You order a steak, the meat is hard and full of nerves.

How do you say that in English? I mean, do you have words to describe non tasteful meat?

  • 7
    full of nerves? what does that mean?
    – DialFrost
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 13:44
  • 4
    I have learned that it means "stringy", by the accepted answer. 😃 thanks.
    – Duck
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 13:50
  • @DialFrost He means nerves in the sense of fibres (don't ask me why). Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 8:10
  • 6
    Just a side note that may be useful: your phrasing “non tasteful meat” is not quite a correct use of tasteful. Food that tastes good is called tasty (and this primarily means the flavour, not the texture). Tasteful is used for aesthetics and culture, not food — for instance, a house with well-chose furniture, art, etc would be tasteful.
    – PLL
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 18:55

5 Answers 5


The word "nerves" isn't commonly used for connective tissue (sinew, ligaments, tendons, etc.). It was used that way in the past, but in modern American English usage a "nerve" is the specialized kind of cells that carries impulses to/from the brain (or spine, etc.).

The inedible connective tissue attached to meat like tendons, cartilage, etc., is sometimes called "gristle". (Meat with a lot of gristle may be called gristly, but this is not the same word as "grisly" or the word "grist".)

If the meat is hard (maybe because it was cooked badly, or came from an old animal) then it is usually called tough. The opposite of tough meat is tender meat.


You would say "tough" rather than "hard". "Full of nerves" isn't right. "Stringy" is better.

Often, a stringy texture means that the meat contains a lot of connective tissue. This translates into a cooked steak that takes a long time to chew, because the meat is so tough. What is this? A long, slow cooking process is the best way to deal with all that connective tissue.


  • 2
    Tough is the word I always hear used. It typically implies both the physical difficulty, and that the steak is in some way inferior (either a bad cut, or poorly prepared - typically as a result of being "overcooked"). I don't know if its that way outside of the AmE area, but as a lifelong Okie who's actually helped work cattle, I'd like to flatter myself as to think I have some expertise in this matter.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 18:49
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    If you read the article, even the text underneath the "stringy" entry refers to such a steak as "tough". I think they are just using "stringy" there as a kind of technical term to differentiate different reasons a steak may end up "tough".
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 18:53
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    @T.E.D. I agree that “stringy” here is a subset of “tough,” but I don’t consider it “technical.” Certainly a common enough usage in my experience, in casual conversation. Probably more common than “gristly.”
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 18:22

How do you describe steak that is difficult to chew?



(of food) needing to be chewed hard or for some time before being swallowed. "the rye bread has a nice, chewy texture"

  • "Chewy" can have either a positive or a negative connotation, and might not communicate your intention very well. If you're not enjoying the steak because it's difficult to chew, "tough" gets that across better. If you're loving the bread because it gives your teeth something to do, "chewy" might work. Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 16:53
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    @RossPresser, yes, chewy can be desirable in some foods, like bread as you mention, but never for meat. If you told me your steak was "chewy", I'd know exactly what you meant, and it wouldn't be positive.
    – Seth R
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 18:25
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    @RossPresser although chewiness can be a very desirable characteristic of many foods (flapjacks spring to mind) it would be fair to say that the more common desire is for food in general to not be chewy. More over when describing meats, especially steak, as is the subject of the question. Although I agree that 'tough' is by far a more colloquial adjective, it certainly doesn't answer OPs question (as quoted) more directly than 'chewy'. Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 10:33

English loves its similes (describing one thing in terms of another). In this case, I have personally described steaks like that as "leathery", or literally said "it's like I'm eating leather".

As a language learner it can be difficult to come up with the right simile, and you might say something that sounds unnatural, ("it's like I'm eating erasers" is an example of something I wouldn't personally say), but if you steer clear of rude words, you'll most likely not cause any offence, and people will enjoy the novelty of someone from a foreign culture's idea of a good simile.

As with anything to do with language, mastering similes is just a case of listening to and reading more native language, and I really would recommend it - similes are an excellent tool.

  • Yes, I am learning English for centuries and I am always learning. Thanks.
    – Duck
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 15:31
  • You're very welcome. Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 18:13

The English are often guilty of humorous understatement. I heard the English actor, Robert Hardy, express this sentiment by saying, "This steak is quite resilient."

  • 1
    while that is a humorous statement, it is not really an answer to the question. You should at very least specify that this is not commonly used or idiomatic, and was used solely for the comedic effect. As such, it doesn't really help someone who is learning English learn to speak it better.
    – Esther
    Commented May 17, 2022 at 20:12
  • I take your point, but while it is neither idiomatic not common, I did identify its humorous intent and there is nothing wrong with learning from quotations such as this. No one would ever speak of a steak's being resilient except as a humorous way of sparing someone's feelings by not just calling the steak tough. Commented May 18, 2022 at 3:13
  • A dictionary definition would be helpful to learners and an explanation as to why dry overcooked meat cannot be described as resilient would be even more helpful. This is a site for learners as you rightly surmised, so sometimes quotes need to be explained more thoroughly.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 9:19

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