8 Best Cheap Steak Cuts You Can Actually Afford to Eat

steak on grill

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Most steaks have a reputation for being the priciest option on the menu and, if you’ve got your heart set on a dry-aged Wagyu ribeye, then you are going to be paying top dollar for it.

Yet there is more to the steer than just its ribeye, and some of the best cuts of beef fly well under the radar of your local supermarket or steakhouse. 

To aid you in your fiscally responsible quest for cow, we’ve put together this guide to eight of the best cheap steak cuts, featuring some truly excellent, and reasonably priced, pieces of beef. So, read on to find out more about the best steak you’ve never heard of.

Read more – Guide to steak doneness

1. Chuck eye steak

Courtesy of Porterroad.com

Often known as the “poor man’s ribeye,” the confusingly named chuck eye steak is the result of butchers slicing a standard ribeye into thinner sections, so there is more to sell (sneaky!).

Just like the ribeye, the chuck eye has a mild buttery flavor and a tender juicy texture and is ideal if you want a little slice of luxury that won’t break the bank.

Available for order at Porter Road.

Where does it come from?

The chuck eye is taken from the same longissimus dorsi muscle as the ribeye. Ribeyes are cut from the 6th to the 12th rib of the cow, and the chuck eye is often cut from the 5th rib and 13th rib. 

There are only two of these steaks per carcass, which means they are often snapped up by the butcher themselves, but, if you can find one, you’ll be getting a lot of what makes the ribeye special at a fraction of the price

How do I cook it?

Much like the ribeye, the chuck eye benefits from being cooked hot and fast. While it doesn’t have the same buttery smoothness as a real ribeye, it’s still a tender piece of beef with a great mild flavor, so it benefits from a simple sear or reverse-sear.

2. Merlot steak

Courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com

The merlot is an excellent example of a great cut of meat that people aren’t aware of because it never makes it to the supermarket shelves.

Supermarkets are often wary of stocking unfamiliar cuts for fear that customers will avoid them. Initially created by the Beef Innovations Group, the merlot has a lot in common with flank steak in terms of size, thickness, and shape, but is a lot more tender.

Where does it come from?

Cut from the gastrocnemius muscle, which is a mouthful in and of itself, the merlot is located above the shank and below the bottom round. It is technically a medial portion of the heel muscle of the meat round.

In case you are wondering about the name, the Beef Innovations Group picked it because it was evocative, like the Denver steak and the western griller.

How do I cook it?

The merlot is very similar to the flank steak with the added benefit of that tender texture. Where the flank benefits from marinating to break down its toughness, the merlot can be seared hot and fast without it turning into boot leather.

The gastrocnemius muscle has a pronounced grain to it, so, to keep it as tender as possible, make sure to slice your freshly cooked merlot steak across the grain.

3. Denver steak

Denver Steak Raw
Image courtesy Porterroad.com

The Denver steak comes from the same premier beef scientists that gave us the merlot, as part of the work of the Beef Innovations Group.

Despite coming from the traditionally low-value chuck area of the steer, the Denver is tender, well-marbled, and packed with flavor.

If you want to get your hands on some Denver steak you can’t go wrong ordering from Porter Road.

Where does it come from?

The Denver steak is cut from the serratis ventralis muscles. Situated under the shoulder blade of the steer, this muscle supports the more active tissues of the shoulder but doesn’t actually see much use itself. 

This lack of activity means that the revealingly unknown Denver steak is actually the fourth most tender cut of beef on the carcass.

How do I cook it?

Much like the chuck eye, the Denver needs to be cooked in a way that preserves its flavor and makes the most of a surprisingly well-marbled and tender cut of chuck. 

The reverse sear is ideal for this, as the indirect heat helps to render all the fat down into tasty collagen, but, if you are feeling adventurous, a sous-vide bath is an excellent way to make your Denver truly melt in the mouth.

4. Tri-tip steak

Image courtesy Porterroad.com

The tri-tip sirloin gets its name from its triangular shape.

Taken from the bottom of the sirloin, this great alternative to flank steak often comes in off angles and odd thicknesses, but let’s face it, it’s the taste that matters, and the tri-tip sirloin has that in spades.

Where does it come from?

Sometimes known as breakfast steak, the tri-tip sirloin comes from the very bottom of the sirloin and the top of the round. Because the round gets used a lot as the animal walks around, the meat from this section of the steer tends to be lean and can be a little tough, but has a beautiful depth of flavor.

How do I cook it?

Lean as it is, the tri-tip sirloin does not benefit from high heat or long cooking times. It does, however, add a real depth of flavor to your fajitas, stir-fries, and dishes like bulgogi, where the marinade helps to break down some of that muscle protein before the meat is cooked as quickly as possible.

Check the price of Tri tip steak from Porter Road.

5. Chuck steak

Courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com

The chuck steak is often referred to as the “seven bone steak” because, you guessed it, it has a large bone in it shaped like a “7”. 

