Monday, March 1, 2010

The Cheap Cuts, Beef Vol. 1

We bought what amounted to half a cow. Keeping our price per pound down required a willingness to accept some cheap cuts. My freezer now holds multiple pounds of something charmingly named "plate meat."

What, pray tell, is that? Well, darling reader, "plate meat" comes from the "plate" of the cow. Think lower ribs, as in closer to the ground and on the side. Our butcher doesn't use fancy terms like "English Cut." Nope. It's "plate meat." It looks ugly and scary and even this seasoned cook felt daunted by the prospect.

The way to handle it is to cook the living daylights out of it. What I'm about to show you can be used on any cheap cut, be it brisket or plate meat or short ribs.

Prep Time: 10 min
Cooking Time: Hours upon hours. Think ahead.

You Will Need:

Several pounds of cheap beef
Spices to your liking, total ~ 1/3 Cup*
Roasting pan
Aluminum foil

*When I cook, I'm a cook. I don't measure. My feeling is the only way to be a "cook" is to fake it until you make it. So, when it comes to spicing something, like meat, think about the flavors you like. Like spicy? Try cumin, chili powder, dried peppers, curries, or cajun seasonings. Like savory? Thyme, sage, rosemary, basil, oregano might work for you.

If you're a beginner, the best bet is to start with salt and pepper and add one or two spices you like. If you want to start experimenting, which is truly how the best things come about, mix your spices in a small bowl. Smell your mixture. Do you like it? What does it need? Taste a little. Do you like it? Too much of something? Too little of something? Keep in mind that flavors will be muted through the cooking process, so it's okay if it's a little too salty now.

What You Do:

Several pounds of cheap beef. Mmmmmm...

Collect your spices.
We like spicy, so this time around I used
salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder,
and ground red chili peppers.

Heavily sprinkle both sides of meat with seasonings.
Here's our meat, seasoned and ready for the pan.
You can tell this is cheap meat by how much
fat and bone is in it. Look at the layers of meat
between the layers of fat. All that fat will
cook down and the meat will pull away from the bone.

Cover the meat with a tent of foil.
I like a "dome" over the meat. Don't know if it helps,
but it makes me happy.

The cooked meat. See how much fat melted away?
Cheap, cheap meat.

That whole pan of meat yielded a soup-bowl's worth
of meat - but it makes..

...a tasty shredded beef sandwich.
Take some leftover beef, heat it up with some
barbecue sauce. Slap it on a bun, park it on a plate
with some chips and salsa and you've
got yourself a mighty fine meal.

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