How To Cook Bottom Round Steak In A Skillet (The Secret’s In The Sauce)

It’s absolutely possible to cook bottom steak in a skillet, but a little bit of preparation goes a very long way with this cut of meat.

The reason for this is that bottom round steak comes from the rump of the cow. It’s a relatively tough cut, in other words, with lots of connective tissue inside.

The good news from a dietary perspective is that bottom round steaks are quite lean – certainly when compared to more popular cuts such as ribeye steaks.

Here are the steps you need to follow to cook the perfect bottom round steak in a skillet:

  • Prepare a marinade
  • Tenderize the steak
  • Marinade the meat (one hour or overnight)
  • Heat and oil the skillet
  • Add the meat to the skillet and fry
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the doneness

Although that’s the very simple answer, you’re probably going to want a little more help than that!

In the rest of this guide I’ll walk you through each of those steps one by one. By the time you’ve finished reading you’ll be all set to cook a killer bottom round steak in your own kitchen.

After that I’ve answered some of the questions that are commonly asked about this particular cut of meat.

(My home cookware guide contains plenty more tutorials and buying tips!)

Step #1 – Prepare A Marinade

A good marinade will not only add some much-needed flavor to your bottom round steak, it will also help to tenderize this rather tough type of meat.

It also ensures the steak retains plenty of moisture while cooking, which will lead to a juicier steak on your dinner plate!

Which marinade you choose will depend on your personal preferences.

Personally I’m a big fan of this “ultimate marinade” featured on BBC Good Food. It takes a while to make, but I think the results are worthwhile.

For something a little simpler, check out this basic marinade from AllRecipes.

Step #2 – Tenderize The Steak

Once you’ve prepared your marinade, it’s time to loosen up the bottom round steak itself.

A proper meat mallet goes a long way when it comes to this cut of meat. If you use one to properly tenderize the steak first, the end results are always greatly improved.

They don’t cost a lot of money at all, and can be found on the usual online marketplaces.

The KitchenAid mallet is a very popular choice, and strikes a good balance between cost and performance:

KitchenAid Gourmet Meat Tenderizer, One Size,...
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(Heads up! If you click on a product link and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. I never recommend a product I wouldn’t use in my own kitchen, and this helps keep the site running. Thank you.)

To tenderize your bottom round steak, place it on your work surface and then hit it firmly all over with the meat mallet.

The goal here is to achieve a very uniform thickness. You don’t want any lumps or bumps at one end or the other, as this will result in uneven cooking.

If you notice that any parts of the steak are thicker than others, just keep working at them until you have a consistent depth.

Step #3 – Marinate The Meat

Now you have both your marinade and your meat prepared, it’s time to “soak” the steak in all those lovely juices.

You can do this in any dish that’s big enough for both the marinade and the steak. Once you’ve added them both to the dish, it can go in the refrigerator.

How long should you leave your meat marinating for though?

It depends on how patient you can afford to be. Generally speaking, the longer you can leave it, the better the final steak will taste.

As a bare minimum, you should leave the steak for one hour. This will allow the meat to fully soak up the marinade, and loosen up a little.

In an ideal world, however, you’d leave it overnight. That may be difficult to plan ahead for, but it really does make a difference.

Step #4 – Heat & Oil The Skillet

Now the meat’s ready for cooking, it’s time to get that skillet up and running!

People have a tendency to over-oil their pans when cooking steaks, but less really is more here.

I recommend using no more than one or two tablespoons of oil when frying a steak like this.

You don’t want to add any more fat to the meat than is really necessary, after all, and it won’t be frying for a very long time either.

Forget the old adage about cooking a steak at the highest temperature your stovetop can handle too!

A medium heat is absolutely fine for this kind of steak. This advice goes double if you’ve chosen to cut your steak down into strips.

Step #5 – Cook To Preference

The best way to cook bottom round steak is to cook it on one side on this medium heat for around three minutes. 

At this point it should be nicely browned.

Now simply turn it and cook for another three minutes. 

The next step is to check in on things with your meat thermometer.

Step #6 – Check With The Meat Thermometer

You really do need a meat thermometer to get the best results from tougher cuts like this.

It’s best cooked to medium-rare, which is around 150F / 65C. Cooked any more than that and all the marinade in the world won’t save it.

After the first six moments of frying, check the temperature of the center of the steak. If it’s not quite at the right temperature, continue cooking and turning frequently. 

I spent years trying to judge the doneness of my steaks just by sight and feel. The classic finger test definitely helps, but it’s in my nature to work with precision in the kitchen.

You can get a perfectly good meat thermometer for next to nothing these days. I haven’t looked back since adding one to my own kitchen.

The trick is to buy one with a fast reading time. Most steaks aren’t fried for long at all, and you want to be able to release it from the skillet the moment it hits the desired temperature.

Here’s the one I recommend – it’s one of the fastest I know of:

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Not only will a meat thermometer make the job of timing things easier, it really helps with consistency too.

Once you know just how you like your bottom round steak to be done, a meat thermometer will help you achieve that result every single time.

When the temperature’s been hit, take the steak off the heat right away and wrap it in aluminum foil.

Now just let it rest for five minutes before serving!

That’s all you need to do to cook perfect bottom round steaks in a skillet.

A cooked steak with rosemary on top, surrounded by vegetables

Frequently Asked Questions

In this last section, I wanted to answer some of the most common questions readers have about working with this kind of steak.

What Is Bottom Round Steak?

Bottom round steak is meat from the hindquarters of a cow.

Because of its tough texture, bottom round steak is most commonly used for slow cooking and braising. 

This extra cooking time loosens everything up nicely, and dramatically improves the eating experience. 

It can be fried as a steak, but extra preparation is required (see the next answer for more information).

Is Bottom Round Steak Tender?

Not naturally, no. There’s a lot of connective tissue in this cut of meat, and eating it can be hard work if it’s not prepared correctly.

It really does benefit a great deal from being marinated and tenderized using a meat mallet.

Go to this extra effort though and you’ll have a much more enjoyable steak on your plate! 

Is Bottom Round Steak Good For…?

How does this cut of meat work – or not work – for popular dishes?

Fajitas

The results won’t be perfect, but if you cut your bottom round steak very thin this works reasonably well.

Stir Fry

I don’t think bottom round steak is the best choice for stir fry by a long way. You really should use a more naturally tender meat for this kind of meal.

If bottom round is all you have though, make sure you cut it thin – just as you would for the fajitas.

Tacos

It takes a lot more time to prepare bottom round steak for use in tacos. You need to shred the meat, after all, and this tougher cut is not naturally well-suited to the task.

First you’ll need to sear the meat on all sides on the stovetop.

After that, you need to add the meat to a deep pan, covered with enough beef broth to cover the bottom round to around one third of its height.

An hour of cooking should make the meat shreddable. If you’re thinking this sounds like a lot of hard work though, I’d be inclined to agree…

Philly Cheesesteak

A Philly Cheesesteak is more commonly made using a ribeye steak. 

A familiar pattern emerges here, however!

The results are much improved if you slice the bottom round steak to a thin consistency before cooking.

Wrapping Up

I hope that’s answered all your questions about working with what is often an unfairly-maligned cut of meat.

Take a little extra care and attention with your preparation, and this will prove a cost-effective alternative to more expensive cuts.

Happy cooking!