Do you reach the meat case and feel completely overwhelmed?  Or maybe you have a freezer full of Sharpie marked butcher paper that needs to be used in a great meal!  Don’t fear because you can use every cut of beef!  The butcher, with years of practice and skill, cut the meat apart into specific cuts of beef.  It is important to realize that each cut has the best flavor when cooked to its specific needs or when used as a specific ingredient.  Today’s post is dedicated to help you understand how to take advantage of the butcher’s skill!

In talking with a dear friend of BeefonaBudget.com, it was brought to our attention the true importance of cooking beef the way it tastes best.  Our friend and Amy’s cousin, Brad Bellah, reiterated our belief that it is important you understand there are choices of beef for every occasion, recipe, taste and budget and they have specific cooking needs!

Ground Beef, most commonly found in the market place and often the beef option most used by consumers, can be used multiple ways.  It can become that great cheeseburger, can be used on pizza, in hamburger steaks, spaghetti, can be seasoned for breakfast sausage, in tacos or burritos, or in breakfast casserole.  The uses of ground beef are endless!  We recommend seasoning it well, draining the fat and cooking it through. 

While it is highly usable, it can become boring.  Don’t be afraid to try other cuts, and don’t assume that because you are on a budget you are limited to ground beef.  In fact catching other cuts on sale or utilizing other cheap cuts of beef can be a more economical option. 

**It is important to note that all ground beef has a different color.  Do not be afraid if it is not cherry red, as meat oxidizes it takes on a brown color.  This is not a bad thing; it will keep its flavor.  Ground beef is perfectly safe if purchased by the purchase date.  Don’t forget that it freezes well too!

Pot Roast, a very welcomed supper on a brisk evening, is best in the oven or a crock pot.  Put this flavorful cut on to cook while you are fixing breakfast and enjoy a delicious and no fuss meal for lunch or supper.  Best with carrots, onions and potatoes, pot roast is a classic!  The fork tender cut may take quite a bit of time to fully cook (depending on size up to 4 hours), so be prepared!  **Note that round roasts can be substituted for pot roasts, so take advantage when round roasts are on sale and pot roasts are not!  A cooked pot roast will freeze excellently making for a great heat and go meal option.

Steaks, possibly what comes to your mind when you think beef, are very often used in the restaurant industry, but can be even more rewarding at home! Keep in mind there is a steak for every budget!  It is merely a matter of being brave and taking a risk, a delicious risk in my opinion. 

It is important not to overcook steaks! That is the surest way to make them bland and boring. Steaks are best when they are cooked medium rare to medium, some people prefer rare and some people medium well. Well done steaks should be banned in our opinion, try it medium well if you must have it dry but please don’t overcook, it will not taste right! Because steaks are not ground up like ground beef, there are not germs inside the steak, allowing for steaks to be eaten rare. You have to sear both sides, but leave the inside to your desired degree of doneness. 

We prefer to lightly season steak, allowing its true flavor to shine.  Try some Montreal Seasoning if you are using a grill, or if you are pan searing, stick to salt, pepper and garlic!  It is important to realize that unlike a chicken breast, which really is just a transporter of whatever sauce it’s served with, steak has its own delicious beef flavor.  Please, please, please do yourself a favor and only season it lightly!

Beef Brisket, often found in  BBQ joints, is best when braised or smoked but can be cooked in the oven.  Often served with BBQ sauce this cut is also processed to make a St. Patrick’s Day tradition, corned beef.  This cut is found primarily in Texas and Oklahoma and if smoked until it is falling apart and tender (which takes many hours) is hard to beat.  You can find pre-cooked brisket on sale often, which makes for a very nice meal on a budget.  Prior to smoking use a rub to season.  Remember to rest prior to slicing and don’t forget to slice against the grain.  **If your first brisket cooking experience does not go as you imagined, take heart, the most experienced beef cooks struggle with brisket from time to time.  

Skirt Steak, great for stir fry or fajitas, is a thin slice of beef found in the meat case.  This very lean cut is best if marinated prior to cooking.  Orange juice, grapefruit juice, Italian dressing or a salt brined are great options for marinated skirt steak.  This will increase tenderness and flavor without removing the beef flavor you love.  If you are rushed, go ahead and use it without a marinade, but trust me, you will enjoy it better marinated.  Slice into strips or chunks, or even grill quickly and enjoy.  ** Note that skirt steak cooks very quickly because it is so thin.  Watch it close and cook it hot and fast.  Remember there is nothing you can do more destructive to beef than to overcook it!

Tri-Tip, a family favorite, can be used at every meal.  This cut, found primarily west of the 100th meridian, is often made into ground beef which is, in my opinion a shame.  Cook it in a barrel, another family tradition, or on the grill.  It is most often sliced, against the grain of course, and served for lunch or supper.  It is also great with eggs for breakfast or in breakfast burritos.  No need to serve with sauce, salt, pepper and garlic prior to cooking will do.  This juicy cut of meat is best when cooked to medium.  **If cooking in a barrel or on a grill, keep in mind some of the seasonings will drip off into the fire, so don’t be shy.  Also it is important to let try tip rest prior to cutting.  Wrap in tin foil and let it sit for a few moments so that when you slice it you don’t lose all your juice.

Stew Beef, homemade stew is hard to beat, is often cut from chuck or round.  A beef stew practically cooks itself.  Another crock pot special!  However, you are not limited to classic stew with stew beef.  You can make hashes, soups, gumbos, kabobs and even cook it like roast in a pan with carrots and onions.  Stew meat is ideal when cut into ¾ to 1 ½ inch cubes.  Cook slowly and simmer for the most tender and flavorful results.  **If you are in a bind and have an abundance of stew beef in the freezer cut it smaller and stir fry it or use it as fajita meat.

I hope that this is helpful!  If you have any questions or need help with ideas give us a shout at BeefonaBudget@gmail.com.  Thank you to beefitswhatsfordinner.com for some of the previous information.  For further help, check out Matching Cooking Methods to Beef Cuts Ensures Success, brought to you by American cattle ranching families and The Beef Checkoff.  

~Anna-Lisa

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