12

We recently moved to a nice apartment building with great rooftop grills. I have started to learn about grilling, and it was a mistake, as now I really like prime ribeye steak off the grill (I think, we buy Whole Foods, grade 3 meat)

The problem is that such steaks are relatively expensive, at $13-19/pound.

Is there any trick to finding good quality meat at lower prices apart from waiting for discounts? Can cheaper steak be prepared to similar quality/taste as better cuts on the grill, if I like form-factor of rib eye?

  • 9
    After a while eating the same old steaks gets boring. Try chicken, turkey, pork, lamb... depending where you are these may be significantly cheaper than beef, and just as tasty. – RedSonja Nov 29 '18 at 12:09
  • 1
    @RedSonja yes, i do a lot of pollo asada, pork lion etc. I didn't mean to say that I want to be on steak/day diet, that's not good idea. more like 4/month from current 1/month – aaaaaa Nov 29 '18 at 17:46
  • 1
    Idk why admin removed all comments suggesting not buying your steak from Whole Foods... it is very expensive there and you're not automatically getting better quality cuts to justify the premium you pay for shopping there. It's your money, shop where you please, but you'll get a lot more meat for your dollar at other grocery stores, particularly when it comes to steak. – SnakeDoc Nov 29 '18 at 19:49
  • 1
    @aaaaaa wow, i'm sorry to hear that. up here in northern california, I can get ribeye for as low as $9.99 a pound, up to $16.99 on the expensive side. And that's for just two steaks in a package... if you get 5lb "family packs" you can get it even cheaper. – SnakeDoc Nov 29 '18 at 19:58
  • 3
    Along @RedSonja advice - if you have access to a grill, you can do a lot of different things! In the summer, I cook just about every dinner on my grill. Chicken, steak, burgers, corn on the cob, pizza (delicious), bratwurst, carne asada tacos, shish kabobs, jalapeno poppers,tritip, salmon, and a lot more. Grilling things really does make stuff taste better! – SnakeDoc Nov 29 '18 at 20:55
22

There are a few things that you can do:

  • Buy in bulk. There's typically a major discount for buying a 'family pack' (usually 5+ lbs) at once. I like shopping at Wegman's, because they sell steaks that are on sheets where each one's individually wrapped, so I can leave some sealed for later in the week or even freeze them.

  • Shop at more than one store. They all have their sales each week, and you have potentially more deals if you hit one on the weekend but a different one (not in the same chain) on your way home from work mid-week.

  • Look for 'must sell' packages. When the package gets within a day or two of the 'sell by' date, most stores will mark them. It's often half price, but I've seen it anywhere from 30-70% off. Some stores will slap them with bright yellow or orange price tags and put them back in the section they came from, while others will have a place in the meat department that's only the must-sell packages.

  • Cut your own steaks. For some cuts of meat, you can get roasts, and they're often at a cheaper cost than steaks. You'll just have to cut them to an appropriate size yourself. (don't do this if you don't have any large knives). For ribeye, look for a 'boneless rib roast' or 'standing rib roast' if you want it on the bone. For some cuts, you can get a half primal in a cryovac bag, but it's a more limited selection unless you go to a warehouse style store (Costco, BJs, etc.)

  • Buy different cuts of meat. Rib eye tends to be one of the more expensive steak cuts. There are a few websites out there that have recommendations for more economical steaks:

    One thing to remember is that the less intramuscular fat, the more rare that you should cook it. For lean cuts that come from working muscles, you'll need to slice it thinly across the grain so it's not too tough.

