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In Praise of Blade

In these straitened times, prime rib or New York steaks may be out of reach for many of us on a regular basis, yet we still crave a good beefy steak to make at home. May I say a few words in support of the humble blade steak?

I've tried "top sirloin", and "inside" or "outside" round (I gave up on flank years ago, it's more expensive than prime rib these days!), but I keep coming back to blade. The other three have even less marbling than the blade, to me, and less flavour. I typically cover my steak with Montreal steak spice (mostly salt and pepper, but a few other flavours thrown in), and grill for a few minutes on each side to leave a deep red centre. I also make sure to trim as much connective tissue off it beforehand.

I realize blade will not be as tender as the more expensive cuts (which is one reason I won't grill it beyond rare), so when I dig in, I tend to cut very thin slices, which both extends the experience and increases the enjoyability - if it's not quite "melt in your mouth", it's quite close. A simple salad and a baked potato, and I have an excellent dinner for less than $5.

So, what do you say, CH'ers? What is your favourite of the less expensive cuts? (i.e. no New Yorks, filets, T-bones, Porterhouses, etc.). I've heard many speak of the "tri-tip", but I've never seen that offered in Canada - does it go by another name here, and in any case, where does it fit in the relative price point field?

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  1. The tri-tip is the bottom sirloin. It's my favorite inexpensive steak. It tends to be on the lean side, but has a great beefy flavor. It can be a bit chewy, but cook it mid-rare and cut it across the grain and nobody's going to complain.

    1 Reply
    1. re: alanbarnes

      There's nothing better than tri-tip on the grill! Many of us Californians grew up with it; funny that it's such a regional cut.

      I like to marinate it for 20-30 minutes in a mixture of soy sauce, worchestershire, bourbon, rosemary, garlic, and olive oil (a hybrid of two restaurant marinades I've liked). Doesn't tenderize the meat but the flavor's great.

    2. We're with you on the blade steak. As you and alanbarnes say, cook it only to rare and cut across the grain. The flavor is great. My husband turned me on to this 20 years ago. I was, like, oh no, don't be ridiculous, you can't do that. Changed my tune very quickly. We serve it to guests and they'd never guess how cheap it is --- except we always blab about that kind of thing :) Hopefully your post will turn on others to these unsung heroes.

      1. I like the top sirloin.

        1. Blade is great. It's the same muscle (infraspinatus) as the flat iron, just cut differently. Flat iron has the central connective tissue removed.

          As to economy, I like to wait until 7 bone chuck roast goes on sale, then pull the piece of blade meat out if it to use for steak. The rest of the roast gets collagen-busting treatments.

          more infos here:
          http://www.google.com/#q=blade+steak+....

          Also see "top blade trim" video at this site:
          http://bovine.unl.edu/bovine3D/eng/fa...

          In this cross section thru the chuck roast, the infraspinatus of our discussion is on the lower right. Note the connective tissue in the center.
          http://bovine.unl.edu/bovine3D/eng/Sh...

          2 Replies
          1. re: FoodFuser

            I have noticed that beef prices have been ridiculous for years now, even before the economy started to tank. It is more economical to purchase a good cut of beef in a restaurant prepared for you than to make it yourself.

            1. re: Sean

              Dunno where you've been shopping lately, but I just bought a whole PSMO tenderloin at Costco for $8 a pound. Whole ribeyes were $5 or so. Tri-tip? $4. If USDA Choice meat from Costco isn't good enough for you, how 'bout some way-beyond-prime American Wagyu? The ribeye was $24 per pound, and the round was $5.

              So if you can point me to a restaurant that serves an 8-ounce filet for $5 (or a 12-ounce Wagyu ribeye for $20), I'll agree with you that it's more economical to buy beef out than to cook it at home. Not just that, I'll follow you around like a puppy...

          2. Interesting article about how the cow industry has changed cuts of meat - looking for more to sell at a lesser cost:

            http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/29/din...

            1 Reply
            1. re: alwayscooking

              That's the article I was thinking of when I read the OP!! I read it last wednesday

            2. Now that cold weather seems to be finally gone until winter, the price of short ribs seems to have dropped at the market. While I like to braise short ribs in the winter, great as comfort food, lots of different recipes and goes well with many different side dishes, there is another option for them - grilling & BBQing.

              Typically, the short ribs I get are either flanken (3 rib) pieces or long bones in approx 4-6 in lengths. I use a propane grill cranked up to high, season the meat with kosher salt, garlic & Montreal steak seasoning. First I sear the meat on high on all 3 sides of fleshy meat. Then turn the grill to medium. We like our meat medium rare and usually the pieces are 2-3 in thick. At about 110F, we liberally douse meat with our favorite BBQ sauce - sometimes thick & spicy, sometimes tangy, sometimes just Teriyaki sauce. At 125F we remove meat from grill, cover with foil and eat the salad. If you wait about 10-15 min, the juices will re-distribute and you will have yummy med rare BBQed beef ribs. This is not as tender as filet mignon, but definitely delicious and has a gutsy taste, similar to sirloin or rib eye.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Diane in Bexley

                I was able to buy a full rack of beef ribs (9 full sized ribs) for $2.49/lb Cdn (about $2.10/lb US) just last week. They're in the freezer, but destined for the BBQ when the weather gets a wee bit warmer!

                1. re: KevinB

                  hangar steaks also cost little [at least in england], are quick cook and taste absolutely superb.

                  I know them by their french names onglet and bavette and both are outrageously good , both straight up and as primary proteins in more particular recipes such the one below.

                  http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/616949

                  1. re: pecandanish

                    The wonderful hanger steak has become very trendy in the U.S., which has an upside and a down side--it's more readily available than it used to be, but the price is also going up. Many restaurants now have it permanently on their menus, which makes me wonder--how do they get it in such volume, since there's so little per cow? I guess we go through a hell of a lot of cattle here! So now, I wonder, what did the processors used to do with all that hanger steak before it became trendy? Cut it up for stew meat? Pity.

              2. YOU IDIOT!!!!

                Don't you understand what happened to Skirt, Flank, and then, Hangar?

                Every time people find out about delicious, cheap cuts, they go from $1.89 to $4.89 overnight. The butchers get really upset as their special cuts they used to take home or keep on the side for their friends become too profitable to not sell.

                SHHHHHHH!!!!

                2 Replies
                1. re: applehome

                  Yeah! I think we should all start a movement to promote a new cut, something really cheap and disgusting, then it will become super-trendy and expensive and it'll draw attention away from skirt, flank, hangar, etc. and the price will lower. Ideas, anyone? Do you think we could sell the public on cow's eyes?

                  1. re: happycat

                    Read the NYT article posted by alwayscooking above. It discusses how the beef industry does EXACTLY the process you just described.

                2. I'm a fan of the skirt steak, but the price depends on what neighborhood you live in and whether the locals know what to do with it.

                  I agree with those who say the key to getting good prices on beef is to buy in bulk. I've been buying local grass-fed/corn finished beef by the side with a group of friends, and we pay around $3-4 a pound for everything, not including organ meats and bones for stock, which are giveaways to whomever wants them, and meat has been of very good quality. It comes butchered, wrapped, and frozen, and we figure out how to split it up evenly according to the number of shares each participant has purchased.

                  If I didn't do that, I'd be buying primal cuts and cutting them down myself. Western Beef, our local meat and bulk-oriented supermarket chain, for instance, has the whole porterhouse roast for around $7/lb last I checked, and they'll cut it for you at no extra charge, if you want.