Any tips for someone new to cooking beef?
First time in college cooking beef for myself instead the frozen commercial porocessed stuff
What cut should I start off with?
Burgers are my all-time favorite, followed by steak-ums cheesesteaks, and then arby's roast beef.
I'm on a tight budget also. Is Chuck Roast and Chuck steak the most ideal for me?
Every now and then you will see good deals on skirt steak. It is great with a hot pan or grill to give it a good sear and cooked rare to medium rare. More done than that, and while still flavorful, it gets tough. Super lean eye of the round steaks and roasts are also often good deals and as long as they are more towards rare quite good. I often toss a couple of them in a hot, salted skillet for the quickest of sears, pepper them well, and squeeze lemon on them.
1. Figure out if you like your steak bloody or not. To me, that dictates what cut you should get for steaks. If you like steak on the rarer side, there are cuts that are not so expensive that are very tender if cooked on the rarer side, but they turn into shoe leather if you go past medium, like a sirloin.
2. Learn about the braising/stewing cuts vs the steaks.
I like my steak bloody, and I love a good beefy flavor, so for me, my value steak cuts are top sirloin, sirloin tip, skirt, hanger.
I love pretty much any of the braising/stewing cuts.
Stop telling ppl you like steak ums and arby's if you want ppl to take you seriously when talking about beef. :-)
You might want to look into top round, which is frequently sold as London Broil. It's pretty inexpensive and goes on sale very often, at least where I live. I just bought a choice grade one for 2.99/lb. They come in 2-3lb amounts so you can either cook it all at once and use it throughout the week, or cut it up and freeze it in smaller portions before cooking.
It takes very well to different marinades, and can be cooked in a variety of ways, both in the oven and on a grill. It makes great sandwiches (make your own version of cheesesteaks!), or is even good sliced up and used in stir fries. Here's an example of a recipe where you can use it in a quick and easy stir fry: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2009/07/pe...
Another idea is to use ground beef to make meatballs for spaghetti & meatballs or meatball sandwiches. Here's an easy meatball recipe: http://www.canyoustayfordinner.com/20... you can sub out the dried herbs she lists for just your basic italian seasoning blend, to help keep the cost down.
One thing that's helpful to understand is that certain kinds of beef are best cooked quickly (like those burgers or steak-ums) and certain kinds are best cooked slowly.
The cuts that cook slowly are really tasty, but they can be chewy or tough if you don't cook them "low and slow" to break down the muscle fibers and connective tissue. Cutting can also help with this -- look for the "grain" of the meat and cut across it.
One good recipe to start with (especially this time of year!) is beef stew. Buy that chuck (steak or roast is fine), cut it into chunks, and go from there.
kitchengardengal's suggestion of a slow cooker is good, you can get them for less than $20 on sale. A $20 cast iron skillet is also really helpful for steaks if you don't have a grill.
+1 on the slow cooker. Easy and pretty foolproof. As mentioned, low & slow is the way to do tougher (cheaper) cuts of beef.
I sometimes get chuck eye steaks for broiling. Tasty and fairly cheap compared to most other steaks. (Nowadays many supermarkets remove the central gristle from this cut before it gets packed.) Cooking for one, you can make a little tray out of tinfoil, and broil about 6 minutes each side for a one inch steak, depending on how close it is to the flame. Don't overcook 'til it's tough and all grey on the inside. With a little experience you can tell just by pressing on it gently whether a steak is done to your preference. And let it rest for five minutes or so after it comes off the heat.
For a quick variant, you can drizzle the steak with a tablespoon or two of soya and sprinkle a little garlic powder and parsley flakes on top before it goes into the broiler.
Marinating is the answer for tough cuts like flank steak.
Steakums and burgers are really easy in a skillet. You can fry onions right in the pan with steakums for a cheesesteak sandwich. If you're using real cheese rather than the liquid stuff you can put it on top of the meat & onions in the skillet at the last minute to melt. Or let it melt right on the bread from the heat of the filling.
A couple of tips about burgers:
Cheaper grades of ground beef actually have more flavor than the more expensive ones made from leaner meat. And burgers made from lean meat are less tender.
Try not to handle the ground beef too much when you're forming burgers; they'll be more tender that way.
If your burgers are coming out dry and tough, you can try adding a little bit of water or broth to the meat mixture before they go on the heat. Some people even form their burgers around an ice cube which then melts.
For variety you can flavor ground beef before cooking by mixing in herbs or onion flakes, and/or a splash of Worcestershire or Maggi or sriracha. Or steak sauce or barbecue sauce. Many dry spices and powdered flavorings will work well here too- chili powder or cumin or smoked paprika. Bouillon or onion soup mix. Or the flavor packets that come with ramen noodles.
As suggested, meatballs are another good alternative. And they freeze well so you can make a big batch and just use a few at a time. (Assuming you have freezer space.) Meatloaf. is another one. Good for a dinner, and leftover meatloaf makes a great sandwich.