Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cheap Healthy Beef Part I: Recipes and Methodology

Tomorrow … Cheap Healthy Beef Part II: Beef Tips

(Writing this article involved more research than all of my college papers combined. That’s either terrible statement about the quality of my public university education, or a wonderful one about the complexity of cow.)

My goal with this post (my goalpost?) was to find inexpensive, high-quality, lean cuts of beef, and then list several recipes that best demonstrate their qualities. What I found instead was this:
  • There are approximately 46,000 cuts of beef.
  • Those cuts have 46,000,000 different names.
  • According to federal guidelines, only 29 of them are lean.
  • Their prices vary greatly.
  • The quality and flavor of each is highly subjective.

Yikes. To narrow down the results, I needed a system. So, I started big.

Step one was listing every cut of beef I could find. The Hormel and Beef Council websites were particularly helpful here. I not only learned the eight basic parts to a cow (chuck, ribs, short loin, loin, round, flank, plate, and brisket - see below), but a gazillion ways to butcher them. Not too shabby.

From that master list of 54 cuts, I narrowed it down to the 29 leanest, conveniently provided at the Beef It’s What’s For Dinner website. By federal guidelines, these have to have less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and 100 grams of cholesterol per three-ounce serving.

Now, it got tricky. Since I had a feeling taste would be the toughest, I started hunting for prices, which are, of course, subjective by region. helped out, as did online circulars and grocers like Peapod and Fresh Direct. This not only eliminated every cut from the Short Loin section, which can easily run up to $20/lb, but surprisingly, flank steak, which can go for $10/lb. (More on that tomorrow.) After chopping everything over $5/lb, I was down to 19 cuts.

Finally, the taste. It’s argued by cooks, beef lovers, and (stunningly) the Beef Council that any piece of cattle can be braised, roasted, pan fried, grilled, barbecued, stewed, or broiled into submission. And you know what? It’s true. BUT Cooks Illustrated (via the continually awesome Get Rich Slowly) found three of those cuts to be of unusually high quality and flavor: Top Round Roast, Flap Steak, and Top Sirloin Steak (and roast).

So, in desperate, cattle-filled conclusion, what follows are healthy, inexpensive recipes for the 19 cheap, lean cuts, with CI’s favorite three leading the pack. While I tried to keep cost and nutrition in mind, I take no responsibility for taste.


Top Round Roast
Epicurious: Classic Sauerbraten Coby's Pot Roast French Dip Sandwiches Sauerbraten Crock Pot Beef Deluxe (um … use at your own risk) German Goulash (again … good luck) Barbecue Beef

Flap Steak (aka Flat-Bone Steak, Pin-Bone Steak, Round-Bone Steak, Wedge-Bone Steak, Beef Loin, Bottom Sirloin Butt, Flap Steak*, Flap Meat, Butcher’s Cut)
Recipe Zaar: Easy Carne Asada
San Francisco Gate: Bi-Rite’s Carne Asada and Beef Stir-Fry with Seared Broccoli & Kumquats
Juejuebie: Iron Mate D's Drunken Flap Steak Roast with Gunpowder Spice Rub

Top Sirloin Steak/Roast (aka Sirloin Butt Steak, London Broil)
Beef Council: 30-minute Beef Paprikash
Beef Council: Asian Beef & Vegetable Stirfry
Beef Council: Beef & Vegetable Skillet
Beef Council: Beef Kabobs w/Parmesan Orzo
Beef Council: Beef Pepper Steak

Beef Council: Beef & Potato Kabobs
Beef Council: Beef Steak w/Brown Rice & Vegetables
Beef Council: Beef, Pasta & Artichoke Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Beef Council: Easy Asian Stir Fry
Beef Council: Grilled Beef Sirloin & Farmer's Market Skewers
Beef Council: Harvest-Thyme Beef Sandwiches
Beef Council: Spicy Portuguese Beef Steak Kabobs
Beef Council: Steak & Tomato-Basil Pasta
Ellie Krieger: Cowboy Steak with Coffee and Chili Rub
Ellie Krieger: Chili-Rubbed Steak Tacos
Eating Well: Thai Beef Salad
Eating Well: Southwest Steak & Peppers
Epicurious: Grilled Beef Steak Vericiano
Epicurious: Sirloin Steak with Tomato and Cilantro Sauce
Epicurious: Marinated London Broil with Lemon and Garlic
All Recipes: Garlic Top Sirloin Pot Roast

(Please note that the classifications and groupings are the Beef Council’s, not mine.)

Mock Tender Steak (aka Chuck Fillet Steak, Fish Steak, Chuck Tender Steak, Shoulder tender, Petite filet, Tender medallions, Chuck clod tender, and Shoulder petite tender)
Beef Council: Braised Beef with Tomato-Garlic White Beans

Shoulder Center (aka Ranch Steak)
Beef Council: Beef Kabobs w/Grilled Pineapple Salsa
Beef Council: Cucumber Ranch Steaks
Beef Council: Gorgonzola-Topped Beef Steaks
Beef Council: Pepper-Rubbed Shoulder Center Steak
Beef Council: Peppered Steaks with Caramelized Onions
Beef Council: Szechuan Beef Stir-Fry

Chuck Shoulder Pot Roast (aka Chuck shoulder roast, English Roast)
Beef Council: Mediterranean Braised Beef
Eating Well: Coffee-Braised Pot Roast with Caramelized Onions
Epicurious: Red Wine Pot Roast with Porcini

