When shopping for steaks, many consumers think that only the more expensive cuts can provide tenderness and robust flavor. Due to budget constraints, some shoppers have stopped buying steaks except for special occasions. While “cheap” and “steak” might seem like an odd combination of words, there are many types of steaks that are both inexpensive and delicious.
Once you familiarize yourself with the names and cuts of less-expensive steaks and master preparing them, you can enjoy a budget-friendly steak dinner more often! Here are a few varieties of “cheap” and flavorful steaks:
Charcoal steak, top blade steak, chicken steak: This cut comes from the top of the shoulder blade, which is the second-most tender cut on the animal. It cooks up beautifully when prepared using high-heat methods in a pan, grilled or broiled and served rare. There is a piece of gristle that runs through the middle that is usually butterflied out when the same muscle is cut as a flatiron steak.
Bistec Norteno: This isn’t the tenderest cut on the animal, as it comes from the heel of the steer. It’s a lean piece of meat with a bold, beefy flavor. Serve sliced thinly.
Sirloin tip/peeled knuckle: The most tender muscle in the round tip. Best prepared seared using a high-heat method and finished in a 375 F oven for both steaks and roasts. Keep a medium-rare, or 125-degree, center.
Shoulder steak, shoulder clod steak, London broil: This steak can be pan seared, braised, grilled or broiled, keeping a medium-rare center and then sliced thinly.
Top sirloin: Great beefy flavor and tender. Sear using a high-heat method and finish in a 375 F oven for both steaks and roasts. Keep a medium-rare center.
Flank steak: Fibrous, lean, tight-grain, good beefy flavor. It’s commonly used for fajitas and stir-fry. This cut is best when grilled, but also can be pan-seared and sliced thinly.
Brisket: The brisket is a fibrous and fatty muscle with significant connective tissue. It’s best cooked slow and low to achieve tenderness. A brisket consists of two parts, the point and the first or flat cut. The point is located on top of the flat and is connected by a thick layer of fat. The grain in each piece follows a different direction and must be sliced differently for best results.
The point and flat must be trimmed of fat after being separated. The flat is simpler to carve because it is more symmetrically shaped and the grain of the meat is clearly defined. The point is more difficult because of its shape and the grain is more difficult to follow.
Slice the flat by determining in which direction the grain of the meat is following. Simply look at the top of the flat and the grain direction is clearly defined. It generally runs from one corner at the front of the flat to the opposite corner at the back of the flat. The flat is cut at an angle from front to back. Slice the point in the same manner, determine the direction of the grain and cut across the grain from front to back.
My recipe for Southwestern Crock Pot Brisket combines hearty beef brisket, pure chili powder and slow cooking to create a budget-friendly, tender and tasty dinner.
Southwestern Crock Pot Brisket
For the leanest brisket, ask for the “first” or “flat” cut, without an overly fatty flap (also called the point) lying on top. Trim off any surface fat; there’s plenty left in the fibers to keep the meat moist.
1 cup beef stock
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 canned chipotle pepper, seeded and minced with 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (4-pound) beef brisket, trimmed of surface fat
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1. Mix the beef stock, vinegar, cornmeal, cocoa powder, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and pepper, chipotle and garlic in a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker.
2. Rub the chili powder and remaining teaspoon of the salt and pepper into the brisket. Place the brisket in the slow cooker and turn to coat. Cover and cook on high 6 to 8 hours, or until meat is fork-tender.
3. Remove meat from slow cooker and skim fat from sauce. Slice meat and serve with the sauce. Serves 6 to 8
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her Web site is www.divapro.com
To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva!, on Facebook and go to Hulu.com