Tough Economic Times Call for Tough Cuts of Meat

omaha-steak

omaha-steak

I am a housewife responsible for buying groceries for my family. There isn’t a week that has gone by that I haven’t noticed price hikes in many of the grocery items. New York Strip steak used to cost $6.99 and it’s now $8.99. Hamburger was $1.99 now it’s 2.99 a pound.

Trust me, I try to watch for weekly sales and shop around in different stores to stretch our budget. It’s such a balancing act between saving in dollars vs. costing me more time and gas money in driving from store to store.

What I’ve found is to buy cheaper cuts of meat and be creative in cooking methods. Instead of buying filet mignon for $13.99 a pound, I’ve resorted to buying tri-tip at $4.99. I’ve also had good luck in buying stewed beef and eye round all for less than $4.00 a pound.

What Are Tough Cuts of Meat?

So what exactly are the tough cuts of meat? In essence, the less frequently used muscles such as top loin, filet mignon are tender, require less time to cook and cost a lot more to buy. On the contrary, the more frequently used muscles such as chuck and roast are tougher and less expensive. In fact, the tough cuts of meat render more flavors than the lean cuts of meat.

Let’s look at some of the common tough cuts using beef as an example.

Chuck

The chuck is the top section next to the neck. Chuck is used for pot roast, stew meat and ground beef.

Brisket

The brisket sits right below the “Chuck” and is commonly used for corned beef as well as for barbecue.

Round

The round refers to the large area in the back and includes many different “rounds” such as top round, bottom round and eye round. Relatively speaking, the top round is tenderer than the rest.

Shank

The shanks are the leg bones that are best known as “Osso Buco” in the classic dish. Bones are excellent source of calcium and for making home-made beef stocks.

As the tough cuts require much longer time to break down the connective tissue and collagen, several cooking methods are more suited for the job.

Best Cooking MethodsĀ 

Braising

Braising is perhaps one of the best cooking methods in the winter. Braising often times combine both dry and moist heat. Meat is seared on high heat and braised on low heat over longer periods of time to develop a complex flavors from the meat, aromatics and vegetables. The best known dish is the French Beef Bourguignon.

Slow Cooking

Slow cooking is such a popular cooking method used by home chefs around the world. Typically you add all the ingredients in a slow cooker and turn it on either “high” or more likely “low” to cook all day. Whether to cook a rump roast, spare ribs or brisket, the slow cooker will produce tender, juicy meat with tons of flavors and it’s so care-free. Turn it on and leave it alone for 8 to 10 hours.

Barbecuing

It’s a little bit trickier to barbeque brisket as it only applies dry heat. While we all have tasted delicious brisket from a BBQ joint or a smokehouse in your town, the preparation and cooking process tend to be quite laborious. First, you’d have to put dry rubs on the meat and then smoke/barbecue it on “low” heat for hours and hours.

Another way to tenderize the meat at home is to marinade it first. By doing so, you’d kill two birds with one stone as you will let the flavors infuse into the meat as well as making the meat tender. There are so many different marinades either from the grocery store or home-made. I like to make my own to be sure about the ingredients as well as to adjust the taste and flavor. One surprising ingredient in Korean cuisine is to use Asian pears in the marinade. The pears will be mushed and added to the marinade. The pears add tenderness to the meat as well as the secret flavor.

Pressure Cooking

Last but not least is to use a pressure cooker. As it’s a hermetic vessel, the air will be dispelled from the cooker as the pressure builds up. The meat will be cooked at a higher temperature (around 250 F) through hot steam. It’s not surprising to many that pressure cooking requires very little liquid, retains maximum nutrients and takes a fraction of the time to cook fork-tender meat than any conventional cooking method. The bottom line is that you’d cut down as much as 70% of the cooking time and 50% of the energy consumption. It all means savings in your wallet.

I hope I’ve given you some helpful tips in how to maximize your grocery budget by buying cheaper cuts of meat.

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