Beef is an amazingly versatile meat and one of the world’s favorites! Chicken might be the most widely consumed meat, but beef comes a very close second. Beef sometimes gets a bad rap for being high in fat, as do all red meats, but the fat in beef can be very healthy and is not the dangerous substance that most of us have been lead to believe.
I love all types of beef and use it a lot in my own cooking. It’s tasty, but it can be expensive if you buy prime cuts like rump and sirloin. However, there are lots of other cuts that are just as tasty and won’t break the bank.
Cheaper cuts have the reputation of being tough but, in a slow cooker, that isn’t a problem. The slow, gentle cooking process breaks down the collagen that holds the meat together which means even the toughest cut of beef will melt in your mouth.
Here are some of the cheapest, tastiest cuts of beef around! Use them in any of our beef slow cooker recipes (I will publish soon).
Shin and leg – beef cattle are big, strong animals and carrying that weight around needs big, tough muscles. That toughness puts a lot of people off the shin and leg cuts, but beef from this part of the animal is perfect for slow cooking. And, best of all, it’s cheap too!
Chuck steak – chuck steak comes from the front shoulders of the cow. Notoriously tough, this cut is best used for braising, and is what most people mean when they say braising steak. It’s great for slow cooking as the low heat will make it melt in your mouth.
Blade steak – this cut is taken from close to where chuck steak comes from. It has a very similar taste and texture and is easily interchangeable with chuck.
Middle ribs – this generous beef cut is ideal for slow roasting. It’s normally rolled into a joint – your butcher will do this for you. If you like beef ribs, you’ll love a middle rib roast!
Short ribs – sometimes called “oven busters,” this beef cut is great cooked in wine or beer and has a smooth, strong taste and can be very tender when cooked for long enough. It’s cheap right now, but it’s becoming “trendy” so expect prices to rise. Enjoy it now before the cost skyrockets.
Brisket – one of the fattiest cuts of beef, brisket is cut from the belly of the cow, and that high fat content is what makes it unpopular with some people. However, it’s the fat content makes it ideal for slow cooking. It has an amazing taste and is really juicy. I think you’ll love it if you try it.
Neck – have you ever seen how thick and strong a cow’s neck is? It’s massive and would put a bodybuilder to shame! However, big and strong makes for tough meat unless you slow cook it. Beef neck is cheap, tasty, and perfect for slow cooking. It comes out very tender, but you’ll need to avoid overcooking it.
Flank – coming from the underside and rear of the belly, flank is often sold as a steak, but it tends to be a bit tough which is why it’s cheaper than sirloin and rump. Still, that toughness is of no matter when you cook it in a slow cooker.
Skirt – this cut comes from the middle of the underside of the abdomen and has the reputation of being both tasty and tough as it’s covered with a chewy white membrane. It’s the beef commonly used in Cornish pasties, fajitas, and ranchera and is often marinated before use. Slow cooking beef skirt brings out it’s awesome, rich flavor.
Silverside – one of the cheapest beef cuts, silverside is marbled with fat but a little on the tough side which makes it superb for slow cooking. Looking for a cheap joint of beef to roast for Sunday lunch? Silverside is a very good choice.
Oxtail – this cut comes from the tail of the cow and is commonly used in soups and stews. It’s “on the bone” but, when cooked in a slow cooker, it separates easily and makes a great stew or casserole. It’s popular in France, Russia, and England and is a mainstay in African American and West Indian households. It’s very tasty and cheap too.
Beef cooking tips
1) Beef is best when you brown it before slow cooking. Fry briefly in hot oil until the meat no longer sticks to the pan. Flip it and cook the other side. If you want, you can also coat it in flour before browning to give it a darker, more appetizing color.
2) When choosing beef to slow cook, remember, fat is your friend. Fatty meat cooks really well in a slow cooker and comes out very tender and moist. If you are worried about the fat content, simply soak up any excess fat with absorbent kitchen paper before serving.
3) Beef has a strong taste so only add small amounts of seasoning at the beginning of cooking. If you add too much, it’s easy to over-season your food and, once it’s added, you can’t take it back out! Taste before serving and add extra seasoning only if required.
4) Cook beef in dark beers like Guinness or a good red wine. This two beverages complement the strong taste of beef perfectly and are favorite cooking methods of the Irish and French respectively.
5) Do not overcook beef as it can come out too tough or, conversely, fall apart completely. The liquid in the pot should just be simmering gently and not boiling. This lets the meat become melt-in-your-mouth tender but not fall apart. With beef, slow and low is the way to go.
Beef is possibly the best slow cooking meat around. From chili to roasts it’s perfect and if you use these cuts of meat, excellent value too. Because it’s so tasty, a little goes a very long way which can help save you even more money. Bulk out your recipe with beans and pulses and add just a little beef to create mouthwatering dishes you and your family will love!