5 Hugely Underrated (and Cheap) Cuts of Meat to Ask for at Your Local Butcher

cuts of meat
5 Hugely Underrated (and Cheap) Cuts of MeatThomas Barwick - Getty Images

Good meat will cost you, and rightly so. Quality beef takes time, investment and care, from the 24 to 30 months the cattle will live to the dry-ageing process that occurs with weeks of hanging. Cows are big beasts – a good Hereford can weigh up to 850kg – so they eat a lot. Next time you baulk at the price of a steak on a restaurant menu, remember that it’s almost certainly the dish with the lowest mark-up. As beef aficionado John Torode once told this magazine, ‘Meat should be expensive. It’s a fucking animal.’ Well, quite.

But times are tough and we don’t help matters. For such a large beast, a relatively small proportion of the cow is assigned value by us Brits. Beyond the ubiquitous hindquarter rib roasts, sirloin steaks, rumps and fillets, the majority of a beef carcass is destined for stewing meat and mince. You don’t need to be an economist to understand that if an entire cow yields only six to eight T-bones, they’re going to be pricey. It’s called scarcity value. Environmentally speaking, such profligacy is a very real problem. But from the viewpoint of both your gullet and your wallet, it’s a nauseating waste, too. If ever there was a time to make more educated choices, it’s now.

There is a wealth of underexplored and undervalued parts of both sheep and cow that yield immense flavour and high nutritional benefit for relatively little cash. The key, as always, is befriending your butcher. This is no platitude. When short ribs became popular on restaurant menus, I asked my local meat man for a couple. He didn’t know what I was talking about. But rather than fob me off or attempt to upsell, I was invited out back to look at the hanging carcasses and help identify the cut. It turned out that what I knew as short rib he referred to as Jacob’s ladder. I left with tasty meat in my shopping bag, change in my pocket and a fruitful relationship with my butcher in the making.

Over the next few pages, Shaun Searley, head chef at The Quality Chop House, recommends his favourite steaks and joints rarely found on the butcher’s slab, along with tips on how to serve them up. They require precise cooking to be enjoyed at their best, but be bold, broaden your palate and you’ll be rewarded in both taste and budget. The first cut is rarely the cheapest.

cuts of meat
David Marquez

01 Denver

Also known as: Bottom chuck, underblade centre cut, cap of the chuck.

What to ask your butcher for: The top of the chuck steak, a muscle that sits before the shoulder blade. It’s quite a large muscle (about 1.5kg on average) from which you can cut your desired steak weight (say, 250g).

Characteristics: Dense, lean and seriously meaty. Well textured with good marbling.

Use instead of: Rump.

How to cook it: The denver steak can be tough and dry if either under- or over-cooked. Try flash-frying in foaming butter and/or beef dripping, then slow-cook it at 90°C in an oven until medium-rare (a core temperature of about 48°C).

What to serve it with: Shaved courgette salad with tarragon and lemon dressing.

cuts of meat
cuts of meat

02 Teres Major

Also known as: Shoulder tender, petite tender, mock tender.

What to ask your butcher for: This cut sits just under the shoulder blade. There’s only one per side, and it’s approximately 300g, so you will probably need to ask your butcher about it in advance.

Characteristics: Because of where it sits, surrounded by muscles and bone, it’s incredibly flavoursome. Very rich, ultra-lean and, if cooked correctly, very tender.

Use instead of: It’s similar to tenderloin, so it’s a great alternative to fillet.

How to cook it: As with the denver, flash-fry in a pan with foaming butter or beef dripping and then slow-cook at 90°C in an oven until medium rare.

What to serve it with: Watercress dressed in olive oil and freshly grated horseradish. To finish the steak, mix the resting juices with brown butter and pour them over.

best cuts of meat
best cuts of meat

03 Leg Of Mutton

Also known as: LMC, housekeeper’s cut.

What to ask your butcher for: An old-fashioned whole joint that’s cut from the inside of the shoulder.

Characteristics: As tender as topside, but with the intensely rich flavour you would expect from a hard-working muscle.

Use instead of: Topside.

How to cook it: Though most people would recommend slow-cooking this cut, it also makes a great alternative to a more traditional roasting joint. Ask your butcher to remove the large seam that runs through the middle of the cut and then tie it back together. Season generously with salt and English mustard powder, then roast at 200°C to brown, before reducing the temperature to 120°C and slow-cooking to desired cuisson. I’d recommend a core temperature of 52°C.

What to serve it with: All the classic Sunday roast trimmings.

cuts of meat
cuts of meat

04 Onglet

Also known as: Hanger steak, skirt, butcher’s steak.

What to ask your butcher for: It sits between the stomach lining and the diaphragm. Strictly speaking, this falls under the category of offal.

Characteristics: This is possibly the most flavoursome of steaks. It takes on a lot of rich offal-like characteristics because of its position on the animal, but without the dry, bitter aftertaste you often get from kidneys. Crucially, onglet is not hung like most beef, but used fresh instead.

Use instead of: Any traditional steak cut.

How to cook it: Flash-fry in a pan with butter and/or beef dripping, then slow-cook the steak at 90°C in an oven until medium rare. Ideally, this should be served very pink.

What to serve it with: Baby gem lettuce with some caesar dressing. It also works really well in a steak sandwich.

cuts of meat
cuts of meat

05 Chuck-eye

Also known as: Mock tender, Scotch tender

What to ask your butcher for: While the chuck-eye is strictly from the forequarter of the animal, it comes right next to the rib-eye. It’s often used in mince and burgers, or as braising meat. For something different, ask your butcher to seam out the eye from the chuck.

Characteristics: Tender, rich flavour. As it’s a continuation of the rib-eye, expect similar marbling, texture and moreishness, just without the price tag.

Use instead of: Rib-eye.

How to cook it: Season generously with salt and English mustard powder, and roast in an oven at 200°C to brown, before reducing the temperature to 120°C and slow-cooking to desired cuisson. Aim for a core temperature of 52°C.

What to serve it with: Thinly sliced potatoes baked with cream, garlic and horseradish.

You Might Also Like