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What's a cheap cut of meat just now?

Don't worry, I'm not going hungry or anything, but I just got in a whole internet-chain starting from why corned beef is so expensive these days. Got me thinking about, obviously everything is more expensive these days, but generally, when one type of food that used to be cheap becomes popular, it rises in price, and usually something else has to step into the cheap void.

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  1. Hey Soop!! I don't mean this as an insult by any means but when I think of "cheap meat" I think of potted meat. The poor man's staple and one that I had a lot of as a kid.

    As far as fresh meats are concerned - I know for chicken - thighs tend to be cheaper which is strange considering it is (to me) the tastiest part of the chicken. I will buy thighs or thigh meat for much less than the other cuts.

    1. I think your economic analysis is flawed. Yes, out of fashion (cheap) meats become fashionable and rise in price, but meats that were once expensive don't fall in value they simply don't go up as much as the ones that are getting relatively expensive - i.e. lamb shanks, beef cheeks, pork belly etc

      Also isn't your question better as what cheap meats are good as this is a food board. One can always get very cheap chicken but it won't be any good. A good cheap meat will always be one that is tricky to cook and takes a bit of time but as restaurants like these cuts as well (higher margin) they become popular because people eat them when they go out, again lamb shanks and pork belly.

      1. All things are relative but here's my take on the cheaper option:

        Pork - belly
        Beef - shin
        Lamb - breast
        Chicken - thigh

        All will need longer cooking than the more expensive cuts

        1 Reply
        1. re: Harters

          Harters is spot on but the joy of these cuts is that there is some wonderful flavour to be had when cooked properly. Not something I am always successful at it should be said.

        2. I know mentioning Whole Foods is sort of retarded in a thread about cheap meat, but I had some amazing bavette steaks last night at about £10/kg -- a big steak to feed 3 was approximately £7.

          I live near Whole Foods and they typically have excellent specials on meat. I'll often go shopping with no set menu and decide on my meal based on what is on offer.

          1 Reply
          1. re: brokentelephone

            It's not retarded because many people walk right by good deals that are offered in most of the supermarkets. I don't especially seek them out, but the other day we got two good-sized baby poussin (what we in the old country call Cornish hens) for £5 at Sainsbury's. Half of one of those was enough for a dinner so you can do the math at what 2 meals cost us... and they were very tasty.

          2. Hey, thanks for all the replies everyone. Bavette is a great example.

            I was surprised again when I went to get a couple of cans of corned beef yesterday - £1.70 per can of the value stuff! Swear it used to be about 20p a can...

            and Harters, great reply as usual. Reminds me of a beef shin and oyster pie I've been wanting to make for 2 years now!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Soop

              Shin & oyster, Soop?

              Sounds great. Is it a modern recipe or a vintage one? I have it mind that this pie was common in Victorian times when oysters were dead cheap.

              1. re: Harters

                It was an old irish recipe, when they used to bulk up the pie by using cheap oysters, but I read it 2 years ago in the Guardian xmas special. Probably still on their site somewhere...

                Yeah, here, about halfway down (though the other recipies are good too :) )

            2. Agree with most of the above. Plus:

              I'm cooking with oxtail at the moment (Heston Blumenthal's recipe for this is fantatic - I would drink the gravy from a wine glass ...).

              Neck of lamb (the proper neck, not "best end of") is the proper meat for Scouse and is very cheap.

              Chicken wings - I am addicted to them in all forms

              I have been trying bavette/skirt steak recently, and the onglet cut as well, which is a bit higher up the skirt towards the fillet.

              Ham shanks are great for a meal of bacon, cabbage and spuds with parsley sauce, with stock and enough meat left for a big chowder the next day

              I am also addicted to belly pork.

              20 Replies
              1. re: Theresa

                Love chicken wings and they do seem to be the only cheap part of the chicken you can get these days.

                But have found lamb neck is a lot more expensive than it used to be, seems the only cheap bit of the sheep is the breast, which I haven't had much luck cooking, just seems really fatty.

                1. re: pj26

                  Yeah - all things lamby became more expensive than beef during the BSE scare ...

                  1. re: Theresa

                    Lamb is expensive at the moment for several reasons.

                    1. The French are buying a lot of it and forcing the price up.
                    2. Lots of sheep are getting stolen for selling on the black market (because lamb is so expensive).
                    3. Less lamb is being imported from NZ

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      Rather ridiculously, lamb is super-expensive in New Zealand, even more so than what we would pay for NZ lamb in London.

                  2. re: pj26

                    I have never had lamb neck but I live in the USA and I'd imagine that might be a special order type of thing over here. I love steak and kidney pie but prefer using lamb kidneys over beef because they are milder. I have to have my butcher special order those, though. I also can't get mutton here - you folks on that side of the pond have access to so many more good cuts of meat than we do over here. I'll admit I am envious.

