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Beef can be budget friendly. Even the cheap cuts are delicious in Pepper Steak and Tomato over Rice

Updated on February 15, 2013
Pepper steak and tomato is a favorite with my family, and easy on the budget.
Pepper steak and tomato is a favorite with my family, and easy on the budget.

When you find steak on sale, it's time to make pepper steak.

I make this for my family quite frequently in summer when my tomato and pepper plants in the garden are producing, but it's still economical when you find the basic ingredients on sale, too.


Although quicker to prepare if you're using a better cut of beef that won't take as long to get tender, you can get good results using a cheaper cut by simply prolonging the braising time. Braising is a cooking method that includes two steps. A dry high heat to sear and seal the meat, followed by a simmering in liquid. The results are tender meat and a liquid that is ready to be transformed into a sauce or gravy, all in one pot or skillet.


Get out your cutting board and knife, it's time to prep.

I used a pound of beef for my family of four, you can use more or less as your tastes, appetites and budget allow. I had purchased a tip steak on sale for less than $4 per pound, but you can use chuck steak, london broil or what you happen to have on hand.

Trim away any fat and slice against the grain of the meat in 1/4 inch slices. A sharp knife makes this easy, and it's even easier if your steak happens to be still firm and partly frozen. Simply lay your sliced semi-fozen beef flat on your cutting board and it will be defrosted quite quickly.

Once you have your beef prepped, go ahead and slice your onion. I used one, but you can certainly use two. Simply cut off the ends, remove the skin, cut the onion in half and then in slices, as shown.

Slice your beef into thin 1/4 inch strips.  The length of the strips is up to you.  Cut them as long or short as you like.  Onions are simply cut in half and then sliced.
Slice your beef into thin 1/4 inch strips. The length of the strips is up to you. Cut them as long or short as you like. Onions are simply cut in half and then sliced.

Choose a large skillet with a tight fitting lid

I love my large 14 inch skillet and use it constantly. Mine did not come with a lid, but my stock pot lid just happens to be the same size as my sillet and works well.

Preheat your pan until it gets nice and hot.

Add 1 - 2 tablespoons of oil. I prefer to use olive oil, but any vegetable oil will do.

Add 2-4 cloves of chopped garlic to your oil and cook your garic for the minute or two it takes to get your oil hot.

I love garlic, so I used 4 cloves here. I hate chopping garlic, and cleaning out the garlic press, so I cheat and use jarred pre-chopped garlic.

Heating your garlic with your oil infuses the favor into the oil.
Heating your garlic with your oil infuses the favor into the oil.

Using high heat to brown your steak strips

Once your oil is hot, add your beef strips to your pan and brown them up for a few minutes. Your goal is not to cook them through, but to simply brown them on the outside.

Brown your beef strips in your hot pan.
Brown your beef strips in your hot pan.

Now we braise

Once you've browned your steak, you will add some liquid to braise your beef. I use water as cooking the beef will impart it's own beef flavor, but you can certainly use beef broth or add some bullion if you'd like a deeper beef flavor in your sauce.

Add to the pan:

1 cup water

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Feel free to customize this to your tastes. My husband likes to add some red pepper flakes to give it a little kick, although little kids may not enjoy it as much if it's too spicy. My daughter likes to add a little Worcestershire sauce along with the soy and prefers ginger paste to dry ground.

Give this a stir and bring it to a boil, then turn it immediately down to simmer. Keep an eye on it as you do not want to boil your meat, it will become tough and unappealing. The key to braising is to simmer - the bubbles should break just below the surface.

You can add your onions now if you like them quite cooked and soft, or you can add them later with your peppers if you prefer them a little more held together. I add mine now.

Cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes if you're using a better cut of beef, like sirloin, or for 20-30 for tougher cuts like chuck.

Braise the meat in water, soy and ground ginger.
Braise the meat in water, soy and ground ginger.
You can add onions now or later with your peppers.
You can add onions now or later with your peppers.

Prepare your peppers.

I used two medium-sized green peppers this time. Red or yellow peppers are also excellent in this dish and add great color. You may use as few or as many peppers as you like.

I have in the past also substituted fresh broccoli florets for the peppers, which are also quite good in this dish. If you've got a few mushrooms to use up, you can put them in as well.

Wash and remove the core of your peppers. Then cut them into thin strips.

Add to your pan when your steak is at the end of it's initial braise time, give everything a stir and replace the cover and continue to simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Stir in your pepper strips.
Stir in your pepper strips.

Prep the final ingredients for the sauce and the tomatoes

While your peppers cook, you can get the final ingredients ready.

We'll be thickening the sauce with corn starch and some more soy sauce. Combine 2 Tablespoons of soy with 1.5 teaspoons of corn starch and mix until smooth and there are no lumps.

Set this aside and cut your tomatoes.

I used a dozen good-sized grape tomatoes this time, as it was winter and tomato prices tend to get a little steep. I bought a container of the grape tomatoes on sale to keep costs down, but usually do use full size ripe red tomatoes and will add 2 large ones in the summer when they're free out of the garden.

I will say, the grape tomatoes were a hit with my young son as he thinks the big ones look a bit "slimy" in this dish. I just may make it again this way again and plan space in my garden for some grape tomatoes this summer, as he particularly enjoyed the little ones. And they do look pretty in the dish.

I cut the grape tomatoes in half. When using larger tomatoes I core them and cut them into wedges.

Slice your tomatoes
Slice your tomatoes

When your peppers have begin to get soft, you add your corn starch and soy sauce mixture to the liquid in the pan to thicken it.

Push your steak, onion and peppers to the outer edges of the pan and pour your mixture in the center and stir to incorporate it into the liquid, making sure it doesn't settle to the bottom and turn to goop. Once your initial mixing is done, stir the entire contents of your pan and turn the heat up to bring it to a boil. If your sauce is too thick, you can add a bit more water at this time.

Once your sauce is just right, turn it back down to a simmer and place your tomatoes on top and put the cover back on. We aren't aiming to fully cook the tomatoes, just to steam them a bit and get them hot. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

Thicken your sauce with your cornstarch and soy mixture.
Thicken your sauce with your cornstarch and soy mixture.
Place your tomatoes on top and cook covered to heat them through.
Place your tomatoes on top and cook covered to heat them through.

Serve it up!

I serve this over hot cooked rice.

Place rice on a serving platter and pour your pepper steak over the top and serve family style. We rarely have any leftover, but it does make for a tasty lunch the next day heated back up in the microwave.

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