Northeast Times

Enjoy a budget-friendly meal

There are many types of steaks that are both in­ex­pens­ive and de­li­cious.  

Cooked in a crock pot, it’s a tender and tasty din­ner.

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

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