                    1. re: Cremon

                      Cremon -- that is not necessarily true. Many of the members here are in London where anything is available, as it would be in most sizable American cities. Leave London, and your options are often as limited as they would be in obscure American towns/cities.

                      1. re: brokentelephone

                        Although I'd hardly describe as "obscure" cities such as Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Belfast, Norwch, Sheffield, Leeds, York, Newcastle, Liverpool, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Cardiff,or Edinburgh. Just for starters. All of which are served by the major chains and, of coruse, have their own specialist suppliers.

                        It is the London-centric nature of this board that really pisses me off and it's hardly surprising that with such attiutudes expressed many Brits will find themselves put off by the board.

                        1. re: Harters

                          Easy up a bit tiger! I think bt's posts can be a little spiky (I enjoy yours very much btw) , and maybe "obscure" is not quite right, but surely the London factor is a function of whoever wants to contribute, rather than being generated by some outside influence?

                          1. re: Harters

                            Dude, like 90% of posts are from tourists asking where to eat in London. It's not annoying people like myself that dictate the boards London-centric slant, but because London is the shit.

                            1. re: Harters

                              I'd agree Harters. For me at least, I rarely post on this board because a quick check reveals loads of London restaurant threads. I think to myself " I could probably rephrase this and ask it on the home cooking board".

                              and then there's one less person in this board.

                            2. re: brokentelephone

                              Brokenphone - I think your comment is a bit London centric. My experience of living in the "country" is that the reasonably easy to find traditional butchers who will supply any cut of meat and the further you get from London the better the range of meat and cuts on offer. In a lot of the regional town the butcher sells cheeks, shanks and tails and lots of offal. But in London it is generally supermarkets like that puts shanks and cheeks on the shelves that pushes the price up. My bet is a good Northern butcher would beat any London butcher in terms if the range if cheap meats, including home made faggots which can be glorious (and anyone who complain that faggot is not PC should not be on a UK food board).

                              1. re: PhilD

                                Agree Phil D i'm in Angel, london and while i have a good local butcher (the one on rosebery ave it has nothing like the selection when i go to visit family in north wales. In the small market town of denbigh alone there are two excellent butchers - i went a bit mad buying their home made faggots, brawn, pork pies, cooked meats. Better choice than any i've seen in my local london area. Tip: Williams of Vale St Denbigh do v v good pork pies

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  Taking the upthread example of lamb neck, I would expect to walk into the village butchers and always find it available. Faggots, or savoury ducks as we call them in the north west, are also fairly commonly available.

                                  Happy to accept that finding mutton is more of a challenge. I'd have a three mile drive to one of the halal butchers - or wait until the monthly farmers market comes round. What I can't find anywhere is hogget.

                                  1. re: PhilD

                                    Traditional butchers exist in American towns and cities as well -- I thought the OP was referring to sorts of obscure stuff that isn't available in smaller communities (i.e., things like tripe, intestines, etc., which are more common amongst immigrant communities in the UK than amongst the aboriginals).

                                    Even at traditional butchers in London it's often difficult to find some types of offal or lesser sold cuts (in that they sell them off to specialist shops at the abattoir). I might be way off in this, but I buy meat all over, and often trek to funny places to get funny things.

                                    In any event, no offense meant. I guess y'all are hellbent on making me look like a malcontent. LOL

                                  2. re: brokentelephone

                                    There may be some truth to that but I live near Atlanta which is a major US city. At the same time though - I know you can get Mutton in New York from butchers up there. You can find most anything in New York because there are so many cultural "islands" of different kinds of peoples up there. But while I can go to specialty butchers (like chinese grocers will have fish heads and hagfish, etc) we don't have butchers here in the southern US that sell things like mutton, lamb neck or things to make a haggis. And it's a shame, really.

                              2. re: Theresa

                                Oh, Theresa, spot on!

                                I actually cooked a scouse the other day, and I used 2 packs of lamb neck, and 5 lamb chops :)

                                And I've had ham shanks exactly as you've described, a great cheap cut.

                                But I love lamb neck, I can eat them just as I would a steak. and I like chump steaks too. So tender.

                                1. re: Soop

                                  A scouse with lamb chops is a dead posh scouse ...

                                  I'm curious when you say you can eat lamb neck as you would steak - it's something that takes a couple of hours cooking to be tender. Do you mean what we call "best end of neck" which are more like chops? The head end of the neck looks a bit like oxtail, as it is just the other end of the spine (of a different animal of course!).

                                  1. re: Theresa

                                    It's the one that looks like oxtail, I get it from Sainsbury's, and it's quite tender. I tend to butterfly them if they're thick, and pan-fry them :)

                                    Yeah, the pork chop thing is my friend Scouse's recipe. I gave him some and he said he enjoyed it

                                    1. re: Soop

                                      Wow - I didn't know they could be eaten like that - always assumed they'd be too tough. With all that flavour, they must be great - I'll have to give it a try.

