Picking the right cuts of meat doesn’t have to cost the Earth! Nor does it mean that going for cheaper cuts of meat will leave you with a less than satisfactory bit of meat to eat. Meat from the butchers can often seem like a pricey treat every now and then, especially when you have a family to budget for. In our helpful guide, we will take you through the best cuts of meat to pick that will allow you to get good value for your money whilst not compromising on taste.
The cheapest cuts of beef can often have less than pleasant names, such as flank, chuck and blade; do not let this put you off! These parts of the cow can offer you richer flavours than the more popular and more expensive cuts of the cow, like sirloin and rump. This inside knowledge means butchers and professional chefs often use these parts of the cow in their own dishes.
These parts will require longer cooking as they will generally be a little tougher than the beef you are currently used to. Muscles that the cow use more often, like the shin or shoulder, are generally the toughest, but can be an extremely tasty and cheap option to try if you are feeling adventurous. Butchers will often buy animals whole, so these parts will be available from your local butchers’ store, and because these parts are less popular than other sections they will not be in pre-packaged portions meaning you can buy as much as you need.
Increasing in popularity, this cut of beef is becoming well-known around the UK, becoming a firm favourite in many restaurants and pubs. Brisket can be the perfect dish to offer a mouth-watering option for your guests at your BBQ events. Brindon Addy, an award-winning butcher from West Yorkshire, has said that brisket is one of his favourite cuts of beef. Commenting on brisket Addy said: “I’d choose this over topside any day. A 700g joint will feed four people well and cost around £5.50.” (This is around £1.37 per person!)
Why not try something a little different with your brisket by pot-roasting it in beer with parsnips and mushrooms?
The skirt is from the underbelly of the cow. The steak is inexpensive; however, caution should be taken when cooking this part of the beef as any more than a medium cook can make it become very tough. If you love pasties, why not get some skirt meat and have a go at making some for yourself? This meat is traditionally used in the legendary Cornish pasties so yours won’t be far off the real thing!
If you’re feeling a little adventurous why not look up recipes for seared beef with orange and chilli?
This cut of beef is taken from the leg of the cow, and usually comes with a bone intact. You can use this meat as an alternative for veal in dishes like osso bucco, or why not try stewing slices of it for a stew to comfort you in these winter months?
Flank comes from the abdominal muscles of the cow, usually presented in thick cut steaks. This beef cut can make a great option for mince meat, and used for a minced beef wellington.
Silverside is used for corned or salt beef traditionally because the cut is very lean. It is particularly tasty in recipes such as salt beef with beetroot and horseradish.
Chuck and Blade
These cuts come from the top of the cow, and are perfect for dicing and braising. Why not make a crispy-topped Cumberland pie with these meat choices?
Like the shin, leg meat is best cooked slowly in plenty of liquid to avoid it becoming tough. There is plenty of flavour to come from this section of beef. We suggest looking at a beef bourguignon recipe to use this in.
The top rump is also known in the butchers as the thick flank. You can slice this meat into think steak slices or roast it whole for a Sunday lunch. This meat is best served pink in the middle to remain tender.
Lamb is a classic meat to use as the centrepiece of the Sunday roast, although parts of the lamb including the neck, fillet and chops can often be quite expensive. So for many people lamb is more of a luxury than a staple. If you’re someone that loves lamb, looking for low-cost cuts will ensure you can enjoy lamb more regularly than the occassional treat.
Inexpensive cuts of lamb will require additional care, with very slow cooking to allow it to become tender; however, this will mean that the lamb will be rich in unique and delicious flavour.
The shoulder is taken from the bottom half of the lamb, and is a great alternative to the leg meat. Coating the shoulder with herbs, such as rosemary, as well as garlic and anchovies and roasting the joint whole can make a delicious dish for the family. Placing the joint on a blanket of thinly sliced potatoes means they will soak up all the rich flavours from the cooking juices.
Scrag and middle neck
These cuts are taken from the top of the lamb, below its head. These cuts are best served diced and stewed in dishes like pies. The scrag and middle neck are even-coloured pieces of meat that have a juicy layer of fat that runs through it.
This cut comes from the back of the lamb. The steaks are great for grilling, roasting or pan-frying. Try marinating the lamb in spices of your choice and serving with a fresh salad, topped with feta, and flatbread.
The breast is cut from the underbelly of the lamb and will need to be cooked slowly to render away any of the fat. If you purchase the whole breast expect to see ribs and bones, but these can be pulled out once you have cooked the meat. Many butchers will sell a boned and rolled breast, that is usually stuffed with fresh herbs to add to the flavour of the meat. If you’re not confident skinning the meat to remove the layer of fat, ask your butcher to do this for you.
Top tips to remember:
-Get to know your local butcher. They will be able to give you great recommendations on different cuts of meat, whilst providing you with advice on how these should be cooked.
-Look up new recipes to try with parts of meat you wouldn’t usually buy to see whether there are any recipes you would like try.
-If you’re looking to experiment with the way you cook meat you can look at cooking equipment to buy, griddle pans will allow you to pan fry meat; stewing pots will let you slow-cook meat for comforting and tender dishes or you could even look at buying a big BBQ grill to get out when summer arrives.