How to Make Cheap Steak Taste Good

Skirt Steak with Artichoke, Asparagus Salad
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Is there such a thing as a good, cheap steak? A superior rib-eye, New York strip, or T-bone steak is a wonderful thing, no doubt about it. But few of us can afford to indulge in them very often. What about all those other cuts of beef, many of them far less expensive?

It is possible to make cheap cuts of steak tender and tasty while avoiding the liver-like taste and texture that sometimes results. The liver flavor comes from muscles that are active and have a lot of a protein called myoglobin, which is rich in iron.

As a bonus for those who watch their saturated fat intake, cheap cuts of meat tend to have the least amount of fat.

Flank Steak and Skirt Steak

Flank steak and skirt steak both have a pronounced grain and should be cut against the grain. Either have your butcher cut it in strips against the grain or cut it yourself, before or after grilling.

These cuts benefit from being marinated for several hours before cooking to tenderize them and develop the flavors you want in the finished steak. However, if you marinate them in an acidic marinade, limit the time to 12 hours or less or they may end up mushy and over-tenderized. Always marinate your steak in the refrigerator for food safety. Also, discard any marinade that was in contact with the meat and do not use it to season your cooked steak or vegetables. Any contact with the raw steak will contaminate the marinade and it is not safe to use. Reserve some marinade separately to use on meat after it has been cooked or to toss with vegetables to cook along with your steak.

Both flank steak and skirt steak are best when cooked medium-rare, or, at most, medium. Because they're both thin cuts of steak, you need to watch them closely to not overcook them. Flip them often—once every minute or so—to ensure they cook evenly.

Top Sirloin

Top sirloin is one of the least expensive steaks, but it can easily get that liver flavor. You can marinate them in your favorite steak marinade, or try a salting technique instead. To do the salt technique, take the steaks out of the refrigerator about an hour before cooking, and heavily salt them with kosher salt. If you'd like, you can rub other seasonings on as well. Some juice will be pulled out of the meat, but don't worry about this. Before cooking, rinse the steaks and pat dry. You can add pepper at this point, but no more salt as they will be perfectly seasoned without any additional salt.

Be sure to allow your steak to rest for five to 10 minutes after cooking so the juices can stabilize throughout the steak before it is cut.

All Inexpensive Steaks

Make sure your steaks are at least room temperature before you cook them, as fast cooking makes them less likely to develop the myoglobin. Warming the meat before cooking produces the best results. You can either put the meat in a ziplock bag which is submerged in warm water for a few minutes immediately before cooking or cook thick cuts of steak in a warm oven (275 F) for 20 to 25 minutes. When the steaks are pre-warmed, they only need quick cooking in a very hot pan or on a grill to finish them.

Be sure to pay attention to food safety guidelines and do not leave raw meat out of refrigeration for more than two hours at room temperature, and no more than one hour at temperatures above 90 F and below 140 F. Warm temperatures in the danger zone from 40 F to 140 F can allow the growth of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Be sure to cook your steaks within those time frames if you have warmed them.

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