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Learning to love cheap cuts of meat...

 
gardener
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Location: Galicia, Spain zone 9a
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This is a particular favourite of ours discovered when living on Mallorca.

Frito Mallorquín is a traditional dish  made from heart, lung, liver and kidney, usually of lamb but can be from any other animal - goat is particularly good.  Small cubes of the meats to be used, potatoes, red peppers, onions and bulb fennel are fried in olive oil with salt, pepper, fresh fennel, bay leaf and pepper, but a little chilli makes it spectacular.  It neesds to be eaten piping hot so heat bowls before serving, serve with bread and aiollí.  This is probably arabic in origin and I have never seen it 'up North'. The Spanish make a great deal from offal and it is readily available in butchers, but we never find chicken with their giblets.  Odd.
frito.jpg
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gardener
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Location: Ontario - Currently in Zone 4b
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The prices of meat these days is pretty crazy! I also do a lot of cheap cuts/stretching.

As background- I'm the daughter of a butcher who learned to cut meat prior to refrigeration and who worked at everything from local butcher shops, to small abattoirs, to large packing houses, to grocery chains. Dad's very incredulous sometimes by what is "cheap" now, as he says some of the best, most flavourful cuts are the cheapest! His motto is "there's no bad meat, only bad cooks".

Dad makes a traditional European liver pate for Christmas every year - very, very cheap, very, very good. He has the local store order him in pork fat and (i think pork) liver, and runs them through a meat grinder 3-5 times to mix them, then mixes in seasonings and cream. Makes little loaf pans and cooks them in a pan filled with water. Serve with crackers or on toast with cucumber...  Yum!!! Extras are given away to relatives and/or frozen.

For cheap/off cuts - sausages are the ultimate solution, and are surprisingly easy to make. I grew up helping Dad at a church, where we made thousands of pounds of traditional smoked sausages every month, as a fundraiser and for 1000 people plus dinners to support the church. I have fond memories of mixing (by hand!) the ground meat, rice, and seasonings together, and then watching as they poured in the blood. My favourite was the grey sausage (liver), but the black sausage (blood sausage), and kolbassa were also really good. And people went wild for the head cheese (not I!) made of all the scraps of the pig and it's head not commonly used, like the head and hoof meat, tongue, heart, etc, cooked to produce gelatin with lots of spices then stuffed in a casing and smoked. In retrospect, I probably would have liked it better if my father hadn't said they put the brain in there (I think he was lying).

When I go to the grocery store I usually have my dad's voice in my head (and sometimes on my phone if I see a good deal and am not sure how to use the meat). This is what I look for:

- Clearance beef -it's the best tasting, and the dark colour is good! - but never buy clearance poultry/pork (he doesn't trust it).
- Large chunks I can cut into smaller chunks - most very tough beef can be improved by cutting it against the grain into fine strips, then either very quickly searing it in butter, or slow cooking. IMHO, cutting meat into tiny pieces in soups/stews etc improves the flavour of the stew, and allows you to stretch the meat further.
- Cheap steaks - these can be tenderized in a number of ways : Marinating it overnight or for a few days,  using chemical/enzyme means (pineapple juice or tomato or lemon juice). If you use pineapple juice, keep it short, because the enzyme is actually eating away the connective tissue and it's easy to overdo it. I cook a lot of "meat in tomato sauce" kinds of meals.  Dad also has a mechanical meat tenderizer, which works well but is a pain to clean.
- Cuts of beef/pork with fat marbled throughout - these are the most flavourful cuts, and don't get dry when cooked as a roast.
- With a decent boning knife, it's a matter of minutes to debone chicken thighs/chicken breasts, and usually saves you a lot over buying the pre deboned stuff. It's a titch longer (10 min? I'm slow) but deboning a chicken is also very easy to do. I personally prefer thighs over breast because of flavour, so that helps. If I'm feeding a crowd, I usually buy 3-5 whole chickens and debone them, then make stew.
- personally (sorry Americans!) I've started to avoid American pork. There is a lot of it in our stores, and it's usually the stuff that goes on sale, and I always think it tastes "off". I do buy Canadian pork when it goes on sale.
- Lots of the big roasts are best portioned off into pieces - I'll buy a $20 chunk of meat, then portion it out for the freezer into stirfry strips + chops+ roasts.
- I seldom eat offal (usually liver or chicken hearts if I do). I want to try tongue and oxtail, as both parents give rave reviews, but don't see them in stores.
- Lard - If I cook with really fatty pork, I often skim the flavoured fat from the top and keep it in the fridge and use it as a sandwich spread, maybe with some finely diced onion or garlic. Yum!!!
- This is common knowledge, but when using ground meat for meatloaf/meatballs/hamburgers, etc, I usually stretch it with corn meal and/or grated carrots to make the meat go farther and also catch the fat and make a better tasting thing.

