Cheap vs expensive steak image with the steak's fibers
Cheap vs expensive comparison steak image with the steak's fibers

Many of us tend to find a pretext or perhaps get influenced at first sight by the cut of meat we choose to cook. In case you didn’t realize… the beef cut is not your last card in the game. In reality, regardless of what we choose from many of the options and price points, the main difference related to a wonderful beef taste lies in the way we treat the meat, how we cook it. So let’s make a connection between the best cheap steak cuts out there and their more “expensive pairs”, through the way we cook them.

We wanted to sketch a clear picture, helping you understand more about a common approach for cooking a great steak. No matter if it’s about cheaper ones, such as hanger steaks, tri-tip, chuck flap, flank, chuck eye steak, chuck tenders, or more expensive ones- if you are looking to indulge yourself a little bit more from New York strip steak, tenderloin (filet mignon) or rib-eye, the cooking way remains the essence.

A few of the best cheap steak cuts

There is only one hanger

In this steaks’ cooking game, among the best cheap steaks players out there, we couldn’t forget the hanger beef cut.

  • The hanger is also known as the butcher’s steak because the butchers used to keep and enjoy it for themselves as consumers didn’t know to ask for it. However, when the people actually started to ask for hangers…there weren’t that many hangers to buy.
  • There is only one hanger per beef animal. This is the reason for not finding it easily. Although sourcing hanger steak is not practical for any local grocery store, one should be aware that this beef cut has a lovely deep flavor.
  • In other words, a hanger is not a low-quality beef cut but rather a slightly grainy and flavorful one, ridiculously easy to cook when one does the seasoning properly or covers the beef cut with a good marinade.
The butcher's steak (best cheap steak cuts players), raw vs cooked way
The butcher’s steak (best cheap steak cuts players), raw vs cooked way

A beef gem called flap

Furthermore, the chuck beef part could be another great choice among cheap steak cuts .

  • The chuck steak comes into play as being more muscular with a good amount of marbling and great flavor as well. However, keep in mind that it will be a little bit tougher as texture because it’s from the beef’s shoulder part.
Chuck flap beef cut (cheap steak cuts players), raw vs cooked way (credit to tasty)

Chuck flap beef cut, raw vs cooked way (credit to tasty)
  • Within the same beef section, there is another gem called chuck flap which is on the arm side of the chuck and plate break, full of flavor, versatile with tender muscles around.
  • The flap meat is similar to the skirt steak or flank but a bit less expensive, a thing that makes it a great option.
  • It has a pretty loose texture and blends so well and tasty in a marinade because the stronger beef flavor can stand up to the flavor in the marinade.

Tri-tip with tree points

Another great flavor and texture to play with is the tri-tip steak, really easy to recognize because it has a triangular shape.

Tri-tip beef cut (cheap steak cuts players), raw vs cooked way (credit for the second image to John Kernick)
Tri-tip beef cut, raw vs cooked way (credit for the second image to John Kernick)
  • Tri-rip can be a little bit more difficult to work with because, by the time you get the middle well cooked, the outside or the edges of the steak have the risk to be overdone. As a beginner, you could treat each part of it like individual fillets.

Essential cooking tips that are great for cheap steak cuts

We are going to describe a few “nice-to-have” tips, valid for cooking any cheap or expensive steak cuts. Although we chose flap and rib-eye for our exemplification (along with the video), one can play with any of the cheap or pricier beef cuts mentioned above.

  • Whether it is a cheap or a fancier steak cut, most importantly, one needs a beef cut at room temperature without any excess of moisture at the surface (a paper towel comes in handy here) and a very well preheated grill or a sizzling cast-iron skillet. We all wish for that lovely golden-brownish crust on the surface of the steak and any excess of moisture will mean more time and effort from our part to achieve this.
  • Regardless of the cooking process (grilling or searing) for example, a hanger (flap, or something similar) tastes the best as medium or medium-rare (about 130 to 135° F as the ideal temperature for the middle as per tasty’s video). Any of these doneness stages will allow one to feel the courser texture of the hanger much tender and juicy.
  • Overcooking any beef cut from the best cheap steak cuts players, like hanger, flap, skirt steak, will spoil its magic and make it chewy.

Marinading/seasoning phase

Marinading/seasoning steak photos
  • In case you love marinades… one has nothing to lose by adding over the flap steak just a little bit of low-sodium soy sauce, some fresh ground black pepper, and a few crushed cloves of garlic and keep it for anywhere between 30 minutes to overnight.
  • Make sure that before cooking the flap, you got the marinade as much of it off as you could, to have a nice crispy crust after all.

