Swiss Steak

Swiss steak is a method of slow-cooking a relatively tough cut of beef, such as a round steak. The meat is browned, and then braised in a tomato sauce. According to The American Century Cookbook, recipes first starting showing up for Swiss steak in the 1930s. Reynolds Wrap Aluminum popularized it in the late 40s by promoting the recipe as a use for its foil. You can cook this steak on a stove-top (which is the method we describe here), or wrap it in foil and place on a cookie sheet and cook it in the oven. The “Swiss” in Swiss Steak has nothing to do with Switzerland, but refers to the process of tenderizing a tough cut of meat. The following is my mother’s method for making Swiss Steak.

Swiss Steak Recipe

Ingredients

  • One 2 to 2.5 pound round or top round steak, about an inch thick
  • A couple tablespoons of flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 Tbsp grapeseed oil, or other high smoke point oil for browning (canola)
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups puréed tomatoes (canned or fresh)
  • 2 teaspoons each of fresh thyme, sage, marjoram, or 1/2 teaspoon each of dried

Optional: Vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, or green beans

Method

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1 Rub flour into both sides of the steak. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a wide, shallow (3 inches), covered pan to medium high heat. Add 2 Tbsp of oil to coat the pan. Place the steak in the pan, and cook for approximately 10 minutes on each side, enough to brown the steak.

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2 Remove the steak from the pan and set aside. Add onions and garlic to the pan and another tablespoon of oil. Cook the onions and garlic for 3-5 minutes, using a metal spatula to scrape up any steak drippings, mixing them in with the onions. Add half of the herbs to the onions. Return the steak to the pan, placing it on top of the onions. Crowd the onions around and on top of the steak. Sprinkle the rest of the herbs on top of the steak. Add the 2 cups of puréed tomatoes to the pan.

3 Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid. Use a high lid if available. A high lid will help circulate the steam and moisture from the cooking juices and keep the steak moist. Bring the steak in the tomato purée to a simmer and then lower the heat to the lowest heat possible to maintain a low simmer (we use the warm setting on our electric range).

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4 Cook for 1 1/2 hours. While the steak is cooking, you may want to slightly pre-cook vegetables that you want to serve with the steak. For example, for this dish we steamed 4 small, peeled, quartered russet potatoes and 2 carrots, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2 inch segments, for 5-10 minutes. (You could use other vegetables, such as green beans, or no vegetables at all.) After 1 1/2 hours of cooking time for the steak, we uncovered the pan, turned the steak over, added the potatoes and carrots, covered the pan and cooked the steak and vegetables for another 30 minutes.

The reason that you might want to pre-cook the vegetables a bit first is that the steak is cooking at a very low heat. You'll have more control over how cooked the vegetables are if you pre-cook them a bit first.

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5 The steak should be done after a total cooking time of 2 hours. To check it, you can poke it with a fork. The meat should be quite tender. To serve, remove the steak and slice it on a carving board. Alternatively, you could have started with individual steaks that were smaller. Spoon the sauce over the steak.

Serves 4-6.

30 Comments

  1. Elise

    Hi Jeff – Just spoon the sauce over the meat.

    Hi Tanna – Thanks for stopping by Simply Recipes. I love the quote on your website from Madam Benoit –

    A recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play many times with variation.

  2. Jill D

    I’m so happy to see this recipe. We never called it Swiss Steak so never could find a recipe. My mom’s uses canned tomato soup and because its my mom’s of course I love it, but have hesitated to make it because of the canned soup. But THIS looks like the real cook’s version…I am definitely going to try it. My mom always added a can of french cut green beans at the very end…its the only way I’ve ever had french cut green beans.

  3. Karen

    When I’m in a hurry and to cut corners, I use cans of stewed tomatoes… already have the onions and peppers in it. Works great. Also have used the mexican style chopped tomatoes for a little zip and difference. Anyone ever cook rice and put the sauce over the meat and the rice? It’s great!

  4. Dorthy

    I have used this recipe for years handed down by my mother–cooked in a covered iron skillet. She also added strips of bell pepper (red, yellow, and/or green–excellent added flavor. I recently tried cooking all of this in a crock pot with potatoes and carrots and left on low for about 5-6 hours. Same excellent flavor and tenderness as cooked in oven. Vegetables were perfect.

  5. Hawk

    I pretty much made this last night, substituting a chuck roast for a steak, tomato sauce in a can and some diced tomatoes for pureed tomatoes, and cornstarch for flour (I’m gluten-intolerant.) It came out gooooood. I think I overcooked the meat a little, it wasn’t that delectable level of squishy that I wanted, but it made for good eats.

  6. Jennifer K.

    I made this two nights ago. Only had a chuck roast and that’s what I used. The meat wasn’t as tender as I wanted, cuz I didn’t simmer it long enough. For the sauce, I added some green bell pepper. It came out great. Was really good. Will make it longer next time and really tender meat. Thanks for sharing!

  7. LD

    Like everyone else I was pulled into this recipe because it looked so delicious in the picture. I followed the instructions to the tee and I found that the recipe was tasteless (I used pureed canned tomatos and dried herbs). I had to really doctor it up at the end so it would taste like something. I think the diced tomatos/tomato sauce idea that a reviewer suggested might be a good idea (rather than puree). The directions say to put the meat on top of the onions…well, I left some under the meat and the onions ended up kind of burned on the bottom (didn’t effect the taste of the sauce). And the meat was dry…maybe my low wasn’t low enough. After it was done, I cut the meat up and mixed it in with the sauce (i also added potatos and carrots (as suggested) which came out fine). I’m hoping it’s one of the recipes that tastes better the day after…

  8. Elise

    Hi LD – If your onions got a little burned, and the meat was a little dry, it sounds like your “low” wasn’t low enough. As mentioned, once simmering, we turn the electric burner down to “warm” which is really low. If you are using a gas burner, you just may not be able to get it low enough on the stovetop. Another option is to cook it in the oven after you’ve browned the meat. I’ve seen recipes that call for a wrapping the meat, onion, and tomatoes in aluminum foil, placing them on a baking sheet, and baking them at 275°F for a couple of hours. If the heat is low enough, and the time long enough, your meat should be tender and not dry. As for flavor, I would add more salt, pepper, and herbs, fresh herbs if you can get them.

