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Mar 2, 2011 11:30 AM

Favorite cheap meats?

In the late l960's I discovered skirt steaks. Super cheap, and full of beef tastiness (and a raggedy texture guaranteed to keep the price down). Loved them, and this was a time when my budget needed all the help it could get. Then fajitas got invented and there went my favorite cheap steak.

More recently I've gotten into turkey wings -- very good braised. And breast of lamb (I slow cook it with spinach and eggplant).. And pork shoulder steaks - breaded and pan fried.

What are your bottom-budget secret favorite meats?

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  1. Just last week I saw some lamb riblets in wholefoods that were dirt cheap. I was planning to make a "Sunday gravy" with Meatballs and some pork ribs but the lamb was so cheap I decided to use them in the gravy instead. I never made the riblets before but the flavor was so good I now want to try using the riblets in other dishes. My new favorite cheap meat!

    3 Replies
    1. re: TVC15

      I wish I could find lamb anything, cheap. Even in our local "dirt cheap" store, lamb has been running $5.99 a lb. for shanks and up from there. I have a family of five, all of whom love lamb, and I really can't justify $5.99 a lb. and up. I scored some boneless Australian lamb shoulder stew meat today for $1.99 a lb. It was a manager's special, the tag ends of cutting shoulder chops (my least favorite cut, as they always cut them too thin). I bought out all that was left (about 7 lbs.).

      I prefer the Australian/NZ lamb to the American, because the American lamb has been bred to taste more mild, like beef. I like my lamb to have that slightly gamey taste.

      1. re: sablemerle

        I've mentioned this before, but - if you love lamb, check out any local or state fairs or 4-H groups. You can go in halves with a friend and get lamb fairly inexpensive. I buy this way and have a friend that owns a large sheep ranch. I don't find the meat to taste like beef whatsoever.

        1. re: nvcook

          Could you email me and let me know your NV lamb source please?

    2. Skirts are still relatively cheap by my in the Mexican grocery stores - usualy 2.99 lb for choice grade. Outer usually runs a little more. I can regulary score choice top sirloin for 2.99 lb as well. Choice flank I can get for 1.99/lb on sale. One thing I've been digging on lately is shanks. Deep beefy flavor outta that cheap stewing cut. I usually stock up when they go 1.49/lb for choice grade.

      Pork rib tips and country style ribs are stock up items for me when they go under 99c / lb. OOH pork spine aka neckbones - awesome for sunday gravy. I usually buy in at 59c /lb.

      I'll have to look into turkey wings - thanks for that suggestion.

      18 Replies
      1. re: gordeaux

        I am awed by the cheapness of your prices. Here in Marin County, the cheapest things are about twice as much as you quoted.

        Turkey drumsticks are good too, for meat for tacos and enchiladas.

        1. re: Sharuf

          Lamb necks are divine. Deer liver is wonderful.

          1. re: oana

            Lamb necks are the absolute number one meat for me. They are almost free and cook out to texture that is remarkable. While at D&D we sold Jamison holistic lamb, We had to buy the entire animal butchered. No one ever bought the the necks, guess who got to take them home. With deer liver, how do you get the really strong iron/hemoglobin smell and taste to go away. Someone just gave me livers from 6 fresh killed deer. l soaked them in water, milk, and were still to 'irony' for me.

            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              Hi Delucacheesemonger, That is so awesome :). Do you have a particular way that you like to cook them? Honestly, I asked my "game and other non traditional meats" butcher how I should cook the liver and he said just put it straight into hot butter :). I questioned him about soaking (I usually soak in cream) but he said not to bother because it did not need it. To my surprise, he was right. Perhaps it depends on the deer. I have heard that different deer livers can taste quite ... well...different :). Depending on what the deer was eating though the seasons...

              1. re: oana

                I've never had venison liver that I felt was so strong it had to be soaked (and not noted any difference between farmed or wild venison). Straight in the pan for me - very, very briefly.

                1. re: Harters

                  Agreed, I have had it two or three times since discovering it a few months ago and straight in the pan it went :). In fact, here it is :).

                  1. re: oana

                    Nearby butchers used to give customers free liver if they bought any any other cut of venison. Used to make it a great bargain.

                    1. re: Harters

                      I would love it if that came back :).

                2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  The local Native American tribes around here eat the deer or elk liver raw as sot of a prayer of thanks and to gain the strength of the animal.

                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                    Hubby loves the liver and the heart. The heart is for stew. For such a hard working organ, very tender.

                    1. re: nvcook

                      Never met a heart I didn't like.

                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                          Capitano Anticuchos?

                          Hey, have fun in SFBA. Know you will :)

                          1. re: c oliver

                            A contradiction in terms: cheap chiapino and cheap dungeonous crab?

