9 Delicious (And Under-the-Radar) Cuts Of Meat
It’s easy to fall back on the same familiar requests at the butcher counter. With beef it’s most often filet mignon, New York strip, rib-eye. Here, nine under-appreciated (and mostly more affordable) cuts to start cooking from tonight.
In many ways, we live in (and taste) an ever-changing culinary landscape, with creative dishes and exotic ingredients making their way onto menus and then eventually onto our grocery shopping lists. But as our palates have evolved, the cuts of meat we favor have not; we typically fall back on the same familiar requests at the butcher counter—filet mignon, New York strip, rib-eye. Here, we give some under-appreciated (and mostly more affordable) cuts their due, with nine to start cooking from tonight.
While some cuts are praised for being melt-in-your-mouth tender, skirt steak proves that a more toothsome texture can be the way to go. A long, flat cut, skirt steak is favored for its juiciness—and chewiness. We like it best when simply seasoned with salt and pepper, grilled, and topped with a cilantro pesto or chimichurri.
Also known as ‘teres major,’ this cut comes from the chuck, along the side of the cow, where the muscles do a lot of load-bearing and exercising, which makes the meat lean and flavorful with little marbling. Shoulder tender looks similar to a tenderloin, but doesn’t always make it to the butcher case because it’s tough to extract from the animal. But the effort is worthwhile: When cooked properly over low and slow heat, the shoulder tender breaks down into juicy meat with a robust beef flavor. It’s easy for it to overcook and become tough, though, so methods like braising and oven-roasting are your best bet.
A favorite cut in California, tri-tip comes from the bottom of the sirloin section, close to the round, and makes for a lean cut, so it’s quick enough to cook on a weeknight. It can hold its own against flavorful rubs and marinades; we recommend those on the spicy side. Rub it all over in a mixture of chipotle powder, ground mustard, and a little brown sugar and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before pan-searing, grilling, or sear-roasting.
Flat Iron Steak
When you butterfly a top blade steak to remove the tough connective tissue, you get the flat iron cut, which comes from the chuck area of the animal. (It was actually created by a team of professors who were challenged to find a way to salvage the typically tossed shoulder area of the cow.) The result: a tender, nicely marbled, deeply flavorful piece of meat that’s ideal for grilling, thanks to its uniform rectangular shape. Try subbing in a flat iron cut for recipes that call for skirt or flank steak.
One of the most affordable cuts of beef, the chuck roast typically gets passed over because its tougher texture requires slow cooking to give the meat time to tenderize. Braise it with red wine and onions or use it in a pot roast with carrots, dijon mustard, and balsamic vinegar.
A popular cut in Britain and Australia, the rump steak comes from the lower back of the cow. While not as tender as sirloin, this cheaper cut is still versatile enough to be slow-cooked or seared over high heat. You’ll want to marinate it for a few hours before quick-cooking for less tough results.
Don’t be put off by the cheeks: They might be a wallet-friendly cut, but they’ve gained popularity with “nose-to-tail” eaters for their lean, moist meat and a brisket-like texture. Marinate them overnight in a piquant blend of oil, cayenne, and lime juice, then pan-sear or grill them and stuff them in corn tortillas for a delicious twist on carne asada tacos.
If you like skirt or flank steak, you’ll want to try this cut, which also goes by the not-so-appealing name ‘sirloin flap.’ It comes from the rear section of the loin, where the meat is chewier, so you’ll want to break out the marinade. After marinating overnight, you’ll be left with a moist cut to grill, sear, or pan-fry—just don’t forget to slice against the grain to maximize tenderness.
The most obscure cut on this list, an oyster steak is the little circle of meat found on each side of the cow’s lower spine. (With only two per cow, they’re hard to get your hands on.) Beef oysters are so tender and delicate all they require is a quick sear over high heat. Top with sautéed red onions and mushrooms.