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Your Ultimate Guide to the Best and Worst 14 Cheap Steaks: What to Buy and What to Avoid

Discover the best cheap steaks you should and shouldn’t buy

Are you a steak lover on a budget? Look no further! We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of inexpensive steaks that deliver incredible flavor and tenderness without breaking the bank. Whether you prefer to grill, fry, or slow cook, there’s a cheap steak option for everyone. Let’s dive into the world of delicious and pocket-friendly cuts of beef.

Blade Chuck Steak: A Ribeye Alternative

If you’re a fan of the beautifully marbled texture of the ribeye, then the blade chuck steak is the perfect affordable alternative. Packed with flavor and running through with veins of fat, this steak offers succulent meat that melts in your mouth. Although usually cooked slowly, the blade chuck steak really shines on the grill. As the fat melts and the meat sears, it becomes tender and the flavor intensifies. It won’t match the tenderness of a tenderloin, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how juicy this steak can be.

Shoulder Steak: Overlooked but delicious

Often overlooked due to the shoulder’s reputation for tough meat or large, slow-cooked roasts, the shoulder steak offers exceptional flavor when prepared properly. With careful preparation or slow cooking, this cut becomes tender and flavorful. It has a light marbling of fat and lends itself well to grilling. Despite its coarser texture compared to more expensive cuts, shoulder steak can be enjoyed straight from the pan or grill.

Tri-tip steak: A California Delight

Tri-tip steak, sometimes called “Santa Maria steak,” is triangular in shape and comes from the bottom of the sirloin. Lean and lightly marbled, this steak is ideal for those who prefer their meat rare to medium on the grill. Best cooked over high heat, tri-tip steak offers a coarse texture and mouthwatering beef flavor. Once you master the art of cooking it to your liking, this affordable cut will become a favorite on your menu.

Denver Steak: Tender and marbled

The Denver steak, cut from the chuck of the cow, is surprisingly tender and marbled. Its origins lie in the search for new steaks, resulting in a cut with premium characteristics from the cheaper parts of the cow. Often grilled over high heat and sliced against the grain, Denver steaks are affordable, flavorful, and increasingly popular. They can be enjoyed on their own, added to steak sandwiches, or served with salads.

Ranch Steak: Lean and beefy

Also known as boneless chuck, ranch steak is cut from the center of the shoulder. It’s low in fat but has a deep, beefy flavor that’s hard to resist. With the smooth texture of the sirloin and the beefiness of the shoulder cuts, this steak shines when cooked medium-rare and paired with melted butter. Be careful not to overcook it, as it can develop a tough, chewy texture. At an affordable price, the Ranch Steak is a great option for budget-conscious steak lovers.

Top blade steak: Affordable and Tender

Top blade steak is one of the most tender cuts available at an incredibly affordable price. Cut from the top blade muscle of the cow’s shoulder, it delivers a rich flavor and smooth texture. Despite the seam of tendon running down its center, Top Blade Steak offers excellent value and tastes great. Braising in beef stock or removing the tendon and pan-frying or grilling are popular cooking methods that preserve its fantastic flavor.

Flat Iron Steak: Versatile and Flavorful

Flat iron steaks are well marbled, resulting in a juicy and flavorful experience. Butchers remove the tendon from the top of the blade to create this cut, making it perfect for grilling or pan-frying. Its versatility allows it to be sliced into thin strips and used in a variety of dishes to enhance its beefy flavor. While flat iron steaks may be a little harder to find and a little more expensive, they’re still a worthwhile investment for steak lovers.

Top Round Steak: Budget-friendly but lacking in intensity

Cut from the leg and rump of the cow, Top Round Steak is a budget-friendly option that falls short in terms of flavor intensity. While excellent for slow-cooked roasts, it doesn’t offer the same rich flavor as some of the fattier chuck steak cuts. Although it may be tempting due to its low price, there are other steaks available for a similar price that offer a more satisfying eating experience. Unless you plan to slow-cook or broil it, consider exploring other affordable cuts with twice the flavor punch.

Bottom Round Steak: Affordable and Lean

The bottom round steak is another budget-friendly option that comes from the rump of the cow. It offers a lean and firm texture that makes it great for braising, slow cooking, or marinating before grilling. While it may not be as tender or flavorful as other cuts on this list, the bottom round steak is an economical choice for those looking for a leaner option without compromising on flavor. With proper cooking techniques, you can still enjoy a delicious and satisfying meal.

