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More beef for the buck

Change techniques to make most of tougher cuts

Staff and Wire Report The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, FL

A few members of the media gathered at an Orlando restaurant, Wednesday, September 21, to taste a line of beef (that’s beef, not bull) being introduced to Central Florida.

At four pounds of T-bone steaks available online for $60 — not including shipping — this Ridgefield Farms premium Hereford beef is not for the budget-conscious. Nor is it as far out of line as it once might have been.

Beef lovers who are shocked at the current prices of filet mignon, T-bone, tenderloin and strip steak may want to start exploring the meat counter for other cuts that, with a little know-how, deliver a great beef flavor at a lower cost.

Tender cuts of beef best suited for high-heat, dry cooking, such as grilling, are from the least-exercised parts of the steer, its upper midsection: the rib, strip loin (also called short loin), and sirloin. That’s where you’ll find those higher-priced steakhouse favorites. Underneath, the plate and flank sections are home to tougher cuts that have become popular for grilling but require extra care to render them tender.

Even flank steak and skirt steak, once as cheap as chuck, have risen in price as their popularity has grown. Skirt is the traditional steak for fajitas, and one of the best bangs for the buck on a steer, along with sirloin tips. Both skirt and flank are coarse-textured, meaning that they shouldn’t be cooked to more than medium-rare or they’ll be too tough.

“Field Guide to Meat: How To Identify, Select, and Prepare Virtually Every Meat, Poultry, and Game Cut” by Aliza Green (Quirk, 2005, $14.95) and other such reference works could prove to be worth their weight in filet mignon. In her book, Green explains the peculiarities of “moderately priced” cuts.