Searing part

Searing steps photos

The sizzling cast iron comes into the game…

  • Once you’ve preheated well your cast iron skillet, pour a good amount of any type of oil, ideally something with a high smoke point, and then go ahead and carefully layer you flap steak player inside of it.
  • Even if you knew or not about the two rules of thought on steak cooking, like either you flip the steak once on each side or you flip it more often, we would like you to follow the latter rule. In this manner, you’ll keep an eye on the entire piece of meat and get a good crust in the end.
  • Nevertheless, for a newbie into cooking who is not feeling comfortable in recognizing the meat as is done, there is always a useful idea to have a kitchen thermometer on hand. So the most foolproof way is to use a thermometer by poking right into the center.
  • If we talk about a medium-rare steak you’ll want to serve, the ideal temperature of the middle will be 135 degrees Fahrenheit (approx. 57 Celsius degrees).
  • Note: Although the video from tasty mentions about 135 degrees Fahrenheit as ideal internal temperature, USDA recommends mostly a medium-rare of 145 degrees Fahrenheit (have a look at their official report).

Checking for doneness

There is no clear consensus regarding the exact best intervals for steak’s doneness, especially because USDA recommends a bit higher values for different stages such as medium-rare, medium, or well-done. One could find different opinions regarding the internal temperatures that confirm for the desired doneness.

Knowing these aspects, we’ve combined the pieces of advice from the video connected to this article as well as other sources of information. Aa a consequence, we’ve accepted a possible additional 5-10 degrees margin within the USDA recommendation context.

In other words, the bellow interval values could be considered reasonable for checking the desired stage of doneness in the first phase. But the possibility to reconsider these by adding a margin of 5-10 degrees in Fahrenheit is still plausible, to meet the USDA’s recommendation. For example, on a medium-rare steak, we would have instead of 130-135 degrees F, 140-145 degrees F with the margin added.

Beef cut's internal temperatures for each cooking stage
Beef cut’s internal temperatures for each doneness stage (without the possible margin)

Resting and slicing phases

Slicing steak and the myglobin
  • If you wish for juicy meat on the inside you will not forget to rest the steak for a good 5 to 10 minutes after it comes off, before slicing it. This “break” gives you time to let the carryover cooking take place. later on, you will have a nicer, relaxed steak texture in your mouth.
  • Slice any beef cut against its grain. In this way, you will avoid any risk of having a chewy steak.
  • And last but not least… don’t get scared about the “fake blood” coming out during the steak’s resting stat. That red juice is nothing else than myoglobin, a protein in the fiber mixed with water and residual moisture that’s left in the meat.
Exemplification video from Tasty

From some of the best cheap steak cuts to pricier delicious ones

About time to change the players and pick some more expensive steaks to understand how things could go. This time… the following beef cuts represent delicious and pricier alternatives to some of the best cheap cuts discussed above, worth trying out at least once.

The New York strip steak also called a sirloin steak has a good amount of fat, pretty good marbling throughout, and it’s going to be more tender than any other beef cut from the chuck section. 

The Tenderloin (filet mignon) is the most expensive of all the options (mentioned in this article). It’s coming from a very small part that’s right under the spine, which makes it so tender, melting into your mouth. Although the price covers its soft texture and rarity, the filet could not necessarily be the best flavor, as some people would argue.  

Rib-eye is one of the most preferred steaks because, for its higher price, there is a good balance of marbling texture and flavor, not needing much seasoning, just salt, and perhaps some pepper. In case you are looking for a medium-rare steak center while getting a nice crust, then go about one and a half to two inches and season the beef cut for at least one hour before you are about to cook it

A delicious way for cooking a rib-eye

For a rib-eye, the cooking method will mean the opposite of the traditional “sear then bake” method. One makes the steak ahead of time, by slowly raising the temperature for about 30 minutes until the internal temperature is about 90 or 95 degrees C. Later on, the searing will bring that magical crust that we all crave for.

Rib-eye (best pricier steak cuts player) stages of cooking: seasoning, oven-cooking, searing
Rib-eye (best pricier steak cuts player) stages of cooking: seasoning, oven-cooking, searing

The meat does not need to rest as long as a pan-seared steak would. You’ll notice how fine the texture will be and don’t forget to cut it across the grain.

So how about now, after scrolling all these details?

Hopefully, we’ve managed to clear up most of the things for you. Nevertheless, we honestly think that the cooking process will be in the end your last, best card in this steaks’ game and not the beef cut one chooses.

Now practically, all you need to have for cooking a great steak is:

  • a thermometer for better control of the medium-rare stage
  • a good cast-iron skillet
  • salt, pepper, and some oil, regardless of your best cheap steak cuts or perhaps some favorite pricier ones

Let us know what pieces of information were the most useful for you. We are open to any suggestions from your part for improving the content of this article with your help as well. Happy cooking!