Sure, ribeyes and porterhouses are juicy and delicious. But as food prices continue to rise and the stock market continues to sink, the thrifty shopper might assume that good cuts have gone the way of the brontosaurus burger. Not so. With a little bit of knowledge about “Butcher’s Cuts,” the average consumer can snap up a steak at pot roast prices.
1. The Reliable Chuck Eye Roll or Boneless Chuck Roll
Don’t be fooled by its reputation as a roast! This cut is greatly overlooked by the home cook and typically bought as a chuck roast to be slow cooked. But it’s actually a continuation of the expensive ribeye as it expands into the chuck, or front quarter of the side. The chuck roll is sold as a roast for half the price of a ribeye, and simply needs to be portioned into steaks by cutting across the grain. Ask your butcher to divide the steaks, or go at it yourself. Either way, you’ll end up with a top quality steak for the pan, broiler or grill.
2. The Flavorful Flatiron or Clod Heart
The flatiron is not quite as tender as the chuck eye, but has a superior beefy flavor. This cut is usually sold as a whole roast, but any butcher worth his steel can easily trim out the small layer of sinew and portion it into individual steaks. Fancy restaurants around the country have long depended on this delicious cut for their bar steak. Simply marinate your meat overnight in a zip-lock baggie with salt, pepper and a bit of dark beer. The marinade will make the meat even more tender and flavorful as it seeps overnight.
3. The Romantic’s Chuck Tender
True to its name, this small and tender cut is from the center of the arm chuck. Shaped much like miniature tenderloin, it’s the perfect steak to serve with herb-roasted potatoes and a nice bottle of red wine. Take care though, while this cut is tender it’s also very lean and must not be over cooked. Remove the meat from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking, and dose each side with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. The room temperature steak will cook faster and more evenly (3-4 minutes a side) with less chance of over cooking.
4. Skirt Steak for Monday Night Football
This cut is long, thin and narrow with a great texture and even better flavor. It really excels when marinated in a simple domestic beer, garlic and lime juice mixture and seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper. The longer you can let it soak up the flavor of the beer and lime the better, which also allows you to get the preparation done days in advance. It cooks fast and even, which makes it a satisfying meat to serve to the masses right before kickoff.
5. The King of All Butchers’ Treats: The Hanger or Hanging Tender Steak
Like the chuck tender, the hanger is a perfectly sized, quick cooking and beefy steak for two. And just like the flatiron, it has a small ribbon of connective tissue that runs through the center, conveniently dividing it perfectly into two elegant sized steaks. If you aren’t confident removing this portion yourself, ask your butcher. He or she can do it easily in a matter of seconds. This cut also benefits from warming to room temperature and seasoned with salt and black pepper before hitting the grill or pan.
A few meat cooking tips:
1. Remember that any steak will continue to cook one step farther after you take it off the heat. That means the medium rare steak you just took off the grill will be medium by the time you sit down to eat it.
2. Let meat rest for 10 minutes after cooking. Simply cover it with tinfoil to keep warm while the juices are redistributed into the meat. Otherwise, the juice will run out as soon as you cut into it.
3. Pat the meat dry with a paper towel before you cook it to allow the flavorful browning to form faster on the outside of the steak. Skip this step and the steak will steam for the first few critical minutes instead of developing flavor.
4. Start a steak hot and finish it cooler. If you’re cooking it in a pan, start it on a high flame for a few minutes while it browns and then lower the flame to medium for the last few minutes. On a grill start it in the hot center of the flames and then move it to the cooler side once it has browned. This with insure a more evenly cooked, better tasting steak.