9 Affordable Steaks And How To Grill Them

It’s holiday weekend time, kids, and just because there’s a nasty recession going on doesn’t mean you have to skip the steaks. The Washington Post has put together this helpful printable PDF that will introduce you to some cheaper cuts of beef that can be quite tasty when given a little TLC.

The WaPo says:

One thing they all have in common is their tough texture. They come from well-exercised muscles of the animal, which tend to be the most flavorful. There are other cheap cuts to consider, but they suffer from a lack of beefy flavor or from lots of gristle and bones. Attentive prep work, intense marinades and closely watched grill time can do wonders for the bargain cuts we’re focusing on here.

The cuts are:

  • Hanger

  • Flank
  • Flap
  • Chuck Eye
  • Flatiron
  • Skirt
  • Tri-Tip
  • Top Serloin
  • Chuck Shoulder

Once you have your affordable steak, check out this Consumer Reports video on how to grill them.

Affordable Steaks (PDF) [WaPo via Lifehacker]
Affordable Steaks That Make the Cut [WaPo]


Edit Your Comment

  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I find chuck steak cut in cubes makes for some really, really good kabob meat. Look for the cubes marked for stewing. The key is to marinate them very well, keep them moist and don’t overcook it. Skirt is very good sliced and broiled with veggies.

    I saw this article yesterday which also advises on how to marinate and cook kabobs: [www.washingtonpost.com]

  2. stang says:

    Flat Iron steaks are awesome. SLiced and put onto a hoagie roll and dressed.

    Skirt and Flank steaks are the same as what’s used for Fajita’s.

    • Elvisisdead says:

      @stang: Skirt and flank are very different. Traditionally, it’s skirt steak. Americanization has made a turn towards flank for fajitas.

  3. Spaceman Bill Leah says:

    The Flatiron is actually a pretty tender piece of meat. It;s just that they way it’s been traditionally butchered left a thick, tough tendon running straight through the center of the steak. Nowadays they are cutting them differently to avoid the tendon getting you a steak nealy as tender as filet without the big $$$.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @Spaceman Bill Leah: Agree, I was totally going to say the same thing. We’re big fans of flatiron steaks. We get a 1-1.5 lb. flatiron steak, marinate in a red-wine-based marinade, and broil for about 15 minutes (in the toaster oven, usually — it fits!).

      It’s DELICIOUS. And tender.

    • lotussix says:

      @Spaceman Bill Leah:


      developed @ my alma mater. very popular around here.

      • Spaceman Bill Leah says:

        @lotussix: I love, love, love that it took university scientists to figure out that a piece of meat would be better without a huge inedible chunk right in the middle of it.

  4. innout3x3 says:

    Out of all of the above I’d stick with Top Sirloin to grill like a steak (med rare though cut on the bias otherwise your going to chew too much). Try to get the cut closest to the center of the cow. Chuck is great for burgers, chuck shoulder and tri tip for bbq (low and slow). Get the inside skirt and not outside.

    • Spaceman Bill Leah says:

      @innout3x3: Another tip for skirt steak is to ask the butcher to split it for you and run it through their machiney thing (no idea what it’s called). You end of with a thinner, tenderized piece that cooks quite fast and doesn’t toughen up as much. Great for fajitas.

    • KristinaBeana says:

      @innout3x3: Top sirloin with some spicy brown mustard, balck pepper and salt pre-grilling makes a great dinner and for some very tasty sandwiches with any leftovers the next day.

  5. kaldurak says:

    I LOVE Flat Iron steak. Had to go to a couple butchers out here before I found one that carries it regularly. I miss my east coast butcher :(

  6. kaldurak says:

    Oh, and I recommend this as the premier method of steak preparation.

    I’ve been cooking with cast iron forever – I can’t even imagine making a steak on a grill anymore.

    • winshape says:

      @kaldurak: Yeah buddy. Tha AB method of cooking steak is perfect! The only downside is that the house fills up with smoke…but so worth it.

    • asherchang2 says:

      @kaldurak: Raising The Steaks, an episode in a later season, actually deals with cooking skirt steak for fajitas and cooking sirloin

  7. ClutchDude says:

    Alton Brown has a great episode on getting the most from your hoof. One beef loin equals many meals.

    Search for “Tender is the Loin 1 & 2”.

    • innout3x3 says:

      @ClutchDude: You can make like 8 filets, have a small roast, and use the chain for Philly Cheesesteaks! I love AB.

    • balthisar says:

      @ClutchDude: But this article is about cheap cuts, not delicious cuts! Even with A.B.’s meat primal strategy, the tenderloin is still much more expensive than the stuff here.

