Getting our outdoor grill cleaned, polished and ready for summer got me thinking about how much fun it would be to celebrate. After all, summer is just a few months a year, so why not do things up right with an amazing menu and a few good friends?
What happened next I can only attribute to a momentary lapse of good judgment. I visited the Lobel’s of New York website, which is called “the best source for the finest and freshest USDA prime dry-aged steaks, roasts, specialty meats, and gourmet products that money can buy.” Unveiling the mother of all outdoor grills seemed like an event worthy of a few high-quality American wagyu steaks delivered overnight on a bed of dry ice. I checked the price. Gulp! One 20-ounce porterhouse steak costs $159.95 plus overnight shipping.
Just the thought of forking out more than a hundred bucks on a single steak jerked me back to reality with enough force to cause whiplash. There has to be frugal ground somewhere between Lobel’s and what’s left of the buy-one-get-one-free hotdogs sitting in the freezer.
Professional butcher and author of “Confessions of a Butcher: Eat Steak on a Hamburger Budget and Save $$$” John Louis Smith says that the cheap cuts of beef are often the most flavorful — and the toughest. But don’t let that discourage you from buying those meat counter bargains. If you know the tricks, you can buy the flavorful cheaper cuts of meat, not meat that is bland and tough.
SELECT FIRST. Don’t get your mind set on what you’ll be grilling this weekend before you get to the store. That particular cut may not be on sale. Instead, go with an open mind. Zero in on the cuts of meat that are in season, plentiful and well-priced. And if it’s really cheap? Buy extra for the freezer.
MARINADE. A marinade is the secret to making a tough cut of meat as succulent and tender as a prime cut. Just make sure your marinade of choice contains acids like vinegar, lemon and wine. Acid breaks down the meat to make it tender. Enzymatic action from wine, beer, cider and soy sauce also helps. If you’re interested, I have posted my favorite All-Purpose Marinade recipe at EverydayCheapskate.com/marinade.
TEMPERATURE. The only way to guarantee that your meat will be moist, tender and cooked to a safe temperature is with a food thermometer. Forget the poke test where you’re supposed to be able to discern a piece of meat’s level of doneness by poking at it with your finger. You need a decent instant-read food thermometer to take out all the guesswork.
Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, ”Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”