Summertime is great for grilling steaks, but high beef prices might have you second-guessing that dinner choice. Luckily, you can still find affordable beef — you just need to be more selective about the cuts you choose. The U.S. Department of Agriculture keeps tabs on the changing cost of various cuts each week, based on the advertised prices for beef at major supermarkets.
Often, marinades and seasonings can make a big difference in the tenderness and flavor of a cheaper cut of meat. So does knowing the best cooking method. On grills, that tends to be either very fast over high heat, or a long, slow method like smoking. Another great trick for enhancing cheaper cuts? Simply slice against the grain, which makes the meat more tender.
So, if you’re trying to save money, which steak cuts should you skip, and which you should try instead? Here are five of the pricier options right now, along with five less expensive alternatives.
Skip: Filet Mignon (Average Price: $12.29 Per Pound)
Buy: Top Sirloin (Average Price: $7.77 Per Pound)
It’s tough to beat a grilled filet mignon, which many consider to be the gold standard in tender and flavorful steak. But top sirloin, which comes from the upper rear of the cow, is an excellent steak for grilling. It may not be as tender as filet mignon, but many find it to be more flavorful. This cut grills quickly and pairs well with strong steak sauces.
When grilling top sirloin, salt it well and start grilling when the meat is at room temperature. Omaha Steaks suggests adding the steak directly to the grill over high heat and flipping it after 2 to 3 minutes. Then continue to flip it in that same time increment until your meat thermometer measures an internal temperature of 125 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. This will result in a medium-rare steak.
This recipe for Grilled Sirloin Steak with Chimichurri isn’t just delicious, it’s also brimming with health benefits from herbs like parsley, basil, cilantro and garlic.
Skip: Ribeye (Average Price: $12.05 Per Pound)
Buy: Rump Steak (Average Price: $7.42)
Rump steak may be chewier than ribeye, but it’s very flavorful. And you can minimize the chewiness by cooking it to medium or medium rare (rather than rare). A wood-fired or charcoal grill is best for this type of steak, but a gas barbecue works, too.
In this grilled rump steak recipe from Eat Smarter!, you simply brush the steak with vegetable oil, grill it for 1 minute per side, and move it to a part of the grill with lower heat. Let it sit for another 3 to 6 minutes, take it off, and season with salt and pepper. Ready to eat!
SKIP: Porterhouse (Average Price: $10.99 Per Pound)
Buy: Skirt Steak (Average Price: $8.92 Per Pound)
Generally, a porterhouse is more tender than a skirt steak. But CatHead’s BBQ points out that slicing a skirt steak thinly and cooking it to medium will tenderize it. And since skirt steak is already one of the more flavorful meat cuts, this can result in a seriously great grilled steak.
Cook skirt steak quickly and over high heat. Depending on how thin the strips are, skirt steak can cook in seconds. Already full of flavor, this long, thin cut also has lots of indents and nooks that gather up marinades — which is one of the reasons it’s so popular in fajitas.
This easy recipe for Miso-Glazed Skirt Steak gets a health boost from probiotic-rich miso. After marinating for 30 minutes in a vinegar-miso-brown sugar paste, you grill the steak over medium-high heat for 2 minutes per side, continually flipping until your meat thermometer reads 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
Skip: New York Strip Steak (Average Price: $10.81 Per Pound)
Buy: Flat Iron Steak (Average Price: $5.42 Per Pound)
Some consider the flat iron cut to be almost as good as the strip steak — but at a significantly lower price. If grilled correctly, a flat iron can be tender, soft and only somewhat chewy.
In this incredibly easy recipe for Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Charred Tomato Relish, you simply brush the steak with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill it for 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
And this recipe for Grilled Flat Iron Steak gets flavor and extra tenderness from a red wine-based marinade (that also features olive oil, garlic, Tamari, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper).
Skip: Beef Short Ribs (Average Price: $7.99 Per Pound)
Buy: Beef Back Ribs (Average Price: $3.76 Per Pound)
You find beef back ribs at the upper back of the cow, while beef short ribs are from the front section at the bottom of the rib cage. While beef back ribs are a leaner cut, they can be used interchangeably in recipes (though you may need to add fat to the beef back ribs).
To grill beef back ribs, The Grillin’ Fools suggest seasoning the bone side of the ribs and grilling (or smoking) them until they reach an internal temperature of between 150 degrees and 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Then remove the ribs from the grill, drizzle with red wine or beef broth and fold up in foil. Place the ribs on the grill for another 45 to 75 minutes, until the meat’s internal temperature reaches 185 degrees to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, take off the foil and grill the ribs again for another 20 to 30 minutes.
Now all you need is to plan your great grill. Bon appétit!