Swiss Steak


Several lifetimes ago when I lived at Tahoe and worked at The Old Post Office in Carnelian Bay, I had to come up with a lunch special every day.  I was the only cook in a tiny kitchen and had pretty much free reign to do what I wanted – maybe 30 servings of something hearty enough for the locals who came in during the week.  One thing I came up with was a tomato-based Swiss Steak smothered in onions.  It proved to be really popular and I made it every couple of weeks that winter.

I’m not sure why, but somewhere along the line, I started making Swiss Steak with onions and mushrooms and in a beefy mushroom sauce.  I totally forgot about that really good tomato-y dish.  Until today.

I had pulled some cube steak out of the freezer thinking that I was going to make my old standby.  Quite by accident I came across an Alton Brown recipe for Swiss Steak that was tomato-based.  The memories came back and I decided I had to try it tonight!

Now, had this been anyone else’s recipe, I probably would have changed half of it at least – but Alton is a food scientist.  I really, really like how he goes out of his way to find out and/or explain the reasons behind things, the reason they work – or don’t.  I decided to follow the recipe pretty close with the exception of using cube steak instead of bottom round.  (I just don’t know what I did with my needling device.)   Because I used cube steak, I just cooked it on the stove.

Otherwise, it’s pure Alton Brown.

Swiss Steak


  • 2 pounds beef bottom round, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or bacon drippings
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cut the meat with the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices and season on both sides with the salt and pepper. Place the flour into a pie pan. Dredge the pieces of meat on both sides in the flour mixture. Tenderize the meat using a needling device, until each slice is 1/4-inch thick. Dredge the slices on both sides once more and set aside.

Add enough of the bacon drippings or vegetable oil to just cover the bottom of a 4 to 5-quart Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the steaks to the pan, being careful not to overcrowd. Cook until golden brown on both sides, approximately 2 minutes per side. Remove the steaks to a plate and repeat until all of the steaks have been browned.

Remove the last steaks from the pot and add the onions, garlic, and celery. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Next add the tomatoes, paprika, oregano, Worcestershire sauce and beef broth and stir to combine. Return the meat to the pot, submerging it in the liquid. Cover the pot and place it in the oven on the middle rack. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the meat is tender and falling apart.

One of the key ingredients here really is the smoked paprika.  It adds such a wonderful layer of flavor that I would say it is essential to the dish.  Personally, I think it should be in every kitchen everywhere, so go buy some!  You won’t be sorry!

I served it with handmade noodles from Lancaster County, PA and frozen spinach.

Speaking of spinach…  I really don’t remember when I found out that spinach was actually leaves and not a square frozen block in white cardboard.  As a kid growing up, we only had frozen spinach (actually, we pretty much only ate frozen vegetables, period) and it’s still a bit of a guilty pleasure to me.  I almost always have it in the freezer – although it’s usually in a bag, nowadays, not a box.

This is definitely a keeper.  I really liked the smokiness of the paprika, the texture of the celery, the tomatoes – all of it.

Thanks, Alton – for the recipe and the trip down Memory Lane!