  9. Jennifer K.

    Great site. I have tried various recipes here already and have loved them all. This recipe is no different and it came out great!
    Both times I made it, I used onions, red bell peppers and carrots. Was lazy so I added the bell peppers and carrots to cook in the sauce with the meat. After the meat was cooked, I sliced it and served with some fresh pasta. The sauce has this rich, simmered beefy taste to it which was great with pasta. Thanks!

  10. frank

    I Sometimes use cubed steak. (Top round).
    This is great for a quick verson. everything else I do basicly the same. I flour each one and slightly brown for that real country flovor.

  11. marylou / canada

    I have made this same recipie in my slow cooker but we use v 8 juice and some times a little beef liquid oxo. Great for the working mom`s out there.

  12. Venus

    I made this recipe last night.
    Instead of using on big piece of meat I used 5 pieces of cut top serloin round steak.
    This recipe was very,very,good!!
    Only a couple of things I suggest is that I added 2 cups of water in the pan so it had some juices to simmer in so it wouldn’t burn. Also if you like a little more kick at more salt and pepper or any spices or even a hot pepper to your perticular taste.I loved it just the way it is.Just don’t forget to add the water before you put the lid on to simmer.

  13. Penny

    Instead of 2 hours on the stove top or heating up the onion, just throw the ingredients into the pressure cooker after Step 2 and cook under pressure for 15 minutes. The result will be tender, tasty AND fast.

  14. Sylvan

    I make the easiest Swiss steak ever in my Crock Pot. One can of a hearty, chunky tomato soup, a couple of cuts of Eye of Round, layered together in the Crock, and then cooked for 10-12 hrs on Low and you’re good. Throw some elbow macaroni in for the last 45 minutes or so, and you have an instant side dish! :)

  15. Lois

    If you don’t like tomatoes,leave them out and put the meat in a roaster after browning and add carrots, potatoes,onions and salt and pepper to taste. Cook at 300 degrees for about 2 1/2 hours. Mom used to make this and it was in the oven while we were in church. Made a nice Sunday dinner.

  16. dick

    I made some swiss steak last night the way my mother did, except I used better ingredients. When I look at your recipe it is almost exactly the way I did it except I added a few dashes of Frank’s red hot sauce to the tomatoes when I put them in and I also added about 4 tbsp of beef broth. Came out fantastic. The meat was juicy and the sauce was so good that I saved the left over sauce and plan on using it to cook hamburgers and serve them with mashed potatoes.

    I served this with rice and fresh green beans that I microwaved with a small piece of orange peel and a couple of tbsp of water. Wonderful meal.

    I think about 4 tbsp of either beer or Guiness stout instead of beef broth would work very well also, especially the stout. It would add a nice flavor to the meat.

  17. Pach

    I tenderize the meat working in the flour salt and pepper before going into the cast iron skillet serve over rice as stated, This is Yummy!

  18. Kathryn

    I found this recipe a while back, and I must say it is absolutely delicious! I put potatoes, carrots, and fresh green beans in it, and it came out like a very tasty roast/beef stew dish.

    I am cooking it again tonight, since I just pulled up the last of my carrots out of my garden…..yum!

  19. Heather

    I am making this RIGHT now. And I have to tell you… my husband walked in, and was immediately drawn to the kitchen! LOL… he usually is anyway, but he really seems to love the smell! I tasted some of the sauce so far, and it is delish.

  20. shelby

    I just found this blog 3 days ago and last night made the Swiss steak and Broccoli salad. YUM! Recipes were well received by my family. Wish I could stay home from work and cook ALL of these as they sound delicious. Thank you Elise for your recipes and the pictures are beautiful!

  21. Sally

    I make this using cubed steak and simmer it for less time. It’s been one of my favorites since I was a little girl. I serve it with mashed potatoes and green beans. It’s simmering right now!

  22. Hannah

    Mmmmmmm My mom has made this for years at our house! Even using elk or venison sometimes. We usually use stewed tomatoes, you know, keep things cheap? :) We also like to put green bell pepper in it, then we serve it over potatoes. It makes for a quick, delicious, cheap, meal. We eat it in the winter to warm our insides…

  23. Brian

    This is the base recipe for Swiss Steak. I’ve been looking for it for several years. It reminds me of the Swiis Steak we had as a child at home. This is a “Depression Food,” in that it was created during the depression to show people how they could use inexpensive cuts of beef to feed their families. The best thing about it you can’t go wrong with this recipe. It was developed to use any vegetable you have on hand in the recipe. Thank you for providing this recipe. My recipe I’ve used for the past 40 years uses red wine to cook the steak in. Now I can have a recipe that brings my family right back into my dinning room.

  24. Espahan

    Swiss steak is an old family recipe but I had almost forgotten it since my kids left home a good while ago, so I went on an Internet search to see if I could find something close to the old one I used to make. After looking all over I found it here. I should have known better. I can always count on your recipes to approximate the old recipes I knew from way back, with maybe a tiny twist to make them new all over again. Thanks, Elise.

  25. Margie

    I add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a half tsp of prepared horseradish. Really gives it a zip and somewhat of a variation on the taste. I’ve made this recipe for years and use tomato soup sometimes if I don’t have tomato puree. Or just a can of diced tomatoes.

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