How to Make Beef Dishes For a Fraction of the Cost

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Beef stir fry, made with super cheap meat
I like the flavor of beef, and like to vary up our diet, and not have chicken be the only animal flesh our family eats. Because of this, I do try to make beef here and there, even though it is more expensive than chicken. Fortunately, I am able to get ground beef for not too much money, but sometimes I want actual beef pieces, for things like steak salad, stir fries, pepper steak, or similar.
The problem is that with beef, you either get cheap beef that is tough and chewy unless you cook it for a long time, or you can get super expensive meat that cooks up softly. In terms of price different, the cheap, slow cooking meat, can typically be found for 1/3 the price of the more expensive, softer, quicker cooking meat.

Fortunately, I've figured out a trick to get the most for my beef, to be able to buy the cheap meat, and serve it as I would an expensive cut of meat, in stir fries, steak salad, pepper steak, etc...

For this, I buy the cheapest type of meat I can find, the type of meat that is "for stews or pot roast" only. This includes chuck roast, brisket, silver tip roast, shank, shin, neck, and goulash beef chunks.

I then boil them in my pressure cooker in lightly salted water until fully soft. This takes anywhere between an hour and 2.5 hours, depending on the size of the meat. I check it every so often to see what it's like, and take it out when its finished. I know that its finished when the beef is able to come apart in my hands, when i try to pull off a piece. If you don't have a pressure cooker, simmer it on the stove top in a covered pot, but expect it to take at least two to three times as long.

Strain the liquid, and save it!

Let the beef cool off, then slice it, against the grain, into thin pieces. Against the grain means that if the muscle structure going in one direction, cut the meat perpendicular to that.
For beef roasts, or all large pieces of meat, I find a mandolin slicer works well for this. For goulash meat, I slice with a serrated knife.
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Now use your beef as you would steak in most recipes, whether steak salad, stir fries, pepper steak, bibimbap, lo mein, etc... I haven't tried grilling meat this way, but intend on trying it at some point. Obviously your meat will take less time to cook up than it would take if you were using raw steak...

And with the liquid? That's beef broth. Use it as the base for so many different types of soup, whether tomato beef soup, Korean beef and seaweed soup, mushroom barley/buckwheat soup, etc...

I hope you enjoyed this money saving tip of the day! I love being able to have soft beef, especially in my homemade mock takeout... without needing to pay exhorbitant amounts!

What is the cheapest type of beef where you live? How often do you serve it? Are slow cooking meats cheaper where you live than faster cooking cuts? How much cheaper? Does this look like a tip you'd try out?

Linking up to Real Food Wednesday and Allergy Free Wednesday.

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Love your blog and have been lurking / following for a long time. Your suggestion for pre-cooking the cheaper cuts is wonderful.
    There are some dishes that you sometimes want the flavour of the "first-cooked" beef. Might I suggest that in those few situations, you can also tenderize tougher cuts by (sparingly) using soda? Pinapple and kiwi juices work as well (but are much stronger tasting and harder to find). It's a well-known technique in Asian cuisine, to "soda" the meat.
    Just a thought.

  2. So if you are using a pressure cooker, how do you "check it often". I have to wait for the pressure to come down before I open my pressure cooker and it takes awhile! Thanks!

  3. Another way to cook tough beef or any meat is to cook it in your slow cooker. We had bought 1/2 beef, to freeze, and the steaks were so tough. So I started cooking them in my slow cooker as you would a roast and they were extra tender, they were not steaks anymore but delicious beef to use with any meal.

    1. Yes, that's a great idea..... Slow cookers are "Extrame Cheapskate's" Jeff Yeager approved method of cooking....and according to him, a real deal on lower electricity hydro cooking costs.

  4. I have found that Danish bacon simmered slowly with celery, bay leaves, onion. Peppercorns and carrot tastes very similar to corned beef. Specially eaten with parsley lemon butter. We could not find corned beef in London so used the bacon.

  5. Someone in my community (relatively near you) sells meat by the case (about 33lb per case, and we often broker splits between us). There is one cut called "rib eye cap" (tapa de bife ancho, in Spanish) that is both cheap (currently $5.07/lb, cheaper than goulash and shin, only slightly more than brisket. It does need a bit of trimming sometimes), tasty, and extremely versatile. It's the only cut I buy. It can be slow-cooked, wet-cooked like pot roast, grilled like a steak, broiled, etc. The steaks end up chewy, but we like them like that and they taste great. And it helps with another frugal/lifestyle tip for the summer - COLD LUNCH!

  6. What do you suggest I do without a pressure cooker? I'd love to do the same.

    1. Just boil it for longer in a covered pot if you don't have a pressure cooker.

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