It’s something we all do from time to time but nobody likes throwing food out. Food waste isn’t just a huge environmental issue – often it just hurts to throw out something that took so much effort to cook.
It also costs money. That’s why it’s particularly hard to see good steak go to waste. The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way.
The importance of leftover recipes
Food waste is a big problem for the environment. Depending on what report you read, anywhere between 30–50% of our food supply ends up in the bin. Even at the lower end of the scale, that’s a lot of water poured, pesticides sprayed, and methane released for no reason at all. In fact, the US EPA estimates that 14% of methane emissions stem from food waste. (And if you’re not already aware, pound for pound, methane is 26 times more detrimental to our environment than the face of climate change itself, carbon dioxide.)
Of course, it’s very unlikely you waste anywhere near half the produce in your home kitchen. Most of that waste comes from inefficiencies in our food chain, an economy that promotes overproduction, and consumers deemed by food producers, distributors and retailers to be too fussy to buy, say, a misshapen carrot.
But it’s still important that you, the homecook, do your part. If the impact you can have on the environment seems insignificant, then consider instead the impact on your wallet. Food waste is estimated to cost the average American family $1,600 a year.
That’s not to say achieving your zero-waste kitchen goals will be easy. It will involve learning to plan meals better, as well as educating yourself on properly storing food and safely reheating your leftovers. But these are things any self-respecting home chef should know a bit about anyway.
It’s also worth remembering that there’s a huge benefit to cooking with your leftovers. It can be a massive time-saver. All the leftover steak recipes shared below skip any marinating, tenderising and sometimes even cooking of the meat. You’ve already done those steps.
Leftover steak: all the recipes
Let’s face it, leftover steak is delicious even if you’re eating it straight out of the refrigerator. But if eating in front of an open fridge sounds to you like the result of some questionable life choices, here are a few extra special leftover steak ideas to try instead.
Note that all of these recipes, if they involve reheating the meat, call for the steak to be sliced thinly beforehand. Do not skip this step as it’s important to ensure the beef reaches an internal temperature that’s safe for consumption (at least 75°C/165°F).
Leftover steak soup
With leftover steak you’re already halfway to making Pho bo, a Vietnamese noodle soup. Just mix some soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, sugar and rice wine vinegar together, then add to a pot of hot beef or chicken broth. Chuck in a bit of cumin, coriander and star anise and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
While that’s happening, slice the beef thinly. All that’s left to do now is add the noodles and then, a couple of minutes before they’re cooked, throw in the beef. Voila. You’re just a couple minutes away from a delicious dinner.
If that wasn’t easy enough, try this Korean beef soup instead. You could write the ingredients on the back of your hand and, since it uses vegetable stock, it easily accommodates a vegetarian at the table. As the beef is already cooked, it can simply be added after the meat-free bowls have been served up, perhaps with a poached or boiled egg instead.
Leftover steak fajitas
Fajitas are another quick, easy and absolutely delicious way to use up leftover steak. To adapt this already simple recipe, just get the onions and peppers cooking for a minute in the pan before throwing in your steak slices.
Don’t worry that you missed the opportunity to properly marinate your steak. Just throw the seasoning in the pan with the other ingredients instead. It might not be perfect, but hey, you just wiped 1 hour and 20 minutes off the cooking time.
Leftover steak sandwich
The leftover steak sandwich is a zero-waste culinary classic. But you didn’t read this far to learn how to put meat between slices of bread, no matter how much butter and mustard they may be smothered with.
Fried onions and mushrooms will elevate your leftover steak from food you just don’t want to waste to food you’ll want to eat all the time. Go the extra mile by making a fresh horseradish aioli, courtesy of this great steak sandwich recipe from Honest Cooking.
Simply grate a generous teaspoon of fresh horseradish and mix it with greek yoghurt, dijon mustard, chives, lemon, salt and pepper. Taste to see if it packs enough of a punch for your liking. If not, simply grate some more horseradish in there.