Have you ever noticed that stew & stir fry meat almost seems magical…where does the stuff come from? I’m pretty sure they want you to believe that it doesn’t come anywhere except for them and they’d like you to spend the $4-5 a pound for it. Even if you look at those handy charts in your Betty Crocker or Better Home and Garden cookbook they never say where stew, fajita, and stir fry meat come from. It’s clever, actually-what they really do. They get large cuts of meat and then further subdivide the meat into roasts, steaks, etc. In that process they get scraps…which they cube, slice, or ground (like in hamburger)….and sell to you as “stew meat” and other types of already cut meat at a VERY HIGH price. Nice, right? Or, I had a butcher admit to me that he actually cuts the cheap tough meat and sells it as stir fry meat for $3-4 dollars MORE a pound…another good reason to KNOW your meat. So the best thing to do is to know the best cuts of meat for cutting your own stew meat cubes, fajita slices, and so on. That way, when the price is right you can stock up and save a bundle!
(Some people think it’s better to use a higher quality of meat to make a stew better but that is actually incorrect. The name of the game for stew meat is TOUGH meat. Tough because it is going to be slow cooked AND it actually has a stronger flavor which is perfect for mingling with all of the other vegetable flavors.)
- Bottom Sirloin
- London Broil
Kabob & Stir Fry Meat
(Because this is cooked fast over high heat, tough meat isn’t the best option even though it may be cubed like stew meat. You want good grilling meat)
- Top Sirloin (THE BEST)
- Cross Rib
- London Broil (sometimes)
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Tip #21 : Buy larger pieces of meat and cut them up
So this is pretty similar to the tip above, but it’s more broad. Think of it-you could get chicken breasts for under 69 cents a pound. You can buy larger cuts of beef and get steaks, stew meat, etc. It can be kind of advanced so for a great book with pictures and good explanation you can check out this book. Cutting Up in the Kitchen: The Butcher’s Guide to Saving Money on Meat & Poultry Really, the easiest way to start this idea is with whole leg quarters and separating them into thighs and drumsticks. Most basic cookbooks have lots of pictures of how to do this. I actually just did this a few months ago and got a SCREAMING deal on chicken and paid 69 cents a pound for it all!
Or…Become friends with your butcher
I actually only buy meat from grocery stores with butchers. The meat is fresher (since they are cutting it there), you can ask them questions, and get them to do you favors! You should know that butchers can grind, slice, chop, etc. your meat if you ask. (CAUTION: Some will charge you so make sure you ask first, most will do it for free.) Also, if you’re friendly they will help you more with insider info on sales and better cuts of meat.
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You can do things like
- buy pork loin on sale and then have them slice it into pork loin pork chops (usually, very expensive)
- buy roasts on sale and ask them to grind it for you (making your own hamburger!). Hamburger is generally mystery meat and high in fat. If you do this, you can get hamburger cheaper than what they are selling the regular for and it’s a better quality meat and lower in fat! (In fact, Del, (my pie crust friend) does this when sirloin is on sale and then she has ground sirloin for cheap!
- some butchers will also cube your meat if you ask, although, I like my cubes smaller than they generally cut them.
- you can ask them to pick out a good looking piece of meat (a.k.a well marbled, tender part of the muscle, etc.)