                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                Cioppino's never cheap, but the Asian markets around here were selling Dungeness crab for $1.99 a pound not too long ago.

                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                              Now you're cooking with eeeeeeeeeleeeectricityyyyyyyyy!

              2. May have to try the turkey wings. I love the thighs. Boned and braised with Worcester sauce, slice and returned to the pan to get coated with the sauce. Sooo good. Problem is that they aren't always available.

                1. I cannot fathom getting skirt or flank for only 2.99/lb - it can be triple that here.

                  Anyway, one thing that is still inexpensive is oxtail. Chicken livers and hearts are still not in the expensive category - YET.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: chefathome

                    I was also going to say Oxtail but it's gotten really expensive in the LA area. Even in the Asian or Latin markets, you're lucky to find it at $3.99/lb on sale.

                    Turkey wings or thighs can usually be found for under $2/lb.

                    Another cheap cut around these parts is pork country spareribs. On sale regularly for $.99 or $1.29/lb. Even after trimming off the bone and some of the fat, I feel like I'm getting a good deal. Especially if I save up the bones for some stock and render the fat .

                    1. re: chefathome

                      This is why you need to frequent Mexican Carncerias. Skirt steak is typically 3.00 to 3.25 here

                      1. re: chefathome

                        Chicken gizzards- my favorite cheapo meat.

                        BTW- a friend who owns a wings-type restaurant tells us that the wings are now the most expensive part of the chicken- more than breasts or tenders. Amazing.

                        1. re: EWSflash

                          How do you cook the chicken gizzards?

                          1. re: MARISKANY

                            IMO the best way is to boil the gizzards for 10 to 15 minutes, drain and cool them, then dredge the gizzards in flour seasoned with a teaspoon of pepper and salt.

                            Then drop the gizzards into a skillet w/hot oil (your choice of oil; but lard or Crisco works best), and fry them for another 10 minutes.

                            Just make sure you quarter and remove the connective tissues from the gizzards before you cook them.

                            You can cook chicken livers the same way, just skip the boiling part.

                            1. re: deet13

                              Marinate, skewer and put on my smoker.

                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                What are you marinating the gizzards in?

                                1. re: deet13

                                  Lemon juice, olive oil & fresh mint. It's all Greek to me!

                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                    Hmm, this sounds pretty good. How long were you smoking them for?

                                    1. re: deet13

                                      I dunno! They are a side when I smoke a chicken, when they look done I pull them off. An hour?

                                    2. re: Passadumkeg

                                      Wow, that sounds great. I never think to do offal a la Greque. I will have to make more of an effort...

                                2. re: deet13

                                  I just put 'em on a baking sheet and roast 'em til they look brown and crispy. Obviously I should be doing more :)

                                  1. re: deet13

                                    Mmmmm- fried gizzards, like from the Lucky Wishbone.

                                    I usually simmer them for a loing time in chicken broth and eat the gizzards out of the broth, Then I have some ramped-up chicken stock for another dish, Mr Mr doesn't care that much for gizzards.

                                  2. re: MARISKANY

                                    gizzards, garlic (as much as you can muster), onions, chicken fat (Jewish) or olive oil (Mediterranean) or butter(North European).
                                    Lightly brown the onions in the fat/oil, add gizzards for a little browning, add garlic (sliced) to warm up & add water to cover. Salt & pepper to taste. Cook till tender & the gravy thickens from the connective tissue of the gizzards (reduce if needed). Pour over rice.

                                    My mother also added tiny meatballs (beef) and chicken necks too - a fricassee she called it.

                                    You can "tart" it up from there with herbs

                                3. re: chefathome

                                  Oxtail is not inexpensive in my area of California. At the Asian market it's $5.69 a pound, but at markets with butchers it's closer to $10 a pound.

                                4. Well, first of all, as a St. Louisan, i must point that the ur-use of pork steaks is to be barbecued. One of our signature dishes. That said, I acknowledge that my initial response to the title of this thread made me harrumph. The cheap cuts I used to love, especially oxtail, are now so bloody chic that they are no longer budget foods. When I was paying 49 cents a pound for oxtail and short ribs, I made them frequently. Now, quite seldom.

                                  Interestingly, chicken livers here are quite cheap by the standards of either coast. When my dear late MIL came here after 60 years in Brooklyn and 30 years in SF and went to the grocery store (and yes, she was still cooking) and saw the chicken liver prices, she nearly toppled over at their price. They went up about a year ago to $1.49 a pound after being 99 cents for ages and ages.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: lemons

                                    Sometimes I think pork steak is the only thing that keeps me from turning vegetarian. Pork steaks with Maull's.