Meats that Save You Money
Getty ImagesIf you have rib-eye tastes and a chopped-sirloin budget these days, you're not alone. Meat prices are sending waves of sticker-shock through butcher shops and markets across the country. In one year, the price of pork rose 15 percent, chicken about 10 percent, and beef around 8 percent. One reason: The price of livestock feed went up when corn became the "it" crop for ethanol, and farmers cut back on their herds. Supply is down, but demand is still high.
Don't mourn the filet mignon. Inexpensive cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and poultry, which you may have passed by in the past, pack plenty of flavor. With our buying and cooking tips, along with some simple and delicious recipes, you'll find yourself saving money, and eating tender, juicy steaks, poultry, pork, and lamb.
Cheaper doesn't have to mean tougher. It's true that initially the more expensive cuts are more tender. They're from the parts of the animal that don't get exercised -- the ribs, the loin, the breast. There are more muscles and tendons in the legs, the round, and the shoulders, and if you don't cook them with care, they will be tough.
Slow equals tender. For the most part, inexpensive cuts aren't "throw it on the grill" food (skirt steak, however, is an exception: it's a good grilling choice when marinated). We're talking longer, moister methods: roasting (chicken and turkey legs and thighs) and braising (brisket and pork shoulder), and adding them to stews and casseroles. Low heat (never above 180 degrees) for long periods of time breaks down the tough bits for melt-in-your-mouth texture.
INEXPENSIVE MEATS TO BUY NOW
Thighs, legs, and wings. As most Asian cooks will tell you, the dark meat of the bird is where the flavor is. Yes, these cuts have more fat than boneless, skinless white-meat breasts, but they're also far more moist, as well as being easy and fun to eat. Turkey drumsticks are now sold separately from the big birds. Roast them and you have Thanksgiving tastes (including a crackling skin) any time of the year.
• Soy-Garlic Chicken Wings recipe
• Roasted Turkey Drumsticks recipe
• Roasted Spiced Chicken Thighs
BeefSkirt steak and flank steak (also called London broil) originate in the cow's chest and flank (or side). They may have come into our lives as the main component in fajitas, but we've made them regulars on the grill. Marinating skirt and flank steak helps the tenderness factor tremendously; they'll be especially juicy if you grill them to medium rare (or rare), and slice the meat against the grain. Serving these steaks with dipping sauces, such as the honey mustard-yogurt sauce in the flank-steak recipe below, adds succulence, too.
• Grilled Chili-Marinated Skirt Steak recipe
RoastsChuck (also known as top-blade roast), top-sirloin. Braised or slow-cooked, these cuts have superb beefy flavor, and, with vegetables cooking alongside, make a simple weekday dinner.
• Pot-Roast Risotto recipe
Veal breastAnother perfect candidate for braising (and a favorite of top chefs such as Thomas Keller, of the French Laundry), veal breast has layers of fat and cartilage between the layers of meat that melt away during slow-cooking. The result is rich, tender meat. Oven-roasting also works for veal breast, which, sliced, makes a great cold sandwich, if you have leftovers from your main meal.
• Braised Breast of Veal with Carrots and Thyme recipe
PorkPork shoulder (or picnic shoulder). No one quite knows why this cut was dubbed the picnic shoulder, but it's one tasty, tender cut when braised. Compared with a traditional ham, it takes longer to cook, but it's worth every minute. Lime juice and herbs give the pork shoulder a Cuban accent in the recipe below. The pork butt (which comes from a bit higher on the animal's shoulder) is also braise-worthy and delicious.
• Slow-Cooked Cuban Pork Shoulder recipe
• Slow-Cooker Braised Pork with Salsa recipe
LambAs with pork shoulder, this cut of lamb needs slow cooking to break down the connective tissue. Some cooks like to roast it, then braise it in wine, for an ultra-tender result. Lamb marries well with herbs such as mint and dill, and the recipes below make the most of this coupling.
• Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Almond-Mint Pesto recipe
• Lamb Stew with Lemon and Dill recipe
More on KitchenDaily:
- You can also save money by cooking while on vacation.
- In our kitchen equipment section, we weigh in on the cost and quality of all sorts of gadgets and tools.
- Learn how to work with all that meat you've purchased with these tips from The Culinary Institute of America.