You know you’ve got a good cut of beef when it’s tender and juicy. But there are some tough cuts out there that can end up as stew meat–unless you know how to cook the heck out of them. Here are five types of red meat that deserve to be at the top of your following grocery list, along with suggestions for cooking methods that will leave these tasty morsels moist, tender, and delicious rather than dried out and tough. If you want to know more about beef cuts, you should visit MeatnMarrow.
Boss: Tenderloin (Filet Mignon)
The Filet Mignon is on every menu in America; it’s on most diner menus; favorite date night choice; staple dinner on Sunday nights after babysitter cancels. It’s at the top of this list, but it’s also at the top of every other list: most overrated, most monotonous, and most lacking in flavor. Filet Mignon is tender (and pricey), and that’s about all there is to say for it.
Buy instead: Sirloin Steak or Top Round Roast. Both are affordable, flavorful cuts that can be prepared with a lot more leeway than the ultra-expensive Filet Mignon–remember to take them out of the fridge early enough to warm up before cooking. The keyword here is steak; you want a big hunk of beefy muscle without too much connective tissue or fat? Go for a sirloin steak. Want something less expensive than prime rib roast? Go for the top-round roast.
Boss: Brisket (Barbecue)
Even when it’s in the smoker with all the Fixin’s, brisket is boring. It has very little interconnective tissue, which makes it alright in a pinch–but this is one piece of meat you don’t want to overcook into oblivion. It’ll turn into shoe leather pretty quickly if left on the grill or smoker too long. The flavor isn’t too bad, but there are better options out there.
Buy instead: Short ribs or beef back ribs. Both can be barbecued just like your brisket, but they’re more flavorful and far juicier than their flat-mate. And both need to be cooked to a point where they fall apart–when you take a bite of either one, you want the meat to pull clean off the bone.
Boss: Flank Steak (Steak Tartare)
A solid piece of lean red meat, flank steak provides a lot of options for cooking it. Depending on how much fat is left on the exterior, you can grill or broil it without much issue; but be careful not to overcook it. One wrong move, and this otherwise-decent cut turns into an unappetizing mouthful of rubber bands. If you’re lucky, however, the result will be tender and juicy. You could eat it raw as steak tartare, saed with onions and peppers as fajitas, or in a burger.
Buy instead: Skirt steak. Sure, it’s tough to beat the classic T-bone, but skirt steak is one case where tough equals flavor. It may lack some of the tenderness that flank steaks provide, but this cut will give you much better taste in the end–and when paired with the right sauce, it makes one helluva good steak sandwich.
Boss: Short Ribs (Stroganoff)
Short ribs are tasty little fellas–but they need hours and hours of cooking time to get all soft and gelatinous. You can shorten that cooking time if you pressure cook them for an hour before mixing in your mushrooms and onions, but there are a few other cuts that can get the job done much more quickly.
Buy instead: Any other cut from the chuck section will work fine in a stroganoff or other braised meat recipes. The only thing short ribs have going for them is their size–they’re usually impressively large hunks of meat. But if you want to make a stew, pot roast, or Stroganoff, any big ol’ chunk will do just fine. You’ll be better off with a flat-iron steak or tenderloin tip roast.
Boss: Ground beef (Chili)
You really can’t go wrong with ground beef in a chili recipe. It contributes extra protein and fat, is versatile, and easy to thaw and cook. Unfortunately, if you’re in a hurry and don’t feel like cooking it on the stovetop or broiling for 20-25 minutes in an oven, there’s one hard and fast rule: do not use raw ground beef unless you want to make chili-flavored vomit.
Buy instead: If you plan on throwing frozen ground beef directly into your pot, only do it when you have time to let it thoroughly cook–otherwise, stick with pre-cooked chili meat. If that’s not an option (and it really should be), then consider using another kind of ground meat altogether; most supermarkets sell turkey/chicken/pork varieties these days. As long as they’re seasoned heavily enough, you should come out with a great chili–make sure you cook it long enough.