      Me? I like the “expensive” stuff, which is still much cheaper than getting it (overcooked) in a restaurant. (Chicken and steak are for the home, I like to say)

      • mewyn dyner says:

        Au contraire, I was able to pick up some cheap 8-lb tenderloins (select grade) two weeks ago for $20 each. That comes out to about 25-30 steaks. That was a bargain.

  8. nataku8_e30 says:

    Gotta smoke a brisket. $0.87 / lb ’round these parts, and if done properly, nothing will be more flavorful or tender.

  9. Anonymous says:

    When 7-bone chuck roasts go on sale, get your supermarket to cut you a 5-6 inch hunk from the shoulder end.

    With a minimal amount of knife work,you can have flatirons for the price of chuck roast. All it takes is a little cutting up in the kitchen.

  10. ilves says:

    Tri-tip is very popular in California… great sandwich meat. I moved to the East Coast and a lot of people have never even heard of it here.

    • HIV 2 Elway says:

      @ilves: Tri-tip is called different things in different parts of the country. In the midwest you won’t find cuts labeled tri-tip, you have to ask for top sirloin.

      • Underpants Gnome says:

        @HIV 2 Elway: The local CostCo in my Chicago ‘burb sells it as tri-tip. I should know, I buy it frequently because it’s cheap but tastes like a much pricier cut of meat.

        • HIV 2 Elway says:

          @Underpants Gnome: Any big hunk of meat tastes pricier when slow smoked. My menu for tomorrow:
          smoked meatballs
          jerked smoked pork tenderloin
          home smoked salmon
          keg of local pale ale

          USA USA USA!

  11. Trai_Dep says:

    Real food, free from the Poison Train, that’s often cheaper than the processed alternatives. And so easy to cook that even a man can do it!
    (Sexist but true).

    Win/Win, people.

    Personal tips:
    * You can’t underestimate the value of marinading. For at least one day. With something to work the fibers (orange juice or other citrus, beer, wine…).
    * Get one of those stove-pipe funnel things to light your coals with. You throw ’em in and light the bottom part that has newspapers scrunched up into it, and you get quickly lit coals with no petrol aftertaste!

    • HIV 2 Elway says:

      @Trai_Dep: 24 hours is a little much, you want to taste the meat not the marinade. I love a combo of red wine, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.

      You can avoid the lighter fluid after taste by letting the coals get sufficiently hotand letting the fluid burn off. Also, if you’re drenching the coals in lighter fluid you’re doing something wrong.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @HIV 2 Elway: Interesting. I’ll try a 12-hour and see how it works out.
        I usually add oils during the basting phase, simply because I figure in a marinade, the olive oil would drip off.
        It may have been psychosomatic, but I always seemed to taste the petrol, even if used sparingly. But those funnel things worked beyond my expectations (plus, in my locale, lighter fluid’s banned (smog contributor)).
        Beer worked surprisingly well to tenderize the meat. Have no idea why…

  12. MerryLifeAndaShortOne says:

    I love flatiron steaks! Fairly inexpensive and most packs come with a piece thats enough for 2 people (one of me, though). After a major family-style holiday is when the best deals come out. For example, after New Years, grocery stores will sell the whole loin that can be cut into NY strip steaks for a couple dollars a pound. I haven’t seen the deals after summer holidays, though this year might be different (less people may be having summer cookouts).

    As far as AB goes, I tried his Steak au Poivre recipe. My sis sent me some Omaha Steaks for my BDay, so I tried it out. It was good. Next time, however, I might make Steak avec un petite du Poivre (Steak with a little bit of pepper). I loved the sauce, but thought all that pepper was a bit too much.

  13. ct_price says:

    If you like the house special at Brazilian rodizio meatfest-style restaurants – the rump – then an equivalent cut is the tri-tip. It is not as flavorful or fatty as the cut you get in those steakhouses/or in Brazil, but at about $6.99/pound you can make a good picahna on the rotisserie. Just needs kosher salt. Thin sliced and rare! Yum. Ask the meat guy at your local supermarket and they may have them Cryo-vac’d and ready to sell. Should be 1-3 pounds each.

  14. katiat325 says:

    I got 4lb of sirloin for $2.99 per pound at the asian market. It was on sale, and actually pretty good quality. Yay!

  15. HawkWolf says:

    I fourth or fifth the flatiron. If I buy a steak in the summer, it’s a flatiron.

    The small grocery store where my parents vacation (no, not at the store, at the island where they vacation) takes flatirons and grinds them up for hamburger! No one wanted to buy them otherwise and they didn’t know they were delicious as steaks.