Oh - and I second the suggestion to look at an instant pot for fast dinners with cheap meat cuts.
 
pollinator
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Location: Denmark 57N
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I hate reading these threads :( I used to cook cheap meat back in the UK but here in Denmark it doesn't exist. and I really mean that, and I miss slowcooked meat! One thing I say that people should check is the amount of the product you will throw away, chicken thighs is a good example here, the cheapest are thighs with backbone but they are 50% bone, so the ticket price is not a fair comparison

the prices I pay for various pork cuts per kg, these are offer prices but not amazing offer prices (10DKK is about $1.5)

Pork loin 30
Pork fillet 35
Pork mince 30
Pork belly 35
Pork neck 40

pigs tails      60
Pigs cheeks 110
Pork liver    45

As you can clearly see the best cuts from the pig are the cheapest. with the nasty cuts being in some cases over triple the price.

Beef is not quite the same, but still shows really poor cuts being massively marked up.

Steaks 120/415
Roasting joints 130/210
Beef lump (your guess is as good as mine) 80
Osso bucco 94
Pre cut stew meat 150 (can't buy it any other way)
mince 50
Tail 150

tail and ossobucco are a good 50%+ bone and cost an absolute fortune.

Chicken is even worse,

Whole chicken 21
Chicken breasts 50 (with 13% water added)
Chicken breasts 60 no water added
Chicken thighs with backbone 40 (these work out at 50% bone!)
Chicken drumsticks 45
Chicken legs with backbone, frozen 13% added water 20
Chicken liver 45
Chicken hearts 50
wings cannot be bought.

The only way to "save" here on meat is to keep an eye out on the offers, and then buy bulk, quite often they sell the entire loin of beef 3-4kg for 200DKK it's the only way we get beef, it's almost all pork and chicken just due to the price.


 
Catie George
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Skandi - if it helps, prices are similarly outrageous here in Canada too. We keep joking there ought to be a security guard for the meat display!!!

Here's some Canadian flyer prices. For US readers - ~$4 CAN = $3 US, or ~$1 CAN = $0.75 US.

I just bought the cheapest beef on sale at the cheapest grocery store yesterday - its $15.41 CAN/kg - or about 78 DKK according to Google.
Bone-in skin on chicken breast (on major sale), is 3.99/lb, $8.80/kg, or about 45 DKK.  Boneless is on sale at $7.99/lb, $17.61/kg, ~90 DKK (not a good price).

Those look pretty similar to what you listed.

Oh - wait, there's a (really) good sale on pork (but the weird tasting American pork) on right now ( I haven't seen a meat price below 2.50/lb in months)... 1.77/lb, 3.90/kg, ~20 DKK. All the other pork is 3.99/lb (~45 DKK) and up. Still not going to buy it though!
 
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Actually, "older" animals can also be full of flavour and tasty, you just need to slow cook for many hours. For instance, slow-braise older goat for stews, ragus, curries.
Because it has so little fat, compared to other animal, goat can become tough if cooked at high temperatures. So, slow cooking with low, moist heat such as with stews and braises are best, while marinating the meat before is also good.
 
pollinator
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The dining hall at the school I teach at did an absolutely amazing beef brisket the other day. Absolutely succulent, melting off the fork.

I asked what time it went in the oven. 9am!!!

10 hours cooking time. I have petitioned for them to do it again :)
 
gardener & hugelmaster
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Location: Gulf of Mexico cajun zone 8
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In my admittedly highly biased BBQ opinion low & slow is definitely the best way to cook brisket. TX is famous for that! I can't speak for cooking it in an oven though. Cooked about 16 hours over oak &/or mesquite coals is how it's usually done there. It develops a crusty "bark" on the outside with a pink smoke ring layer under that. I brine them in salty water overnight before cooking but some people don't. Cook with fat side up for at least the first few hours. Sliced across the grain. YUM!!!
 
pollinator
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I realize I am chiming in a bit late here but I fully agree with learning to love cheap cuts of meat.

Also, I cannot emphasize enough that a person should process their own meat if it is at all possible for them to do so, safely.

