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17 October 2012 @ 10:09 pm
Hey knowers about meat!  
I had a super-exciting foray recently into cooking beef at home. It was this: I bought pre-cut strips of beef labeled "stir-fry beef" and then I stuck the bits in a skillet and stir-fried them like I would tofu. (Note for the future: Beef probably doesn't need to "simmer off" the way tofu does to get the water out.)

There are A ZILLION kinds of beef/cuts/complicated pricing structures, so I'm looking for some advice here. I don't buy a lot of meat, but would rather buy cheaper cuts of local non-factory beef when possible, so please advise with cheapness in mind.

1) I want to stir-fry beef. I am capable of cutting it into strips myself. What should I buy?

2) I have heard that you can get "tougher cuts" of beef for cheaper. I'm okay with marinating something in the fridge ahead of time or whacking it with one of those spiky hammer things. Now what do I buy?

3) Forget the stir-fry thing. Is there a super-nutritious and/or super cheap cut of beef I should learn to cook?


I miss thekatebeyond at times like these. :(
Your *Mom*'s A Cylon!: I like Me :)astrum_presul on October 18th, 2012 05:47 am (UTC)
I love skirt steak, but I have no idea how it falls in the pricing scheme. It's probably the only kind of beef I buy, though, so I figure it's worth it either way. It's usually pretty thin and you can definitely cut it into strips on your own to stir fry it or cook and eat it as is. It's delish with marinade, too.
A.j.: foodaj on October 18th, 2012 02:26 pm (UTC)
I just buy what's cheap, whack it up, and marinate. A good marinate for beef tends to be lime (ENZYMES!) and pineapple. Something about ~chemistry~ that helps tenderize it. I just tend to buy skirt steak because it tends to be cheapish, but I mostly just check prices and sale flyers.

Then again, I don't eat much beef at home that often. If I do, I just buy cut up taco meat (not ground beef.) Pro tip: use cast iron for cooking meat as it keeps a better temp consistency and can be heated up to really high temps for a good sear.
miera_c: penguin screammiera_c on October 18th, 2012 04:54 pm (UTC)
Hee. After I moved in with my sister over the summer, we were talking one day about dinner and she said, "If we buy some beef, could you cook it?" She doesn't really cook much, and I cook a lot, so personally I think she's getting a good deal in exchange for giving me house room.

I don't do much stir fry myself but my Mom swears by flank steak, so long as it's properly cut against the grain (resulting in Mama and Papa Bear having the same argument every time about which way the grain is going ;) One thing Mama Bear always said is that whenever possible, do not buy pre-cut things that say "stew meat" or "stir fry" because it's usually the worst possible stuff. The companies are using cutting them into pieces to hide how fatty they are. You're better off buying a whole piece and slicing yourself, then you can see the quality of it.

One thing to remember about buying larger packages of meat is usually you can get more than one meal out of it. I made pot roast for my sister and I this weekend. It was $17 for the grass-fed bottom round roast (the non organic is obviously cheaper), which seems like a heart attack price when you look at it, but it's created at least 6 meals and the leftovers aren't gone yet. We'll probably get 8 meals out of that one roast. Not the cheapest food available, obviously, but it's a good idea to think about what you're getting for your money when buying meat. Otherwise the prices seem ridiculous.

Other stuff I make:

Cubed steak, which is beef that's been pounded pretty good and looks a little odd when you first see it, but is reliably cheap. It's a bit tough (and yes, cheaper=tougher) but there are a bunch of recipes for marinades and stuff for cube steak online. I generally don't marinate. I make "Minute Steak" which is put some pepper on it, dust on a little flour and then fry in a tiny bit of olive oil for just a couple minutes on each side. Put on a paper towel to drain some of the oil and then eat. Ketchup or mustard or both may be helpful. I used to make Spanish Rice to go with it, or pasta with tomato sauce, but I'm avoiding those things these days. :(

I'm a big believer in meat loaf. I do not make it with ketchup, though, I make an Italian version. One package of ground beef (I don't recommend the ultra low fat version, stick with 85% lean or 90%), a cup of your favorite tomato sauce, one egg and stuffing cubes (like the kind you put in a turkey, usually in the bread aisle or with the breadcrumbs and other baking stuff). Break up the ground beef in a large bowl, add some spices (I use pepper, basil, oregano and parsley), then add the egg, about a cup of breadcrumbs and a cup of tomato sauce. Mix thoroughly. Shape into a loaf and bake for 45 minutes at 350. Doesn't really produce gravy, since it's Italian meat loaf, but it freezes really well, so you can make one meal and then stash some leftovers in the freezer for a few others. I'm a big proponent of leftovers, in case you couldn't tell. I like making a big meal on Sunday and then not having to worry about a few meals for the week.
lavidaessueno on October 19th, 2012 01:12 am (UTC)
Flank steak. Does really well with marinades.

Also, if you buy a big slab and cut it into smaller bits for freezing, you can slice it super-thin while it defrosts, which can make for a melt-in-your-mouth experience when you cook it.
elly: sg1 Sam  [Almost at my end}elly427 on October 19th, 2012 02:15 am (UTC)
I usually go with whatever's on sale/cheapest and use my mom's tip for finding a fairly tender piece - poke it with your finger (if that doesn't totally squick you out.) You'll be able to tell which pieces of beef are more tender than others, I swear.

(Maybe everyone knows this, but when my mom explained it to me it blew my mind.)
redbeard: poolredbeard on October 19th, 2012 09:33 pm (UTC)
Flank and skirt are really good for stir fry - particularly flank. Skirt is actually super good for tacos (pan sear a whole steak in a pan after letting it marinate with some adobo sauce, then slice it up and put it in tortillas with some sautéed onion - yum).

If you want to get SUPER easy, cheap, and will feed you for a whole week, make a sunday brisket or yankee pot roast. Braising beef in your oven takes a loooong time, but the rewards are great. You buy a big hunk o' beef up front, throw it in a tight closed pot with some veggies and liquid, throw it in the oven, and hours later it pops out amazing. And will give you leftovers all week long. Or, even simpler, carbonnades flamandes - beef braised with beer.

Basically, any braised beef recipe is simple, wonderful, and perfect for cold rainy weather, which I hear you get a good bit of up there.

But for stir fry, flank, or really any cheap thin cut they have will do. Stir fry is pretty forgiving.