If you’ve been cooking with ground beef to save some dough, you can absolutely keep doing that (we love burgers, meatballs, and all the other delicious things you can make with ground beef), but don’t feel boxed in. Many other cuts won’t break the bank and will still bring loads of flavor to the party. We called some chefs known for their beef prowess to ask which cuts to seek out and how to best prepare them. Hint: things are about to get saucy and smoky.
The Versatile Cut of Beef: Eye of Round Roast
When trying to keep costs low, John Baxter, chef at Portland, Oregon’s Bullard Tavern, thinks an eye of round roast is underrated. “It’s so versatile for home cooks,” he says.
How to cook it: “You can cube it, braise it, cut the roast into medallions and pound them out for chicken fried steak, or simply roast it and have an amazing pot roast,” Baxter says.
It’s great grilled, too. “Use your favorite dry rub on the eye of round and smoke it to medium rare,” Baxter suggests. “Slice it thin to use for a French dip with stewed peppers and onions.”
Don Walker, executive chef of Formento’s in Chicago, is also a braising evangelist.
“Winter is the perfect time to bust out that crock pot and let it roll while you are at work or running errands,” Walker says. He adds root veggies like turnips, celery root, and carrots to the pot since those will stay intact and not turn into icky mush.
Walker adds, “A heavy dose of red wine helps break down the meat.” Bonus: there’s your wine pairing for the meal (or a glass to sip while you’re cooking).
Butcher’s Favorite Cut of Beef: Hanging Tenderloin
Walker loves hanging tenderloin, which is also called the “butcher’s steak” since, well, butchers love it. “It is tender like filet mignon but still has a great beef flavor like tougher cuts,” he says. “The flat iron comes from the same part of the cow. Those are both very affordable cuts.”
How to cook it: Go for the grill. “Hanging tenderloins don’t have a lot of intramuscular fat; they cook quicker and are best served medium rare,” Walker says. He uses a “ripping hot grill or cast-iron pan,” and seasons beef with just salt and pepper. “Let the meat speak for itself.”
Chef’s Go-To Cut of Beef: Flat Iron Steak
Much like late-night Hot Pockets are a go-to for you, flat iron steaks are a go-to for chefs. “When cooked correctly it is wonderfully tender and juicy,” says Dominique Leach, co-owner of Lexington Betty Smokehouse in Chicago.
How to cook it: Leach grills it. “Although marinating isn’t necessary, I recommend it to boost the flavor and tenderness,” she says. “This is my favorite steak to add chimichurri to.” For Baxter, it’s all about searing it in a hot cast-iron pan and basting it with butter, garlic, and thyme.
Easton Sadler, head butcher at Houston’s R-C Ranch Butcher Shop, also opts for a hot pan. He seasons the beef with salt and pepper and lets it come to room temperature to help it cook evenly.
“Whenever I cook steak, my neighbors know it’s steak night by the sound of my smoke alarm,” he says. “Heat up canola oil in a cast-iron pan until you see light smoke, then cook for two minutes per side. If you are going for a seriously hard sear, you can place a heavy-bottomed pan on top. Let your steak rest for 15 minutes, then throw a pat of butter on it.”
If you’re looking for a delicious flat iron steak sandwich recipe, try our Balsamic Flat Iron Steak Sandwich with Grilled Peaches.
The Tender Cut of Beef: Hanger Steak
“Hanger steak is not as popular as a ribeye, but if you’re a steak lover, I recommend trying it,” Leach says. “It boasts lots of flavors and is very affordable. It’s often compared to a skirt or flank steak, but hangers are more tender.”
How to cook it: Leach recommends dousing the steak with your favorite marinade. “This helps boost the flavor and tenderize the meat,” she says. She then grills it over high heat until medium rare.
Sadler’s favorite way to eat a steak is in an Asian-inspired bowl. He adds slices to a bowl with white rice or vermicelli. “Season it heavily with sesame oil, fish sauce, and black vinegar,” he advises. “Then garnish with cilantro, scallion, pickled ginger, and a beautiful runny egg.”
Next time you’re popping into the neighborhood grocery store for dinner supplies, consider putting down the ground beef and picking up one of these affordable and delicious options instead. Head over to our recipes page for even more inspiration.