Where my farm is in Missouri, the meat processors there would NOT give you back the offal, many great cuts like the ox-tail, skirt, etc would disappear or be unavailable. I had to fight to get my bones back, and was told I definitely could not have the heads, jowls, hearts, intestines, kidneys/other offal (except liver, I did get those), hides, etc. (Also, I took 4 pigs and weighed them all before taking them to 4 different processors and there were very astonishing disparities in what was returned to me. All had the exact same cut list, and I thought my dad was going to scream at one place when we picked up the meat and oddly, there was only one piece of belly, cut conveniently to the size of the banana boxes the meat was packed in. Because I was making all of my own mince, bacon, etc. and had asked for the primal cuts which isn't what I got from any of the four but I doubt they were used to that request so I do not hold that entirely against them. They probably thought I was a silly girl who wouldn't know what to do with them and were trying to be helpful.) They have a very difficult job and like any profession, I imagine most are quite honest. I just found that some in my area were definitely not. Or they had contracts with others that gave them rights to all hides/offal/etc. If you can process your own, you will know what happened every step of the way and that really is best.

The jowls I feel are an often neglected cut of meat, that taste practically the same as bacon when properly prepared. Also, tongue makes for fantastic stir fries when prepared right. The best stock and stew I have ever tasted is from ox-tail as someone else mentioned. It is satisfying and relieving to see so many people going back to the nose-to-tail approach. Nothing wasted, even if it is just spent stock bones going to the critters (I have found that once I have used the bones and grizzle to make fabulous stocks after a few runs through the kitchen when the bones are falling apart, I will add yet again another round of water and boil it a few days. Then add in grain -usually something spoiled, or infested with weevils from the salvage grocery- to make a porridge and the animals love it. If it is pork bones, I give it to the chickens, if it is chicken bones I give it to the pigs, etc. so none of it ever ever goes to waste. I do something similar with the chicken blood for the pigs, does anyone have a recipe that makes good use of that or is it best cooked with rice and to the pigs?)

Now I live in Melbourne and I am trying to relearn the game after producing all of my own meat for years. (And even having learned to process the bigger animals which I was not initially set up for as discussed above.) but the absolute cheapest I can get meat is whole chickens sometimes go on sale for $3.20/kg and pork roasts for $7/kg, beef (except silverside) starts at $10/kg for mince $13+ for any other cut I have found even in bulk. While these are not terrible prices compared to what many of you are facing, it is out of my budget as I am saving for another farm here in Melbourne. So, if anyone knows of a source for cheaper meats here, please let me know. Much like many of you have said, things often considered to be the "cheaper" cuts have become trendy and now are the more expensive cuts. I am also looking for a place to get canning jars at a reasonable price here in Melbourne. -_-

Thank you all! You rock! Nothing beats making your own sausages, bacon, smoking your own meats, etc. Anything and everything we do to not only improve the planet a bit, and get back to eating healthier food helps not only us but the generations to come.


 
gardener
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I'm going to share a few favorite recipes I make from these inexpensive cuts of red meat. These are some of my and my husband's favorite dishes. I'm not listing chuck roast on there, but pot roast made from chuck is also a favorite.  

Beef stew: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/16167/beef-bourguignon-i/
Chef John's beef tri-tip roast: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/275063/the-best-beef-tri-tip/ This is our favorite roast recipe, it is so delicious for cold roast beef.  Works with other cuts, like sirloin tip roast, too.
Mongolian beef, restaurant style : https://thewoksoflife.com/mongolian-beef-recipe/
Korean braised shortribs: https://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/beef-birria-recipe/  This recipe is so good with one of the cheapest and easiest to grow foods - daikon radish!  I leave out the Asian pear.
Beef (or goat) birria: https://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/beef-birria-recipe/  Good with rice or tortillas.
Beef and broccoli, Chinese restaurant style: https://thewoksoflife.com/beef-with-broccoli-all-purpose-stir-fry-sauce/  This one tastes just like from a Chinese restaurant. So good!
Short ribs in tomatillo sauce: https://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/braised-short-ribs-in-tomatillo-sauce/  This is awesome in tortillas. And tomatillos are one of the easiest/cheapest things to grow and make salsa from.  About 4 plants and we will have all we need for a year.

Technique is important when using tougher cuts of meat.  For example, the Beef-broccoli and the Mongolian stir-fry dishes - how you cut the meat matters.  To use a tougher cut of meat for a stir fry, I take a sirloin tip roast, and make thin slice cross-grain.  Then cook them very fast until just done.

With other tough cuts, long cooking is necessary.  So if you want to use a tougher cut in a fast cook recipe, it can be done, but the way you slice and cook it will make a big difference.
 
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