Poblano Steaks: How to Cook Cheap Steak

How to cook a cheap steak to make it taste like you spent a bunch. My go-to recipe for cooking steaks in the skillet, transforming an inexpensive cut into tender, delicious steaks. When paired with smoky poblano peppers and onion, definite man food.

For the longest time, I have felt ham-handed about cooking steak. The meat is pricey, the expectations high. No matter what -- how expensive, how marbled, how prime, the meat -- my steaks failed to measure up. We didn’t need steak knives, we needed chainsaws to cut through the toughness.

I kept experimenting with ways to turn inexpensive steak into something that tasted, well, like I’d invested big bucks and bathed these babies in butter.

Enter Poblano Steaks, where the onions and peppers simply pop-pop-pop with flavor – and a little heat too, mind you, like those little Mexican jumping beans from the dime store, you know?

Even so, the meat, even a relatively inexpensive but tender cut such as top sirloin, is the star of the plate. It turns out knife-tender and decidedly tasty.

I cook Poblano Steaks in a cast-iron skillet aka my ‘favorite non-stick skillet’. (You Grill Guys, Go.For.It.) What great shape it’s in, thanks to a new technique to keep it cleaned and seasoned. The purists say to never wash an iron skillet, just to wipe it clean. Instead, I wash (and if needed scrub) the skillet though never with soap. Then I rub a splash of olive oil into the still-wet surface with a paper towel. What a difference! In just a few weeks, the skillet’s seasoning gets better and better with each use. I use it so often now, some weeks it never leaves the top of the stove.

ALANNA’s TIPS Choose yellow or white onions, never sweet onions, for cooking. If you’re out of chili powder, the smoky Spanish paprika called pimenton is a good substitute, so is your favorite meat rub. Some times, I let the poblanos cook for a long time, up to an hour, until they turn dark and smoky and the heat of the pepper drops back several notches.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe to share that you think Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com.
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How to turn an inexpensive cut into a tender, tasty steak
Hands-on time: 40 minutes
Time to table: 40 minutes
Serves 4 but easily adjusted to serve one or many
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large onion (see TIPS), sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (see TIPS)
  • Water as needed, a tablespoon at a time
  • 2 large poblano peppers, cored, membranes and seeds removed, cut into slices lengthwise, then crosswise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound top sirloin, obvious fat sliced off, cut in four pieces
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

POBLANOS Heat the oil and salt in a large heavy skillet on medium high. Add the onion and garlic as they’re prepped and stir well to coat with fat. Stir in the cilantro, chili powder and a tablespoon of water. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if needed, for about 5 minutes. Uncover and add poblanos, cook for another 5 – 10 minutes, until poblanos are cooked but still quite firm and bright in color (see TIPS). Transfer to a dish and keep warm.

STEAKS Return heat to medium high and heat oil til shimmery. Meanwhile, rinse the sirloin, pat dry and cut into four pieces. In a large flat bowl, stir together the chili powder, salt and pepper. Rub the meat pieces in the mixture. Add to the hot skillet. For medium rare, cook without moving for about 6 minutes on one side, turn over and cook for about 5 minutes on the other (longer for medium or medium well, shorter for rare).

To serve, arrange a bed of the cooked peppers on a serving plate, top with a steak. Serve immediately.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Serving: 245Cal; 11g Tot Fat; 3g Sat Fat; 47mg Cholesterol; 678mg Sodium; 8g Carb; 2g Fiber; 3g Sugar; 26g Protein; Weight Watchers 4 points
Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 1994

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© Copyright 2009 Kitchen Parade

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. A cheap steak is a good steak right now - all this recession talk is making my wallet hurt!

  2. Heather (Chef to the Family for 21 Years)1/24/2013

    I just wanted to say thank you! I came across the Pablano Steak Recipe yesterday and made it last night. It was a great, easy, successful recipe!

    I am a good cook, but not naturally a fan of red meat. My husband is The Meat Eater and does not get anything more than ground beef in tacos or soups most of the time. We will splurge on a 'good cut' of steak a couple times a year....always grilling them.

    The man had the flu a couple of weeks ago and since then has really craved meat. I had a moment of weakness and decided that though it may be 17 degrees out, I will give an attempt at making steak Inside.

    The absolutely great pablano-onion pairing made for a wonderful first-time cooking-steak-inside experience! I didn't even think to get the steak knives out and enjoyed it (a smaller piece :) myself.

    I have never written a thank you to any on line recipe author...but wanted to put my gratitude out there and hope it finds the proper recipient!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna