Thrift Meats That Can Match Expensive Cuts (and How to Cook Them)

inline butcher shopEating flavorful meat doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune. But finding the most flavorful thrift cuts at the market often means speaking up and asking the butcher. Don’t be shy—butchers and meat vendors at the farmers’ markets usually love to share their favorite thrift cuts of meat.

The lesser known, less expensive cuts of meat listed here are a good place to start if you want flavorful meat, for a lower price. These cuts aren’t always displayed front and center in the meat case, and they might even have to be special ordered.

To bring out the most flavor and tenderness, season these cuts of meat with salt a few hours or a full day ahead of time, and then set the meat out an hour before cooking to bring it up to room temperature. Always let the meat rest 5 to 10 minutes after it’s cooked, then slice it against the grain, on the bias.

Lamb Shoulder Chop (a.k.a. Blade Chop or Shoulder Steak)

Isolated image of raw lamb shoulder.

Instead of: leg of lamb or lamb rib chops

Lamb shoulder chops aren’t as pretty as darling little lamb chops, but they’re not as expensive, either. Lamb shoulder chops are marbled with fat, have a chewier texture and bigger, bolder lamb flavor. If all that sounds good, then cook these chops briefly over a hot flame until medium-rare, about 4 minutes a side.

7-Bone Chuck Steak (aka Chuck Steak or 7-Bone Roast)

raw chuck steak with rosemary on white background

Instead of: short ribs or brisket

The 7-bone is sometimes sold as steak, and sometimes sold as a bigger, thicker roast. Either way, it’s a tough cut of meat, but it’s also really flavorful thanks to a generous amount of fat and collagen. If you don’t mind a little chewy gristle, then go ahead and throw a 7-bone steak on the grill.  Otherwise, cook a 7-bone (both the steak and the roast) just like pot roast, with a little braising liquid at low heat for several hours.

Chicken Leg Quarters (aka Whole Chicken Legs)

chicken leg on White Background

Instead of: bone-in or boneless chicken thighs

A thigh and a drumstick attached, this cut isn’t the most gorgeous part of a chicken, but it sure tastes good. Sold bone-in and skin-on, there’s lots of flavor to be had. Cook leg quarters the same as bone-in chicken thighs.

Flap Meat (aka Bavette or Sirloin Tip)

Instead of: skirt steak, flank steak and hanger steak

This thin strip of beef has a wonderfully robust meaty flavor. It’s best to marinate flap meat then cook it quickly over high heat. Both a hot grill and a hot skillet are a good choice for cooking flap meat.

What are your favorite thrift cuts, and what techniques do you use to bring out their full flavor and tenderness in cooking? Share your ideas and questions below, and have a great day, everyone.

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31 thoughts on “Thrift Meats That Can Match Expensive Cuts (and How to Cook Them)”

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  1. Love these kind of posts, thanks.

    Are these universal names, by which I mean, will my local English butcher know what I’m on about when I ask for “flap meat” or will he chase me from his shop with a large sharp carving knife…Benny Hill-esque

    1. Lol to the Benny Hill mental image, that takes me back.
      No, these aren’t universal names. In Australia the first ones are always called lamb forequarter chops and the chicken leg quarters are called chicken maryland (I don’t know why). Google for your local names or just print off this post and take it to your butcher – I’m sure they will be really happy to help someone who has walked away from the supermarket meat section and into a real butcher shop.

      1. Good call, thanks! Chicken Maryland! Bizarre! That said, sounds more exciting than quarters! Bit like the way ground beef sounds better than minced beef.

        Thanks again.

  2. Hi, primarily, I apologise that this question isn’t directly concerned with todays post, but I thought it would be the best way to reveive an answer from all or any of you guys who are much more educated in the Primal way of living than myself. I have been following Primal Blueprint for years but after a recent complicated dose of tonsillitis where I was hospital bound, I couldn’t eat or drink for the best part of a week, so naturally have lost several kilos. So in an attempt to regain those lost kilos asap, I am eating around half a good sized sweet potato with every meal, around 4 a day. Therefore my carb intake is higher than normal, but I have a very active work/lifestyle and could do with a few extra kilos at the best of times. Is this okay? Recommended? Any feedback would be much appreciated, Thanks for your time.

    1. Yes, that should be okay. Sweet potatoes are good for you, as are other starchy veggies. Just keep track of your weight. When you get it to where you feel it should be, taper off the daily sweet potatoes to maybe twice a week. You want to get to a point where you’re neither gaining nor losing, which might take some experimentation.

    2. Totally fine. The biological law of accommodation applies to exercise and diet. Even if you were’t trying to gain kilos, it would be wise to cycle in more carbs every now and again.

