6 Beef Cuts to Grill This Summer That Won't Break the Bank
There’s nothing like a good steak, especially when perfectly seasoned and tossed on the barbecue to be enjoyed in warm weather with good company. Few can afford to eat quality, great-tasting cuts of beef regularly, however, as the price of beef can vary from affordable to remarkably costly.
Some of the best cuts of beef are expensive for a reason–they’re sourced from the animal’s smaller, less active, and therefore most tender, muscles. Less expensive beef cuts usually come from the cow’s more frequently engaged muscles, and have a reputation for being tougher (read: great news for those looking to make or buy beef jerky). Fortunately, nearly every cut of beef, when prepared properly, can be the star of your barbecue.
When you’re feeding a larger group, however, or are just trying to grill on a budget, there are several beef cuts that provide plenty of flavor and mouthwatering texture without breaking the bank.
1. Chuck Eye Steak
Derived from the fifth rib of the cow, chuck eye steaks are cut from meat between the chuck and ribeye, hence the seemingly familiar name. This cut is often referred to as the “poor man’s ribeye,” as a typical ribeye cut includes the meat from ribs six to twelve, but chuck eye steaks are a fraction of the price with all the flavor and tenderness of their more expensive neighboring cuts.
Chuck eye steaks are best prepared on the grill or pan seared. You won’t find chuck eye steaks used for meaty snacks like beef jerky sticks, as their tenderness and fat content are best suited for plated meals.
2. Chuck Steak
This cut is also known as the “seven bone steak” and is a close cousin to the pricier ribeye cut. Chuck steaks come from the cow’s shoulder, so they’re a little tougher and come with a few bones to eat around, but the flavor is superb–comparable to ribeye.
You’ve likely already had plenty of meals derived from chuck cuts, as much of the ground beef on supermarket shelves comes from chuck trimmings. Chuck steaks are leaner cuts, which can end up tougher and therefore a great option for wild beef jerky, so proper grilling is key to the perfect texture. These cuts are great in stews, grilled, braised, and thrown into the slow cooker.
3. Flat Iron
This cut comes from the top of the shoulder, and is pulled from the animal as two separate muscles that are connected by a single section of solid gristle. Many butchers cut the gristle away and wrap flat iron cuts as two separate pieces. Flat iron steaks have been compared to the more expensive flank steaks, and are known to be very, very tender, well-marbled, and are perfect for the grill.
This versatile steak would make a great fajita meat, and can also be prepared in a pan, grilled, or broiled. Because this cut is already so tender, you won’t buy beef jerky made from flat iron cuts and you won’t even need to tenderize or marinate it prior to cooking.
4. Teres Major
If you like filet-mignon, this cut is for you. The teres major cut, also called a petit tender or faux filet cut, comes from the cow’s shoulder and is sold as an eight-inch strip of quality beef. It’s lean, tender and has a mild and pleasant flavor. Because it’s from a smaller part of the cow, it may not be on display at your local butcher’s shop, but you could be a single request away from enjoying this fine cut of beef.
Teres major resembles a pork tenderloin in shape, so it is a great option for kabobs or grilled medallions. These can be seared, roasted, or grilled, and, with the right recipe, your guests may even confuse these tasty cuts with pricier alternatives.
5. Beef Shank
Perfect for slow-cooking, beef shank cuts come from the upper leg portion of the animal. Beef shanks are cross-cut, and are bound to be popular amongst the short rib lovers in your family.
Many would describe these cuts as very beefy in flavor, and they do best when braised or barbecue-braised. Unless you’re trying to mimic the texture of wild beef jerky, slow-cooking in a moist environment is the best way to avoid chewy, dry meat and bring out the flavor of this cut.
Merlot cuts come from the heel of the cow, right above the shank and just below the bottom round. Merlot cuts have been compared to flank steaks in shape, size, and thickness, but these cuts are far less grainy and are typically more tender than their more expensive counterparts.
Merlot cuts can be prepared with many of the same methods as flank steaks, but perform best on high heat and cooked to medium-rare or medium doneness. No beef jerky sticks here: this cut barely requires any tenderization prior to cooking.