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!
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.
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!
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.Print
Old-Fashioned Swiss Steak
The Classic Swiss Steak from the 50’s & 60’s.
- Total Time: 1 1/2 - 2 hrs
- Yield: 5-6 servings 1x
- 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
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.
Serve over Mashed Potatoes
Photos, Step by Step: