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Feb 24, 2010 10:15 AM

Best (Cheap) Cut Of Beef For Stir Fry?

Last night I made a stir fry dish with beef. I purchased the beef from a local Hispanic market. It was marked as flap meat for fajitas, So, I thought I could use it for stir fry too.
First, cutting it into strips was like trying to hold onto a wriggling cat turning around in its skin. Next, one piece had silver skin and given that it was already so thin, I just couldn't get it off with my knife skills and not-sharp-enough knife. I tossed it.
Finally, after all that work, the meat was chewy.

So, CH'ers, what cheap cut of beef do you use for stir fry and fajitas? Any tips on how to best prep said meat before cooking?


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  1. pretty much anything not too fatty: sirloin, tri-tip, top round, flank. same type of stuff i'd use to make jerky. just a couple of thoughts on keeping it tender. marinate well and pat dry before cooking. prep by cutting across the grain (the shorter the strands the more tender).

    partially freeze before cutting to manage the wigglyness on the cutting board. it'll be much easier to handle.

    1. Flank steak, skirt steak (both not really that cheap anymore), top sirloin, top round, some parts of the chuck, and even flap meat can be made more tender by thinly cutting across the grain. Also marinating will help with tenderness. Like any meat, overcooking will make it tough. Stir fry is quick cooking with lots of heat. If you are adding a lot of vegetables, best to first quick stir fry the beef, take it out and proceed with the rest of the recipe. Return the beef to just heat through.
      Another factor is the grade of the beef; lower grade has less fat and marbling, therefore, tougher.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PBSF

        Thanks. I did try to keep to cutting across the grain as best I could. It could be the grade of the beef too.
        I will definitely marinate next time!

      2. I prefer flank steak, but you're right it can be tough. One way to make cutting it easier, is to stick it in the freezer for a bit. If it's partially frozen, it's a lot easier to cut. But do try to remove that silver skin as best you can. If you can raise and edge of it, you can sometimes pull it away.

        For marinating, make sure your marinade has some acid in it to help tenderize the meat. For fajitas, use some lime juice. I like Penzey's fajita seasoning with lime juice and a little canola oil.

        And make sure your pan is good and hot. Flank steak is ebst cooked quickly and getting into a relaly hot pan will help sear in some of the juices.

        Good luck!

        1 Reply
        1. re: ladyberd

          (actually, the meat was flap steak and I make flank a whole lot, searing it whole and cooking to medrare)
          I have seasoning from Penzy's-love it!!

        2. Buy whatever cut of beef is the cheapest, and do the following and you'll get tender beef stir fry every time:

          - Cut against the grain and cut the strips thin and evenly sized. The easiest way to cut thin strips is to partially freeze the beef before cutting.

          - After cutting up the beef, make the following mixture: soy sauce, rice wine, corn starch and a bit of water. Stir and marinate beef in the mixture for about 10-15 minutes.

          - Get your pan (or preferrably wok) hot. Hot like "Africa Hot". Stir fry your beef for just a minute or two, basically until the middle is pink or orange-red..

          - Then continue with the rest of your recipe, e.g. add veggies, etc. When the veggies are done, add the beef and give it a nice twirl or two in the wok and you're good to go.

          Oh, and if you choose a cut of beef with lots of silverskin just tell the butcher to remove. They'll do it for you if a snap. They're butchers, it's their job.

          7 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            I definitely will buy the meat from the butcher case where I can see each piece. I bought the flap meat already packaged, and of course, the silver skin wasn't showing.......

            1. re: monavano

              Just FYI, the technique ipsedixit described is called velveting. It works on chicken as well.

              1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                Funny, you know..the recipe called for making the "sauce" and I thought "I really should marinate the meat in it" had corn starch.
                Would have made a postive difference, I think.

                1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                  +1 on what ipsedixit. But I believe velveting is supposed to involve egg white also...

                  1. re: joonjoon

                    I think it depends on what you're accustomed to using. The key I think is the cornstarch and a binder. I've never used egg whites and the meat still comes out super tender.

                    1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                      I'm going to try velveting without egg whites next time I make stir-fry! I never knew, but it would be great if I didn't have to use an egg when marinating the meat....

                      1. re: 4Snisl

                        I never use egg whites. It's totally unnecessary.