  3. The cheapest cuts of beef I can buy are arm roasts and rump roasts. I have a couple ways to make the most of them.

    If the roast is thick enough that it will cut into presentable sized steaks I cut it about one inch thick, cover with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder, and throw it in the sous vide to cook to 135. That can either be seared and eaten right away or frozen and thawed later to sear. I will also sous vide these with different pastes over them instead of my standard seasoning. Miso paste, Thai curry paste and coriander chutney are all very good massaged into the beef before cooking then wiped off prior to searing.

    I also slow-roast these cuts of beef after dry brining. Generously salt all sides of your roast and add any other seasoning you like on top of that. I’m partial to Mrs. Dash or mixed Italian herbs seasoning. Let it rest covered in your fridge for 12-48 hours then bung it into an oven and roast at 225 degrees until it’s 115 degrees or 125 degrees depending on whether you are going for medium-rare or medium. When your temperature probe notifies you that the target temp has been reached, turn off the oven without opening it and reset your temp probe for 130 or 140 degrees. The roast will continue to cook for those last 15 degrees while the oven cools. I use a cheap probe thermometer that stays in the roast and monitors the temperature for the entire cook time instead of relying on a timer. This produces a lovely, beefy roast that can be served cut thick or thin and successfully reheated later without over-toughening because it was cooked fairly rare to begin with.

  4. Chicken leg quarters are my favorite kind of chicken. I don’t really like white meat, and love how flavorful they are. I like to salt them (sometimes do some additional seasoning like smoked paprika) and roast till the skin gets really crispy. You don’t have to worry about them drying out either.

    1. You are exactly right!! There’s nothing better than a crispy, juicy, perfectly seasoned chicken quarter. Wife makes ’em in the Instapot (2-3 days cook time). After savoring each bite off the bone, I proceed to consume the whole bone which is totally rich, has an amazing texture and makes me feel savage too. Good one!

      1. The bone- wow! I have been wondering about this…when I make bone broth and the smaller bones get really soft, I’ve often thought about blending them up with the bone broth. Now I might have to try it!

        1. Do it! Our early Inuit ancestors intuitively knew to freeze-dry animal bones, pulverize them and devour. Nose to tail is where it’s at!

  5. There’s nothing cheap about beef these days, but many of the less expensive cuts do well in an Instant Pot. Cut into workable pieces, season and brown them, add a little water (or liquid of preference), and pressure cook according to directions. Along with a salad and/or veggies, many cheaper cuts make a quick, delicious meal.

  6. Season 7 bone chuck roast with salt and pepper. Brush with grassfed butter. Sear over high heat on the grill. Then roast in 225 oven for approximately 2 hours depending on thickness. Gets tender and super flavorful.

  7. You forgot beef cheeks… I don’t know a cheaper cut of meat that offers so much gelatin, deliciousness and tenderness… when prepared right! Wife puts in the Instapot for a few days with a bunch of cumin, onions and bacon. It’s reminiscent of a savory pulled pork done right. The sauce is essentially gravy.

    1. I just cooked these for the first time two nights ago and I’m in love.

  8. All great cuts. Quick seared lamb shoulder with salt and herbs is just lovely and stupid simple.

  9. These posts are always great. My two favourite thrift cuts of meat at the moment are lamb shoulder roast, and brisket; I love any large chunk of meat that can go in the oven with nothing more than a glass or two of red wine as seasoning, but 6-hour slow-baked brisket is the absolute standout.

  10. Bavette is one of my staples, just love the super beefy taste and it’s a piece that is great seared at super high temp and barely cooked inside, just make sure to let it sit. Marinated is great but often just plain Montreal steak spices make it more satisfying than a t-bone or rib steak in my book.

    This is funny yesterday I actually found lamb flank at the grocery, very cheap, and threw it in the Instant Pot low pressure for an hour after coloring it nicely. I was more than impressed, this is super fat and contains the spare ribs bone so you get full of gelatin and collagen, this was a total blast. First time I ever saw it but now I will ask for it!

  11. Oh BTW you can eat your flap steak in a hangar if you really wish, but it’s actually spelled hanger steak for those who may search for it!

  12. Any of the shoulder cuts tend to be tough, so less expensive, and yet if you prepare them correctly the best tasting parts of the animal. A crock pot or a pressure cooker can make even the toughest cuts tender. Beef tongue tends to be very inexpensive and shreds like the best beef when pressure cooked.

  13. In my opinion nothing beats a whole chicken for thrifty meat! Easy to roast in a cast iron frying pan, then yummy leftovers that can be used for almost anything and soup bones at the end.

  14. The 7-bone chuck steak would also do great on the smoker! Rub it down with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Smoke it to 150-165, then put it in a pan and take it up to 195-205. Wrap in foil and towels, and rest for 30-60 minutes before pulling or slicing. Goes great with peppers and onions.

  15. Love to read such type of post. This kind of post gives healthy ideas along with various options to get their health benefits. Thanks, for sharing these meats cuts and the how to cook guide.