  • 3
    "Look for 'must sell' packages" <-- for the international readers: here, in Portugal, they are usually marked with a bright-pink/purple sticker as well. I highly discourage if you see that there's 2 or more stickers stacked since who knows how long they have been there... They are probably fine to eat, but I do not trust them. – Ismael Miguel Nov 29 '18 at 15:19
  • 4
    @IsmaelMiguel : I don't think I've ever seen more than two. (one the day before the most-sell date, one the day of). If you're lucky, they didn't cover up the original 'must sell' date on the original sticker. And of course, don't go this route if you'e not going to cook it the same day. – Joe Nov 29 '18 at 16:08
  • re: "must sell": yeah, that is one sort of discounted meat. Never had a problem with Ralphs or Whole Foods, large chains are pretty good with that, i think – aaaaaa Nov 29 '18 at 17:47
  • @aaaaaa : I don't know about Ralphs, but Whole Foods has a hot bar / cafeteria type area, and I suspect that the older food get redirected there. Some high-end places will also donate to food kitchens rather than sell at a discount. – Joe Nov 30 '18 at 23:24
16

Since you mention Whole Foods, I'm assuming you're in the US. That being the case, you are likely within reasonable driving distance of a Costco or Sam's Club (big warehouse stores that require memberships). At these stores and many other outlets, you can buy what are known as "primal cuts" in choice and even prime grades. Primal cuts are big anatomical chunks of the animal that are further cut into more familiar cuts; steaks, roasts and such.

In the US, ribeye steaks are cut from the beef rib primal, or more specifically, the 7 rib beef sub-primal. Here's a photo of the 7 rib sub-primal with bones trimmed but not removed (ready to be cut into bone-in steaks) and a diagram showing from where on the animal it is cut.

7 rib beef sub-primal

Source

beef cuts diagram

The rib primal is G & H, the 7 rib sub-primal is G.

Source

Many places will even cut the primal into steaks for free if you buy the whole primal or sub-primal. Or, you can do it yourself with a big knife and some elbow grease, although you might want to start with a boneless primal for this, just to get an idea of the job. You'll be shelling out a lot of cash at one time, but the savings vs buying steaks of the same quality at a normal grocery store are huge.

You'll probably want to freeze some steaks, so be sure to ask if you want information about how to most effectively (and frugally) pack steaks for freezing.

  • 2
    If you're going to be doing this regularly, it might be worth investing in a vacuum sealer. – Joe Nov 29 '18 at 14:17
  • 3
    I only buy steak at Costco. It's inexpensive (comparatively) and the quality is always superior. The vacuum sealer advice above is spot on. As a single person, the packages they sell are great, not too big, I don't buy the primals. They also have prime grade meat which is fairly expensive, but it is everywhere. The downside is that there is a limited selection of cuts to choose from. The tri-tip steaks are awesome and inexpensive. – Tim Nevins Nov 29 '18 at 19:27
  • On the subject of Costco meat and frugality, this just has to go out there: costco.com/… – Jolenealaska Nov 30 '18 at 5:23
2

Her is an article on how to make cheaper cuts of meat better. There are a number of options to "transform" different cuts.

https://food-hacks.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-cheap-cut-steak-taste-like-filet-mignon-0162708/

A quick google provide a ton of results on the first page. I'd suggest using Google before stack.

Maybe come back with a specific question for a specific cut.

1

In our area Prime grade rib eye steak at Whole Foods would be twice the price range you mention. So maybe by Grade 3 you mean a Choice grade?

Either way it's helpful to know that not all beef is graded nor does it need to be. All beef is inspected for wholesomeness, but grading is an optional step that costs the purchaser extra and not all buyer find it of value. I have included several links explaining this.

Full service butchers sometimes fall into that category. They buy entire sides of beef and cut to order. Find and make friends with such a butcher and you may be able to get great steaks at a somewhat lower price. Send your friends his way and you might get a free order now and then.

USDA Food Safety vs USDA Grading

Grass Fed Beef and USDA Grading

Certified Angus Beef vs USDA Grading

1

My method is to prepare really cheap ribeye steaks in such a way that it would have the texture/taste of a much more expensive cut of meat made conventionally. This method works well when you have a party and need to grill a bunch of steaks at once as most of the prep is done days before.