  16. chilled says:

    Sirloin makes great shish kabobs…I put onion,green and red pepper and mushrooms on my skewers…sometimes pineapple to add some sweetness…Serve with rice and salad and its pretty healthy…


  17. aerick79 says:

    What about the classic T-bone? Does any one still eat that anymore?

  18. Anonymous says:

    On that note, I remember reading this article a while back. It talks about how to take a cheap steak and turn it into a quality steak, by “marinating” it in salt.


  19. farker says:

    I love a flank steak marinated for a few hours before grilling :D

  20. spincast says:

    I have to say the discovery of the tri-tip changed my life. Cover in kosher salt and pepper, roast it whole to medium rare over charcoal and wood fire. Then after resting, slice it into ~1/4″ thick pieces. Beefy, more than chewable, and cheap.

    I’ve also been using Cosco’s top-sirloin for AB’s steak au poivre recipe and it totally works. I like to sear the steaks in the pan and then move them to the toaster oven for a little baking to get the insides nice and medium rare. Also be sure to cut off a piece of fatty meat to leave in the pan to make the fond for the sauce. Good (Cheap) Eats.

    Also, I grew up eating skirt steak at my grandmas. Still one of my favorites. It’s all about slicing against the grain to make it chewable. Great over a salad too.

  21. SharkD says:

    Mmmm… l’Onglet avec frites et salade

    (Sheds a tear for Brasserie Les Halles DC) [voices.washingtonpost.com]

    That reminds me, I need to get some charcoal for this weekend…

  22. Trick says:

    Since I live here in Santa Maria, CA… Tri-Tip is the way to go. Even when I lived in Orange County I would cook Tri-Tip often, but over a gas grill.. since moving up here I have bought a wood grill and that makes the Tri-Tip that much better…

  23. HIV 2 Elway says:

    I highly recommend the Steak of Life.

  24. kunai says:

    Carne Asada.

  25. CSUSam says:

    Best way to go is a Flatiron like this:

    Put worcestershire and salt and pepper on the top and bottom and let it marinade for around half an hour.

    Preheat your grill to medium/medium high, depending on the grill.

    Cook for around 14 minutes, rotating it 90 degrees after four minutes, and then flipping it at 7 minutes. Rotate again after four minutes on the second side. Pull it off, let it set for around 5 minutes and slice thin, around 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Add A1 or your favorite steak sauce if desired, put it will have the most amazing steak taste already I would avoid it.

    Also, if you don’t like worcestershire, just use a little olive oil and some salt and pepper, which is what I do for better cuts of meat.

  26. AlexTNOA says:

    Arrachera is fantastic if you like Mexican flavors. Go to your local Mexican grocer and ask them to run the Arrachera (flank steak) through the machine to get it nice and thin. Mexican supermercados are usually less expensive than their American chain counterparts, and you can usually find a lot of quality ingredients there. In Chicago, I would definitely recommend Cermak Market.

    Google some Arrachera recipes and you’ll find something tasty. Make sure there is Mexican beer in the marinade for extra flavor.

  27. trujunglist says:

    I always pick up a lot of tri-tip at Costco whenever I go. The cut is very nice and so is the price. I recommend a good, spicy marinade. Ilves is right; the stuff is more of a Southwestern thing. It’s used a lot in Mexican food.
    My favorite recipe since I don’t have a grill is to slow cook it in the oven on top of asparagus, and then finish it off under the broiler. The juices cook the asparagus underneath. It’s really incredible with the right marinade.

  28. TrinityLast says:

    Skirt steak has always been my favorite. Why do people not see the beauty of this cut?

    Marinate it overnight in A1 sauce. Then fry, broil, whatever. It’s perfect. Don’t need to do anything else to it at all.

  29. bohemian says:

    The best cheap steaks I have found are the Chuck Eye steaks we get from our local grocery chain. Regular Chuck steaks or arm steaks are tough, these are not. They still cut their own meat and get it from the local processor. The taste quality is far better than anything you can get at other stores except for the high end butcher shops.

    The eye steaks are like Rib Eyes for half the price. If they are from decent beef they don’t need any prep. Just grill them like you would a T-bone or Rib Eye. I put a bit of kosher salt on them when we pull them off the grill.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Another key is to avoid sugary, ready-made marinades. Make your own!

    A few ingredients I love for the cheap steaks are: balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, horseradish, peppercorns, & oil (canola or “light” olive oil). Add the first five ingredients to a blender, then add the oil in a thin stream while blending. Figure out the ratios you like. This marinade literally gets a round of applause from family and friends. Soak that meat overnight!