These Affordable, Alternative Cuts of Meat Are Great for Grilling (and Widely Available)
Don’t get us wrong, there are few things greater than grilled filet mignon, a rack of ribs, or seared boneless chicken breasts slathered in barbecue sauce. But for those who love to fire up the barbecue on a daily basis in summer months—better yet, all year long—using the same cuts of meat can be tiresome, especially considering how often we're cooking at home these days. And thanks to the looming meat shortage, many families are seeing their grocery bills get butchered by meat costs (you can find out how to save money on meat spending here).
Case in point: we're all in for finding alternative, more affordable cuts of meat. We also love tossing new ingredients on the grill, so we tapped Sophie Mellett-Grinnell, the Market Specialist for Baldor Specialty Foods to give us the lowdown on what trendy cuts of meat we should be paying extra attention to this year—before they sell out.
Thin Cuts of Beef
Thin cuts—like skirt steak, flank steak, brisket, sirloin flap (bavette), hangar, boneless short rib (think Korean BBQ), Denver steak, and tri-tip—cook quickly, and are much more versatile for backyard chefs to use. They lend themselves to be used in a wide range of dishes, like Mexican fajitas, salads, and hot sandwiches and are generally more affordable than traditional middle meat cuts like rib eyes, strip loins, and filets. Best of all, they take well to rubs and marinades, absorbing the spices more quickly than other cuts—which are better left marinating overnight or longer.
Pork will always remain a popular BBQ favorite, with St. Louis and Baby Back ribs being traditional selections. They’re easy to eat with fingers and taste great off the grill. But this summer, look for the popularity of slow cooking to influence pork barbecue, like slow-smoked pork butts and other cuts (like pork shanks) cooked low and slow. They cook until they're super tender, and as with slow cooking, this style of prep requires very little hands-on action.
Bone-In, Easy-to-Prep Chicken Pieces
When it comes to chicken, look for easier to manage pieces like wings, drumsticks, and thighs over boneless breasts or thighs. Why? Because according to the USDA, a package of pre-cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts costs on average $2.69 per pound, while a whole bird is only $1.24. This means that pound-for-pound, they’re more than twice as expensive. Once you factor in the weight of the bones, a whole chicken will typically still cost slightly less, plus it includes thighs, wings, drumsticks, and a back in addition to the breasts. (If you're new to cooking whole chickens, here’s how to break down a whole chicken with step-by-step illustrations).
Veal and Lamb Cuts
Veal is lighter than beef, and tons of chefs have been embracing ways to incorporate cuts (like the end rib chop, the hangar, and the cut short ribs) on the grill. Veal also lends itself to rubs and marinades at an inexpensive price point. Some goes for lamb: it's next-level juicy and delicious off the grill.