I buy my ribeye from a local bestmarket for $4.99/lb, it does not have a USDA grade listed on the packaging. The meat looks like a USDA select though

Just a warning, this method may be a bit more complex compared to plain grilling. It can be used for any grade of ribeye but is amazing for the cheaper cuts, since the change of taste/texture is so extreme.


And now the fun part:

1) pre-sear the steaks on a skillet with a bit of smoking hot avocado oil. Searing the steaks for about 30 seconds, flipping every 10 seconds. This step starts the maillard reaction in the meat and infuses it with flavor over the next few days.

2) Then I season it generously with salt, pepper, and a dash of asian fish sauce or nam pla. The amount of salt I use is around 1% of the weight of the steak. If there is a lot of fat still on the steak, I use higher amounts of salt, a leaner cut will need less. More fat lets you add more salt(flavor) while still maintaining the same level of saltiness. The asian fish sauce is basically decaying meat juice, and it will kickstart the aging process in meats.

3) Vacuum pack the steak, I use a chamber vacuum sealer. If you are using a non-chamber sealer then you would want to seal it rapidly before the salt draws out too much moisture and wets the steak.

4) age in the fridge for 2-5 days. The more you age it, the more tender it gets. Do not go over 5 days.

5) blanch the steak in boiling water for about 30 seconds, to kill of any surface bacteria and to help maintain the shape of the steak.

6) cook the steak in an immersion bath at 114 deg F for around 4 hours. This tenderizes the steak without affecting the texture of the meat.

7) transfer the steak to an immersion bath set at 133 deg F (med-rare) for 4-24 hours. Longer times will affect the texture of the meat like a roast. I personally like a 6 hr cook time.

9) Get a charcoal grill as hot as you can, sprinkle some mesquite or hickory blocks on the charcoal to add a bit of smoke to it.

8) dry and wipe off the steaks. Surface moisture will delay the sear due to boiling. Surface seasoning will burn and char, adding bitterness to the crust.

10) Toss a tablespoon of butter onto the grill. Then sear the steak over the burning butter for about 30 seconds, flipping every 15 seconds. The burning butter will add more of that maillard reaction flavor to the crust of the steak.

Serve with a sprinkle of smoked salt.

I usually then cut the rib caps off and enjoy them separately.

1

Two suggestions for you which haven't yet been suggested:

Sous-vide

You can get great results with cheaper cuts with different cooking techniques. I highly recommend sous-vide + sear.

The sous-vide method (along with proper salting) allows you to cook a tougher (and often cheaper) cut of meat at a stable/ideal temperature to tenderize the meat. You can then finish it on a smoking-hot grill to trigger Maillard reactions which provide delicious flavor and smells.

There are now many consumer-priced sous-vide machines to choose from. Many of these come with paired apps to assist you in cooking the perfect steak.

Transglutaminase

Another solution which requires a bit of molecular gastronomy, is to use transglutaminase (aka "meat glue") to reassemble cheaper cuts into the shape you desire before you begin cooking. You can find many videos on youtube which will introduce you to this new ingredient.

0

Use chuck eye, top round, and bottom round. Really explore techniques to grill the entire animal; try grilling different parts. Don't shy away from pork either. Pork has some really nice cuts that can be cooked to medium safely in some cases. Grilling can do a lot more than prepare steaks. It would be a shame if that's all you did with it.

There's also a grilling part of the youtube cooking community you should check out.

Outside of that, I have a relative who literally buys half a cow at a time and freezes it. That brings the cost down a lot, but you have to eat the rest of the cow.

I've also heard that meat from retired Dairy Cows is good and cheaper, but requires some changes to cooking methods in order to relax the meat.

My final piece of advice is stop buy meat from whole foods. If this is a serious part of your lifestyle then you probably going to need to try to create a relationship with the place butchering your meats.

0

We have had the fortune of our local grocer offering sirloin filet in the case. This is a nice alternative to NY Strip. It usually goes for $7.99 a pound. I'll sear on all sides in a cast iron pan, then finish in the oven to temperature.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.