Sirloin Tip Steak: Lean and versatile

Sirloin tip steak is a lean and versatile cut that comes from the sirloin primal, specifically the round and sirloin tip subprimal regions. While it lacks the marbling and tenderness of more expensive cuts, it offers a robust beef flavor. It’s best cooked to medium-rare or medium and can be used in a variety of dishes, including stir-fries, stews and fajitas. With its affordability and adaptability, Sirloin Tip Steak is a reliable choice for budget-conscious steak lovers.

Chuck Eye Steak: Flavorful and Budget-Friendly

Chuck eye steak is often referred to as the “poor man’s ribeye” due to its similar taste and appearance. Cut from the primal chuck, it offers a rich, beefy flavor and marbling, making it a great, affordable option for steak lovers. While it may not be as tender as a ribeye, proper cooking techniques such as searing and slow cooking can help enhance its tenderness and flavor. With its lower price point, the chuck eye steak allows you to enjoy a delicious steak experience without the hefty price tag.

Flank Steak: Affordable and Flavorful

Flank steak is a popular choice for those looking for an affordable and flavorful option. Cut from the abdominal muscle of the cow, it has a pronounced beefy flavor and distinct grain. It’s best cooked to medium-rare or medium-well and works beautifully in dishes like fajitas, stir-fries, and sandwiches. While it requires proper marinating and cutting against the grain to ensure tenderness, flank steak provides a satisfying eating experience without breaking the bank.

Flank Steak: Tender and Unique

The hanger steak, also known as the “butcher’s steak,” is a unique and tender cut that hangs between the rib and the loin. It has a rich, beefy flavor and a texture similar to skirt steak. Due to its popularity and limited availability, hanger steak prices have increased in recent years. However, it’s still relatively affordable compared to premium cuts. When cooked to medium-rare or medium and sliced against the grain, hanger steak offers an indulgent dining experience that’s worth the occasional splurge.

Skirt Steak: Affordable and Full of Flavor

Skirt steak is a thin and flavorful cut from the diaphragm muscle of the cow. It offers a robust beef flavor and distinctive grain. Its tender texture and intense flavor make skirt steak perfect for marinating and grilling. It’s a popular choice for fajitas, tacos and other dishes that benefit from its bold flavor. While skirt steak prices have risen in recent years, it remains an affordable option for those seeking a delicious and economical steak experience.

Bottom line

When it comes to affordable steaks, there’s a wide range of options that deliver fantastic flavor and tenderness without breaking the bank. From the juicy blade chuck steak to the versatile flat iron steak, each cut offers a unique flavor and cooking experience. While some require special cooking techniques to maximize their tenderness, others can be enjoyed straight from the grill or pan.
Remember, personal taste plays an important role in choosing the right steak for you. Experiment with different cuts, cooking methods, and seasonings to find your perfect cheap steak. With the knowledge of these cheap steak options, you can enjoy delicious meals while staying within your budget. Happy steak hunting and bon appétit!


Are cheap steaks of lesser quality than expensive cuts?

Not necessarily. While cheap steaks may come from less tender parts of the animal, proper cooking techniques can transform them into flavorful and enjoyable meals. It’s all about understanding the characteristics of each cut and how to maximize its potential.

Can I grill cheap steaks?

Absolutely you can! Many inexpensive steaks are great for grilling. Just be sure to adjust cooking times and temperatures for the specific cut you’re working with. Marinating or using dry rubs can also enhance the flavor and tenderness of the meat.

How do I make cheap steaks tender?

There are several ways to tenderize cheap steaks. Consider marinating them for a few hours or overnight to break down the muscle fibers. Slow cooking or braising can also help soften the meat and create a more tender texture.

Are there any specific cuts recommended for pan-frying?

Yes, there are! Cuts like chuck eye steak, flat iron steak, and skirt steak are great for pan-frying. They cook quickly and develop a delicious crust when seared in a hot pan. Just watch the cooking time to avoid overcooking and drying out the meat.

Can I use cheap steaks in recipes that call for expensive cuts?

Absolutely! Cheap steaks can be substituted in many recipes that traditionally call for more expensive cuts. However, keep in mind that the texture and flavor may be slightly different. Adjust cooking times and techniques accordingly for the best results.

Are there any health considerations when choosing inexpensive steaks?

Cheap steaks can be a great option for those watching their budget without compromising on taste. From a health perspective, it’s important to look at the fat content of certain cuts. Leaner options such as top round steak or bottom round steak are suitable choices for those seeking a leaner source of protein.

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