8 Cheap Beef Cuts So Good You'll Swear Off Ribeye
These inexpensive cuts of beef deliver plenty of meaty flavor satisfaction, but they’re much easier on the wallet than some of the showier cuts. (We’re looking at you, filet mignon.)
If you experience a little sticker shock each time you pick up a package of beef at the supermarket, you’re not alone. Beef prices have been inching higher. (Meanwhile, pork prices have been falling.)
American consumers, perhaps driven by the popularity of some diets like keto and paleo, are eating slightly more beef than in recent years. Plus, demand for American beef in export markets has been growing, and drought cut into some beef supplies in 2018. All in all, that means there’s a lot of demand on our beef—and that means you’re likely paying more each time you buy.
These eight beef cuts are incredibly flavorful, but they’re unique and less likely to be spotted in your regular supermarket meats section. You may need to ask the butcher if they carry the cut or seek out a specialty butcher shop where your neighbor Joe (they’re always named Joe, yes?) can become your new BBF (best beef friend).
Watch: How to Make Pan Seared Chuck Eye Steaks
This cut of beef is known as the 7-bone steak because, well, it has a lot of bones. It comes from the shoulder (the chuck), right beside the ribeye. That means it has all the beautiful flavor of a ribeye, but it has a much lower price tag.
Cook chuck steaks the same way you would a ribeye: quick sear on a grill or cast-iron skillet. Thick-cut chuck steaks can be great in a slow-cooker recipe. It has a little more chew than tender ribeye, and of course those bones, but if you’re not afraid of a little work, you’ll be mightily rewarded with a beautiful beef experience.
Also in the shoulder, you’ll find a fine steak that sits on the cow’s shoulder bladers. It may be sold as top blade or flat iron steak. The steak is actually two different muscles connected by a thick line of gristle. The gristle is often cut away to produce two cuts.
Flat iron steaks are very flavorful and buttery thanks to some good marbling. They behave and taste a lot like the more expensive flank steak. Because they’re so tender, you don’t need to do much more than grill a flat iron steak and season it with salt and pepper, or use a quick spice rub for tacos. This cut of steak would be great as a salad topper, too, or served with a creamy cauliflower mash and pan sauce.
The name may be similar to the first one on the list, but this is indeed a different cut. (To be honest, beef cuts share a lot of the same names, and it can be quite confusing.) This steak is basically a ribeye. In fact, it’s often called the “poor man’s ribeye.” It comes from the same part of the cow as the prize ribeye, but it’s cut thinner so butchers can get an extra piece to sell.
Cook chuck-eye steaks just like you would a real ribeye. Give it a little salt and pepper, and sear it on a cast-iron skillet or grill. Don’t overload this cut with a marinade or souped up steak sauce. It’s mild and buttery, so just let the flavor shine on its own.
You may see this cut listed as teres major or petite tender at the butcher, but no matter the name, think these three words: cheap hanger steak. Once upon a time, hanger steak made these lists of cheap beef cuts because no one knew what that incredibly tender cut of beef was. Today, however, the secret is out. So the cheaper solution to the once-cheap hanger steak is petite tender or teres major.
This cut of beef acts like a filet mignon: lean, tender, and spongy when cooked right. Cut it into medallions and sear like filet mignon steaks, or sear the outside in a high-heat skillet and roast until medium-rare. If you’re lucky, your dinner guests won’t know the difference between this budget-friendly beef cut and the real McCoy mignon.
Tri-Tip Sirloin Steak
The good news of this cut may be out already, but if you haven’t heard the gospel of the tri-tip steak, let us preach: This steak comes from a triangle-shaped muscle at the bottom of the sirloin. It’s often overlooked because it’s not particularly pretty (it doesn’t make consistently-sized steaks), but for the person who has no problem finding the beauty in some ugly ducklings, this is the steak for you.
The tri-tip sirloin steak takes well to a marinade and grilling. Cook it to medium to help break down some of the connective tissue that runs through it, or slice against the grain (at least as best you can) to make it more tender.
Short ribs have grown too big for their britches, if we do say so. The prices for those braising beef favorites have taken on a life of their own. So if you love the flavor of beef short ribs and want them for your meals, but loathe the price tag, pick up a pack of beef shank (or beef chins) instead.
These cuts have an incredibly beefy flavor that performs best in a long braise. Bonus: look at that marrow-packed bone in each cut. That’s a well of rich flavor waiting for your stew or roast.
I tried to discover why this cut is called a Denver steak, and I came up empty-handed. Still, Denver, you should be proud to share the name.
This cut of beef, which comes from the chuck primal cut, is also known as the boneless chuck short rib. However, don’t be confused—they are not deboned short ribs, and they don’t have to be braised. This cut is sometimes tricky for a butcher to get, so you may have a hard time finding it. However, let your BBF know you’re looking for it, and I bet you’ll have a cut waiting for you at your next visit.
These steaks are tender and flavorful, great for grilling or slicing for a quick sauté. Slice against the grain to cut through some of the marbling and connective tissue. Don’t overcook these steaks either. They’ll turn tough in the blink of an eye.
The merlot cut comes from the side of the cow’s heel. While these hind leg cuts are often very lean (aka tough) because of their heavy use, this one manages to be quite tender. Because of its stronger flavor but tender texture, this cut is great in everything from stir-fries to sheet-pan dinners.
The merlot cut gets it name from its ruby red color. That’s the blood in the cut. Indeed, if you’re blood-averse, avoid this cut. Also, don’t overcook the merlot cut. It will very quickly produce an irony flavor.