There is no magic trick to saving money on the big four steak varieties: Tenderloin, Ribeye, NY Strip and Porterhouse. Those are expensive for a reason. But jonesing for steak and having a low budget are not mutually exclusive. We just have to look outside those big names and find an alternative cut. The good news is, there are lots of options and many of them are a very worthy substitute for the big four. Scroll down for 7 Tips to Save Money Buying Steak

1) Sauces, Butters and Marinades

An easy way to take a lesser cut of steak and make it amazing is to up the flavor profile with sauces, butters, and marinades. Dipping in or layering with some chimichurri sauce is an absolutely addictive way to add exponential flavor to your steak. A pat of chipotle chive compound butter on top of a steak as it rests will make for an amazing flavor profile. And don’t forget the power of the all mighty marinade. Something as simple as soaking steak in Worcestershire sauce for a few hours can greatly improve the flavor of a lesser steak. But if you are more daring, give our friends Andria’s a try. This is a marinade or a brush on steak sauce which means it is brushed on as the steak cooks, not dunked in on the plate like that A (not-so) Okay sauce. Down below you will see the red, white and black Andria’s label more than once because we are huge fans and have been using them for decades. Not years, decades. 

7 Tips to Save Money Buying Steak

2) What is Teres Major?

This is not the biggest steak, typically not much bigger than 12 ounces, but it is often argued as the second most tender cut of steak behind beef tenderloin/filet mignon but it actually has some fat content so it is not as meh as the filet:

7 Tips to Save Money Buying Steak

An interesting note on this cut is that the teres major puffs up while cooking and actually gets thicker, albeit the length drops a little. Insert girth vs length joke here. Also, you may have already had this steak. A lot of restaurants serve this as steak medallions or steak modiga and most people assume it’s filet mignon. It goes by other names such as bistro steak, bistro tender, petite tender, petite shoulder tender and also Terres Major (because I’m not the only one terrible at spelling!?!):

7 Tips to Save Money Buying Steak

3) Flat Iron Steak

The flat iron steak is comprised of two muscles, one of which is the teres minor and is also debated as the second most tender steak on the cow:

7 Tips to Save Money Buying Steak

The flat iron is, well flat, and somewhat thin, so this one is hard to put a good sear on and keep rare. I prefer a rare steak, but with flat iron, I cook to medium rare to get a good sear on the outside.

4) Chuck Eye Steak

The rib eye is cut from between the 6th and 12th ribs of the cow and has some spinalis dorsii along the top. Just at the end of that primal ribeye is the chuck eye steak which has all the great marbling of the ribeye but no spinalis at a greatly reduced price compared to the ribeye:

7 Tips to Save Money Buying Steak

The problem is that there are only two of these per cow and the butchers know how good they are and often ring them up for themselves before they ever hit the meat case. Also, guys like me tend to stock the freezer when I see them in the meat case. 

5) Skirt Steak Pinwheels

These thin cuts like skirt steak (or flank steak) don’t have the same flavor as one of the big four, but it is easy to kick these up. Lay them out flat, layer down some spinach and cheese and seasoning, roll them up and reverse sear before carving into medallions to make Skirt Steak Pinwheels:

7 Tips to Save Money Buying Steak

Yes, there is juice just dripping off that meat lollipop.

The cheese, seasoning and the spinach will kick that flavor up and still save a bunch of cash.

Skirt steak or flank steak (this is flank) also make great steak fajitas or tacos:

7 Tips to Save Money Buying Steak

7 Tips to Save Money Buying Steak

Drop them in a spicy marinade for 12 hours, sear quickly, slice across the grain to make Adobo Marinated Flank Steak Fajitas and you will be living your best life.

6) Sirloin is Sexy: Picanha

Picanha (and tri tip below) are proving to the world that sirloin is sexy. The primal sirloin cut is one of the larger cuts on the cow and along the top we find the sirloin cap or picanha when that cap is sliced into steaks. The picanha steak is usually carved with a thick layer of fat along the outer edge and often cooked on skewers that allow the steaks to be curled into a C shape so the fat layer forms the outside of that C:

7 Tips to Save Money Buying Steak

When grilling these, make sure to hold that fat over the coals or a hot grill grate or griddle to crisp up the fat at the end.

Also, a compound butter goes a long way with any steak listed in this post. And that’s exactly what I did with the picanha pictured above: Fire Roasted Picanha with Compound Butter

7) What is Tri Tip?

Tri tip is a sirloin roast that comes from the very bottom of that primal sirloin cut and usually weighs in at 1.5-2.5 pounds and further proof that sirloin is sexy. The triangular shape gives this roast its name:

7 Tips to Save Money Buying Steak

This cut was ground into hamburger until the cowboys and ranchers in the Santa Maria district of California requested them from the local butchers to save some money while still being able to feed their ranch hands some great protein. They simply seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika then roasted over open fire on open air grills with a grill grate that raised and lowered to adjust temps which is now known as a Santa Maria grill. Both the roast and the grill are becoming more and prevalent throughout the country. This tri tip is cooking on my Hooray Santa Maria style grill:

7 Tips to Save Money Buying Steak

One note, the muscle runs two different directions in the Tri Tip and needs to be sliced two ways. Slice it down the middle and slice the two remaining sides across the grain:

7 Tips to Save Money Buying Steak

7 Tips to Save Money Buying Steak Rundown

  1. Sauces, butters and marinades are your friends
  2. Branch out to the not so common named steaks like Teres Major (or Terres Major)
  3. Flat iron is flat out great
  4. Add flavors like cheese to thin steaks and form pinwheels
  5. Steak in tacos or fajitas is fantastic
  6. Sirloin is sexy: Picanha
  7. Sirloin is sexy part deux: Tri Tip

If you want help buying the best steak of the big four, I wrote this article to help you do that. 

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or send me an email.

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Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas, the Original Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to college with a suitcase and a grill where he overcooked, undercooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thousands of failures, and quite a few successes, nearly two decades later he started a website to show step by step, picture by picture, foolproof instructions on how to make great things out of doors so that others don’t have to repeat the mistakes he’s made on the grill.
Scott Thomas

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