How to Make Cheap Steak Taste Good

Turn Cheap Cuts of Meat into Delicious Steaks

Skirt Steak with Artichoke, Asparagus Salad
Credit: Alexandra Grablewski/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Is there such a thing as a good, cheap steak? A superior rib-eye, New York strip, or T-bone steak is a wonderful thing, no doubt about it. But few of us can afford to indulge in them very often. What about all those other cuts of beef, many of them far less expensive?

Turns out it's possible to make cheap cuts of steak tender and tasty, while avoiding that "liver-y" taste and texture that sometimes results.

(That livery flavor comes from muscles that are active and have a lot of a protein called myoglobin, which is rich in iron.)

A bonus for those who watch their saturated fat intake: cheap cuts of meat tend to have the least amount of fat.

Flank Steak and Skirt Steak

Both flank steak and skirt steak are best cooked medium-rare, or, at most, medium. Because they're both thin cuts of steak, you need to watch them closely to not overcook them. Flip them often --once every minute or so -- to ensure they cook evenly. Flank steak and skirt steak both have a pronounced grain and work well when marinated several hours and cut against the grain. Either have your butcher cut it in strips (make sure against the grain) or cut it yourself, before or after grilling. Try skirt steak in fajitas and skirt steak in Korean-Style Beef.

Top Sirloin

Top sirloin is one of the least expensive steaks, but it can easily get that livery flavor.

In one experiment, I tried a side-by-side comparison: I got four different pieces of top sirloin, in two identical pairs. In each pair, I marinaded one of each for 4 hours in a standard steak marinade and salted the other one in a technique I found on The Steamy Kitchen Blog. The marinaded ones looked better, so my husband and I were both very surprised to discover that there was no contest: The salted ones far exceeded the marinaded ones, both in texture and flavor.

They were delicious.

To do the salt technique, take the steaks out of the refrigerator about an hour before cooking, and heavily salt them with kosher salt. If you'd like, you can rub other seasonings on as well. Some juice will be pulled out of the meat -- don't worry about this. Before cooking, rinse the steaks (really), and pat dry. You can add pepper at this point, but no more salt. They will be perfectly seasoned. I have also seen instructions to leave the salt on them for up to 3 hours.

All Inexpensive Steaks 

Make sure steaks are at least room temperature before you cook them, as fast cooking makes them less likely to develop the myoglobin. Warming the meat before cooking produces the best results. You can either by put the meat in a zippered-type bag which is submerged in warm water, or for thick cuts cooked in a warm oven (275 F. for 20-25 minutes). When the steaks are pre-warmed, they only need quick cooking in a very hot pan or on a grill to finish them.

Following these tips will turn inexpensive steaks into delicious meals.

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