper, just the insides. I grew up in a family that you ate what was placed in front of you. THANK HEAVENS someone invented mashed potatoes otherwise I would have starved to death. As my mother helped her father in his corner grocery store beginning around age 13 she wasn’t trained in the house and literally could not boil water when my folks married. She had one sister (and a slew of brothers) who was 10 years older than her almost to the day. It was that sister that took over running the house early in life as Grandma would rather be working on the farm than in the house. It took a good many years for my mother to learn how to cook, fairly well, and I don’t think took a likable interest until I began trying to learn. (it was called self-survival).There are a fair number of very humorous stories of her cooking. Some of the same stunts Lucy Ricardo pulled. But one thing she mastered fairly early on was mashed potatoes. I learned you can get almost anything down when mixed with a spoonful of mashed potatoes. And being the 60s, it was still very much a meat, potato and vegetable for each dinner. However, I differ from you in one respect, I can’t stand the aroma of cooked green peppers. I’ll notice it in a home, a restaurant, any place they’ve been made in the past 2 to 3 days. There are a few exceptions however and one of those was my great aunt Zelda’s Swiss Steak. She made the BEST Swiss Steak. A dish I don’t EVER remember my mother making. I think she put a few green pepper strips in it. Sadly, she’s gone now so I can’t ask. This is something I tell all younger people. If you love something a person in your family prepares, LEARN IT NOW. Once they’re gone, its too late. I have almost everyone’s recipe box, but its not the same thing.

  3. Kathy Lavigne

    Just like moms.thank you. Glad to see “Home” cooking making a come back. I love the beat with plate method. Thick stoneware works great. For some reason i remember peas in the gravy. But anyway its a fantastic recipe. Thank you

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Kathy, back in the day I am pretty sure Mom used Melamine plates, lol!! Thanks for commenting and I hope you enjoy!! Mollie

    • J Schmidt

      I have to add in here on this. This too was My Mom’s swiss steak and she always served it with peas. As a kid, the only way I could get the peas down was to mix them up with the gravy. 🙂

      • FrugalHausfrau

        Oh that is so funny I despised peas when I was a kid with a Passion. I would have mixed them in with the gravy too. Now I eat them just to be a good example to my grandkids but I really wouldn’t seek them out normally.

  4. Leanne M Smith

    Loved making this recipe! I did substitute green chili’s for bell peppers and my mom always added corn so I do too but my husband tore it up and ate tons lol. Thanks for sharing!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Those sound like fabulous additions! A little Southwestern flair!
      So glad you guys enjoyed it and thanks for stopping back, Leanne!

      Mollie

  5. Zoe Stone

    You are my go to girl! I’ve loved all your recipes and really appreciate your simple unpretentious presentations. Swiss steak was exactly right. Many thanks.

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Zoe, thanks so much, you made my day!! And I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the Swiss Steak, too. 🙂

      Mollie

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Thanks for commenting Susan…Oh gosh, yes, the electric skillet!! My Mom used it often. American Fries (rounds of potatoes) and Porcupine Balls were some of her faves to make in the skillet!

  6. Tina Werts

    Just made your recipe for the first time. I added crushed fresh garlic (I’m Italian so it’s always in my kitchen) and the steak turned out delicious. Added mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. YUM.

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Of course you did the garlic, Tina! Lol! Seriously we’re not Italian but my Sis and I always laugh as we trade recipes; it a recipe calls for one clove, we usually add three or four!! Thanks for stopping back & commenting!!

      Mollie

  7. JOAN SCHMIDT

    This has got to be one of the most pinned recipes out there! I pinned it because it is just the same recipes my Mom used (and I am 73) and wanted to have a written down one. 🙂 I cannot tell you how many times it has been re-pinned just from my pin. It’s like everyday!!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Joan, I am so happy to hear that and thanks for pinning (and all the repins from it!) It’s much appreciated! You must be popular on Pinterest! I will have to check it out – I have noticed more visitors to this post lately and now I know why!! 🙂

      My Mom passed away in 2000 but would have been 86 were she still with us. And she would have been thrilled to hear your comment inside, but probably would have said, “That old recipe?” Lol!!

      Honestly, when I posted this, it was the same for me…I wanted the recipe written down and was going by memory and don’t think I ever had any formal recipe for it…I just learned how to make it by watching and helping. It was probably the same for Mom. I love these old recipes that pretty much everyone made and they were passed along because they were good. :).

  8. Stephanie Murray

    This is pretty spot on to how my mom would make it as well. My job also was to pound the steaks nice and thin. We had a meat mallet though 🙂
    I make it now for my young family (though I will admit that I often use cube steak) but the best results are from the round steak. I love the gravy so much, but do add a bit more flour to the tomatoes so it gets nice and thick while it cooks! Glad to see others enjoying it as well.

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Lucky you, a meat mallet, lol! And yes, I have one but for some reason mom never did. I think the cube steaks, at least the ones we get here, are kind of iffy. Sometimes they’re nice, sometimes they just kind of fall apart or have holes and the stores only have them now and then. It was fun to hear your comment and shared experience!

  9. KT

    I adore Swiss Steak. My mother also made it when I was growing up. I now make it in my crock pot, and more recently my Instant Pot. I use crushed tomatoes, and I think the green peppers and onions are very important! Instead of potatoes, I love it with buttery, salted white rice. I haven’t tried it in the oven, but I look forward to trying your recipe on a lazy Sunday at home. Thanks!

    • Hi KT, I’ve been wanting to make it in my very recently acquired instant pot. I seem to be using it mostly for rice and frittatas so far! I made New England Style Baked Beans in it yesterday. I also made some Mexican style pork and bread pudding and corn pudding. So I’m learning!

      • Tina W

        Very similar to my recipe but I cook mine in an oven cooking bag, don’t precook the onions and have invested in a container of dried bell peppers that work perfectly in the saucey sauce. And I throw peeled and cut russet potatoes or unpeeled red or gold potatoes in my with the meat and some peeled and cut into chunk carrots. Everything cooks in the bag and dinner is ready to go!! Yum!!!

        • FrugalHausfrau

          Hi Tina, like a one pot Swiss steak dinner! I don’t know if I personally can forgo the mashed potatoes, lol, but love the idea of an oven bag. I never think to use them! I have a container of dried peppers that I used for something and need to be used up, so I will be trying them next time along with the carrots. Thanks for the hints and variations!

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