The presence of that large bone, and the fact that it’s relatively unknown compared to the illustrious ribeye, means you can pick up a chuck steak for a very reasonable price, and, when it’s properly cooked, it has a wonderfully deep beefy flavor.

Where does it come from?

The chuck steak comes from the chuck primal and is usually from the section pressed right up against the rib. 

The chuck has a reputation for being tough because a steer’s shoulder does a lot of work while the steer is alive. However, the chuck steak’s position in the transitional zone between chuck and rib gives it a combination of the rich flavor of the chuck with the tender texture of the rib.

How do I cook it?

The presence of the large bone and attendant connective tissue in the chuck steak makes it a prime candidate for low and slow cooking, so braising or even smoking your steak are great choices.

If you are in a rush and don’t have 45 minutes to an hour to spare, then we suggest a reverse sear to keep the meat tender while still getting a beautiful brown crust.

6. Beef shank

beef shank
Raw beef meat cross cut for ossobuco cut on a board over rustic wooden background

The beef shank, sometimes sold as soup bones or beef shins, is one of those cuts of beef that often get relegated to stewing beef or ground up for dog food. 

While it’s true that you have to cook shanks for a long time to get around the fact that the naturally tough, a good braise can turn this underused cut into an intensely flavourful dish with the added bonus of a patty of delicious beef marrow in the middle.

Where does it come from?

The shank comes from the steer’s leg, from the section above the knee. This section of the leg is cut into 1-inch slices with a part of the bone in the middle. 

Because cows are always on the move, the shank has a reputation for being tough as old leather. Still, you can get around this with the right cooking method, and the combination of meat, bone and marrow makes a well-cooked shank something extraordinary.

How do I cook it?

Cooking a beef shank is pretty time-intensive, requiring a good 4 to 6 hours to break down that tough muscle. The good news is there are plenty of fire-and-forget ways to cook your shank, from a good long braise in the oven to the ever-useful sous-vide.

Where the shank really shines, however, is in the crockpot or slow cooker. You can put a couple of shanks in your crockpot in the morning, with some vegetables and beef stock, and come home to meat soft enough to eat with a spoon.

7. Flat iron

Image courtesy Porterroad.com

The flat iron has traditionally been a low-cost cut of beef because of the large vein of thick, chewy connective tissue that used to run across the cut. 

In 2007, food scientists developed a new technique, similar to filleting a fish, that could carve away that connective tissue, turning the flat iron into a great alternative to the much more expensive New York Strip.

Despite its reinvention, the flat iron has stayed very reasonably priced and is a surprisingly cheap cut with the same tenderness and marbling that makes the New York Strip so sought after.

Where does it come from?

The flat iron comes from the shoulder of the steer and is sometimes called the top blade or shoulder top blade. Because it comes from the chuck, it doesn’t have the tenderness of a real  New York Strip, but it’s still incredibly well-marbled for a cut from this traditionally lean section of the animal.

How do I cook it?

One of the benefits of the flat iron is that it’s a very versatile piece of meat. The presence of all that marbling means it takes well to pan-frying or grilling, but it can just as easily be used to add a rich flavor boost to your taco-Tuesdays. 

Check the price of Flat Iron at Porter Road

8. Petite tender (Teres Major)

The petite tender is basically the second generation of cheap steak cuts. Another product of the prolific Beef Innovations Group, this cut, also known as the teres major, was created to be a cheaper alternative to the hanger steak, itself once considered a good value piece of beef.

As the word got out about the hanger steak and prices went up, the petite tender stepped in as a cheap alternative to a formerly cheap alternative.

Where does it come from?

The ever-versatile chuck yields up another winner with the petit tender. The particular cut is used to support the larger shoulder muscles and doesn’t actually see much use itself, leaving it tender and as well-marbled as its close neighbor, the flat iron.

How do I cook it?

The best way to think of the petite tender is like a cheat’s filet mignon. It comes in roughly the same shape and size, and, like the filet mignon, it’s lean and very tender. 

To that end, it reacts best to being cut into medallions and shown very briefly to a blazing hot pan or grill. You could also keep your petite tender whole and roast it to a medium-rare before finishing it with a quick sear.

Check the price of Petite Tender at Porter Road

Wrapping it up

So there you have it! A whole bevy of cut-price beefy wonders that will grace your palate with rich flavors and delicate textures (and still leave you with more than enough to afford dessert). 

Looking for advice on how to cook the perfect steak? Check out our guide to grilling steak on a charcoal grill.

If you’ve had particular success with one of these cuts, have a favorite recipe you’d like to share, or think we’ve missed off a cut that deserves to be on this list, please do let us know in the comments below.

John McCloy

John McCloy

Formerly a brand manager for the UK high street, John gave up that life for the far less stressful job of running his own business. He now likes to spend as much of his free time as possible hunched over a grill, reading about grills, or staring forlornly out of a window as the British weather makes it impossible to use his grill."

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