Moving beyond the prime: alternative beef cuts
Having grown up close enough to the Texas Panhandle stock yards to smell the cattle when the wind shifted, I thought I knew a lot about beef until I met butcher Kari Underly. In a demo at the Whole Foods Culinary Center, she poked holes in my preconceived notions about steak by serving us tender, juicy cuts from chuck.
Chuck? Chuck is for pot roasts. Chuck is for hamburgers. Chuck is for chili. Chuck is not for steaks. Boy, was I wrong.
As it turns out, when cut differently, the Chuck Eye Roll, typically used for pot roast, becomes beautiful Chuck Eye steaks and the shoulder and under blade transform, respectively, into flat iron and Denver cut steaks. While just as flavorful as their prime cut counterparts, these alternative cuts are priced at a fraction of what you might pay for a New York strip or rib eye.
With beef prices skyrocketing as a result of the recent drought, Underly and other butchers are being called on to produce cuts that are more affordable for chefs and consumers alike. Don’t be afraid to experiment with cuts that aren’t as familiar and to ask your butcher for alternatives to the more expensive prime and rib cuts.
You can even explore butchering on your own with the help of Underly’s book The Art of Beef Cutting which provides a step-by-step guide to breaking down the different subprimal cuts of beef. I highly recommend having your knives professionally sharpened before you embark on this journey or you’ll end up with a great deal of waste and potentially hurt yourself in the process.
You can explore more about alternative beef cuts in my recent Edible Austin article that includes recipes from five Austin chefs.
Do you have a favorite non-prime cut of beef? How do you like to prepare it?