I have to admit, when Jason and I first got married, I was more than squeamish about handling meat. Growing up, I was grossed out by fat, bones, skin and because my mom is awesome, she would trim up and cook my meat longer than everyone else in the family. Call me spoiled, but I was all about lean, pristine cuts (boneless skinless chicken breast, pork loin, ultra lean ground beef). These lean cuts are not only more expensive, they can also be very dry and chewy.
Over time, I have branched out to less perfectly trimmed meats because they are typically cheaper and more flavorful. However, I’m still not a fat and gristle kinda girl. Here are my top 10 ways to make any cut of meat delicious and save money doing it.
1. Shop when the meat is on sale.
I have a stock up price for most cuts of meat that we enjoy. Make use of your freezer to buy when its cheap and then use over time.
|Cut of Meat||Good Price||Cut of Meat||Good Price|
|Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast||$1.99/lb||Whole Chicken||99¢/lb|
|Split Chicken Breast||99¢/lb||Pork Loin||$1.99/lb|
|Boston Butt||$1.69/lb||Pork Chops (Bone-In)||$1.59/lb|
|Lean Ground Beef||$2.99/lb||Steak||$4.99/lb|
2. Trim and bag into family-sized portions.
For our family of 2, that’s two chicken breasts, a lb of ground beef, or two 1″ thick pork loin medallions, which fit nicely into a quart-sized freezer bag. If you have a family of 4, double it and use a gallon size storage bag. Trimming the meat in advance means its ready to use, saving you time on weeknights.
Marinades and dressings are one of the cheapest and easiest ways to doctor up your meat. (They are often B1G1 and have coupons too!) It requires a little bit of planning ahead, but you can pull something out of the freezer, dump some marinade in the Ziploc and throw it in the fridge overnight to thaw. Or, if you are really organized, you could add the marinade BEFORE you freeze it and then just take it out the night before you want to cook it. My favorite marinade is sun-dried tomato vinaigrette!
Brining is not technique used that often by home cooks. My dad brines fish and meat before he smokes it to help it cure and flavor it. But I learned recently that you can brine anything and it results in an oh-so-tender grilled hunk of meat. Try a sugar brine on porkchops – just make sure you rinse or pat the brine off before you cook it (if you don’t it will be too salty).
The slowcooker is one of my ultimate time-savers. Who doesn’t love a hot meal ready and waiting for them after a long day, especially when its cool outside? This works great for cheaper cuts of meat because you always end up with a tender flavorful result. My dear friend Erica introduced us to Chicken Parisienne and its one of our go-to favs!
Most people have never heard of this tool. Actually, it looks more like a weapon. My Jaccard has 48 tiny blades that pierce meat with spring-loaded action! Tough cuts are broken down, and marinade can penetrate better into the meat. It also evens out the thickness for more uniform cooking. I see them at TJ Maxx/Ross frequently for $20, or you can find one at Amazon for about $25. We’ve give away several as gifts because its just that awesome!
7. Skip It
One of the best ways to save on meat is to skip it all together. I’m not suggesting becoming a vegetarian by any means, but skipping meat just one night a week is great for your wallet and your waistline. Also, eating low on the food chain helps save energy and natural resources (that’s the hippy in me talking ) Try my roasted tomato pasta for a tasty meat-free dinner. If you can’t go totally meatless, try reducing your portion size at each meal instead!
My favorite way to cook pork tenderloin is to season and pan sear it on all sides and then roast it in the oven for a good 40 minutes. A nice crust forms on the outside of the meat and the inside stays very tender. We love this Pork tenderloin with roasted grape sauce.
9. Don’t Overcook – Pretty Please!
At first, I cooked everything to death for fear it wasn’t done (did I mention my squeamishness). Even now, I have trouble eating a steak that isn’t well done. But, overcooking is a surefire way to end up with a dry, rubbery piece of meat. You can look up the cooking times for various cuts of meat and levels of doneness. A simple thermometer lets you check the internal temp of the meat and decide if its done.
|Cut of Meat||Perfect Temp||Cut of Meat||Perfect Temp|
|Poultry||165 F||Pork||165 F|
|Steak, Med||160 F||Steak, Well||170 F|
10. Let it Rest
Its tempting to pull a steak off the grill or a pork loin out of the oven and immediately slice it. But there is good reason to let it sit for 10-15 minutes tented with foil. High temps release the moisture in your meat as steam. If you immediately cut it open, that moisture is lost to the air. Oops! By letting the meat cool down some, the moisture is redistributed within the meat instead of escaping meaning a more juicy steak for you!