                                      1. re: Theresa

                                        You're in for a treat my friend!

                              3. Lamb liver gets my vote. About £3/kilo. 200g will feed the hungriest customer, and it's delicious browned and stewed gently for about an hour in an onion and stock-cube gravy. Low in fat too.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Robin Joy

                                  I'd love to be able to love liver - but I'm afraid memories of forcing down my mother's liver and onions once a week has put me off for life. Same with kidney.

                                  I can happily choke down the odd foie gras though ...

                                  1. re: Robin Joy

                                    Excellent idea! I love liver and bacon, I'd happily wolf some down with some mash!

                                  2. I got a kilo of beef shin for £5 at Sainsburys on Friday night. Not on special or reduced - standard price of 54p/100g. I wanted more than they had pre-cut in the counter, so I took a whole piece and trimmed it myself (was in a hurry to leave the shop) but the pre-cut stuff had been decently trimmed and cut into slices and you could ask for it diced at no extra cost. As people have posted above - cheap and nasty meat is available, but cheaper cuts of good meat seem to be harder to find. I would rather eat meat less often than have poor quality more frequently.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: ultimatepotato

                                      I'm a big advocate of anything involving cheeks. Pig cheeks, ox cheeks - both fantastic when slow cooked and very cheap. Waitrose still push them as forgotten cuts, and you can get around 5-6 pigs cheeks for £1.60, I find.

                                      Not to everyone's taste, but I would also seriously recommend lambs heart. Long, slow cooking in stock and you have amazingly tender meat that doesn't taste too offaly. You can get two lamb hearts for around £1.20 sometimes.

                                      Lamb breast can end up greasy, but if you fancy a long recipe, it is highly rewarding. I'm a big fan of making lamb breast ste menehould (basically lamb in crispy crumb). Simon Hopkinson's recipe for baked lamb breast with onions (search the BBC website for the recipe) is also a real winner.

                                      1. re: Sharmila

                                        totally agree abt cheeks! theyre such a good deal

                                        1. re: Sharmila

                                          Morrison's usually has pigs cheeks (around a quid for four). I use this Mark Sergeant recipe - http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/586366. Although following a discussion on egullet, I drastically reduce the recommended amount of honey (from 200ml to a couple of tablespoons)

                                      2. I bought some shortribs from the ginger pig and cooked them sous vide for 72hrs. Possibly the best bit of beef I have ever eaten, and they were only 3 pounds each.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: olly78

                                          I have had some short ribs from there as well and they were great, although they don't often have them so either need to order in advance or always have a back up plan.

                                          1. re: pj26

                                            I actually went in to get some brisket, but they didnt have any. So got the short ribs instead.

                                            Brisket would also fall into this category.

                                            I guess, by and large anything thats good to bbq tends to be cheap.

                                        2. i often get pork shoulder - cut up into rough steaks rather than the whole joint - just easier to work with as i use it for pulled pork or carnitas taco filling (drooool). works out at £4.33 per kilo from Tesco atm.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: johnnypd

                                            Yeah! Carnitas! That's a super idea! In fact, mexican is probably a great idea for some cheap meat recipes.

                                          2. FYI, I know we said chicken, but I'd just point out I made a huge cassoulet (my friends recipe) using loads of carrots and celery that needed using 4 chicken legs, toulouse sausages, pancetta, and 4 cans of beans. It *just* fit in my big pot, and fed me and others well for days! I reckon I got 8 meals out of it maybe? Or 7 and a half because I put some of the beans on nachos (yum) and that's at a cost of about £10.

                                            It doesn't get much better.

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: Soop

                                              Speaking of legs - my best bargain in the last couple of weeks was four pheasant legs for 99p (from the Farmers Market Shop in Bakewell, Derbyshire which, if you're passing, stocks quite a lot of products from suppliers who have stalls at the monthly farmers market - erm, hence the name). Dunno what I'll be doing with them - some sort of casserole I suppose.

                                              1. re: Harters

                                                Ooh! I like pheasant! (or was it partridge?)
                                                That would go perfect in a cassoulet IMO - want my recipe?

                                                1. re: Soop

                                                  Yes, please - but perhaps better if you post to the Home Cooking board (so as not to go off-topic here). I'll pick it up from there.

                                                  1. re: Soop

                                                    It's not cassoulet if there's no confit in there! I bought two big tins (one duck, one goose) in Aldi in France for 6Euros the other day. Now that's a bargain...

                                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                                      As opposed to the big tin of cassoulet I bought in Carrefour in Calais. Cheap - but vile.

                                                      I wonder if you could confit pheasant legs?

                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                        John - I confit rabbit (a Ramsay dish) so Pheasant should be fine.