Chuck Shoulder Steak (aka Chuck clod arm steak, Clod Steak, English Steak, London Broil, Shoulder Steak Half Cut chuck for swissing, Boneless shoulder cut, Shoulder Center Steak, Cut Steak, Shoulder Petite)
Beef Council: Chimichurri Beef Shoulder Steak
Beef Council: Gazpacho Steak Salad
Beef Council: Greek Shoulder Steaks
Beef Council: Plum Marinated Steak

90-95% Lean Ground Beef (aka Ground Sirloin)
Beef Council: Baked Italian Meatballs
Beef Council: Beefy Mexican Lasagna
Beef Council: Chili Beef Express
Beef Council: Oriental Express Beef Lettuce Wraps
Beef Council: Ranch Burgers
Ellie Krieger: Three Bean and Beef Chili
Ellie Krieger: Greek Style Stuffed Peppers
Ellie Krieger: Sloppy Joes
Epicurious: Cabbage Stuffed with Beef, Zucchini, and Herbs
Epicurious: Hearty Moussaka with Low-Fat White Sauce

Tri-Tip Roast/Steak (aka Sirloin Steak, Top Sirloin Cap Steak Culotte, Triangle Steak)
Beef Council: Beef Tri-Tip with Rosemary-Garlic Vegetables
Beef Council: Chili-Crusted Tri-Tip Roast
Beef Council: Grilled Beef Tri-Tip with Tropical Fruit Salsa
Beef Council: Peppery Beef Tri-Tip with Skewered Vegetables
Epicurious: Tri-Tip Roast with Parsley Cherry Tomato
Epicurious: Barbecued Tri-Tip with Caramelized Red Onions
Epicurious: Wood-Smoked Tri-Tip with Sicilian Herb Sauce
Epicurious: Marinated Tri-Tip with Chinese Mustard Sauce and Roasted Green Onions and Mushrooms
Epicurious: Harissa-Crusted Tri-Tip Roast
Epicurious: Grilled Tri-Tip Roast with Tequila Marinade and Cherry Tomato Relish
Epicurious: Cumin Beef Kebabs

Sirloin Tip Side Steak
Beef Council: Basic Guidelines

Round Steak (aka Full-Cut Round Steak)
Epicurious: Skillet Sauerbraten
Epicurious: Spicy Steak and Corn Soft Tacos
All Recipes: Slow Cooker Tender and Yummy Round Steak
All Recipes: Asian Beef with Snow Peas

Top Round Steak (aka Top Round London Broil, Inside Round Cut)
Beef Council: Chipotle Salsa Steak
Beef Council: Chipotle-Marinated Beef Flank Steak
Beef Council: Greek Beef Salad
Beef Council: Grilled Steak with Mango Salsa
Beef Council: Little Havana Grilled Beef & Potato Salad
Beef Council: London Broil
Ellie Krieger: Grilled Thai Beef Salad
Ellie Krieger: Fettucini Bolognese
Eating Well: Cowboy Steak
Epicurious: Linguine with Steak and Peppers

Round Tip Steak/Roast (aka Ball Tip Steak, Beef Sirloin Tip Steak, Breakfast Steak, Knuckle Steak, Sandwich Steak, Minute Steak, Tip steak)
Beef Council: 15-Minute Beef
Beef Council: Ancho Chili-Rubbed Beef Roast
Beef Council: Onion 'N Pepper Beef Steak Sandwich
Beef Council: Sesame-Soy Beef Stir-Fry
Beef Council: Steak Kabobs & Wild Rice with Mushrooms

Eye Round Steak/Roast
Beef Council: Grilled Beef Eye Round Steaks with Garlic-Yogurt Marinade
Beef Council: Mediterranean Eye Round Steaks
Epicurious: Roast Beef for “Beef on Weck”
Epicurious: Spiced Roast Beef and Vegetables
All Recipes: Apricot Marinated Eye of Round Roast

Bottom Round Roast (aka Round Roast, Bottom Round Pot Roast, Bottom Round Oven Roast)
Beef Council: Garlic-Herb Crusted Beef Roast
Eating Well: Flemish Beef Stew
All Recipes: Bottom Round Roast with Onion Gravy (should be 7 or 8 servings)

Bottom Round Steak (aka Western Griller, Griller Steak, Outside Round, Western Steak, Swiss Steak)
Beef Council: Serve-A-Crowd Beef Steaks
Epicurious: Filipino-Style London Broil

Sirloin Tip Center Steak/Roast (aka Breakfast Steak, Knuckle Steak, Tip Center Steak , Round Knuckle Peeled, Round Tip Steak)
Beef Council: Grilled Beef Steaks with Ancho Chili Rub
Beef Council: Peppered Beef Steaks with Caramelized Onions

Brisket Flat Half (aka Brisket Flat Cut)
Eating Well: Braised Brisket with Root Vegetables
Epicurious: Sweet and Sour Brisket
Epicurious: Beef Brisket with Pearl Onions and Baby Carrots
Epicurious: Brisket with Portobello Mushrooms and Dried Cranberries
Epicurious: Brisket with Leeks and Dried Apricots

Shank Crosscuts
Epicurious: Beef, Barley, and Vegetable Soup
Epicurious: Garlic-Braised Beef Shanks
Epicurious: Spicy Beef Shanks with Julienne Carrots

Tomorrow, in addition to links, I’m going to go into everything else I learned about buying beef on the cheap. And, holy mother of god, it’s a lot.

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MommySecrets said...

Good grief - you did a LOT of research for this article! THANKS for doing the homework for us!

Anonymous said...

Well done! No pun intended.

Anonymous said...

totally awesome!!