Cheapest Cut of Beef: Make the Most of Your Dime

August 23, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

By any account, the cheapest cut of beef is chuck eye which is often referred to as ‘poor man’s ribeye. This name is derived from its location on the steer.

Chuck eye steaks are cut from the fifth rib of the steer, just adjacent to the ribeye steaks which are extracted between the sixth and twelfth ribs of the cow.

As a bistro chef for over a decade, I have always had my eye on the cheapest cuts of beef and have perfected the best cooking methods to make the most savory stews and roasts regardless of the cut.

In this article, I will tell you which cuts of beef are the most budget-friendly, as well as how best to prepare and tenderize them for a recipe. Let’s get into it.

cheapest cut of beef

Cheapest Cuts of Beef

Cheap cuts of beef can be cut from just about every section of the steer and every cut is therefore named based on its location on the animal. The cross-section or half of a steer can be divided into four large regions. They are;

  • The chuck is the first quarter and is comprised of the front leg, the neck, and the shoulder of the steer.
  • The rib which as the name suggest is the ribcage of the steer as well as the short plate.
  • The loin is the mid-section of the steer between the ribcage and the rump. The loin and flank primal cuts are located here.
  • The round is the posterior section of the cow which has the rump and back legs of the animal.

The USDA further sections these regions into 8 primal cuts of beef which are, the chuck, shank, brisket, rib, short plate, loin, flank, and round. Let’s look at the cheapest cuts of beef from each section.

The Chuck

This is a large region that produces three of the primal cuts of beef; the chuck, the shank, and the brisket. This cut produces some tough steaks which is why they came cheap. While they may be relatively inexpensive cuts, they are quite flavorful when cooked correctly.

Chuck Eye Steak

Chuck eye steak is a great choice for anyone looking to enjoy a steak without breaking the bank. Aptly named ‘poor man’s ribeye’ these cuts are cheaper than actual ribeye and both are cut from the same region.

Chuck eye steak comes from the fifth and thirteenth ribs of the cow while ribeye steaks are cut from between the sixth and twelfth ribs of the animal.

A chuck eye steak is somewhat tougher than ribeye which is why it is considerably less expensive but it still retains some of that lovely marbling that is the hallmark of ribeye steaks.

While this steak may not be as buttery as the rib eye, it still has the necessary fat content that allows you to pan-seer it or grill it hot and fast. Cook this steak on high heat and enjoy an elegant beefy flavor at half the cost of ribeye.

Chuck Steak

Chuck steak is also a cut of beef from the chuck primal. This hunk of meat is large since it is the entire chunk of flesh connecting the upper region of the forearm to the neck of the animal. This area hosts a lot of connective tissue and the meat here is tough and fibrous.

Chuck steak can also be purchased whole or in larger-sized cuts that you can cook whole. In which case what you have is a chuck roast or arm chuck roast.

That said, the trick lies in the preparation and cooking of the steak. Chuck steak particularly the larger-sized arm chuck roast needs to be tenderized either manually with a meat tenderizer or by marinating overnight.

I prefer to marinate because it allows me to flavor the meat. Marinating is also more effective for an arm chuck roast because the brine will break down the tough fibers evenly and soften the meat for braising.

Braising is the way to go with a chuck steak or chuck roast once you have prepped the steaks. Long slow cooking methods will break down this tough number to mouth-watering tenderness.

Denver Steak

The Denver steak is an interesting cut of beef that is located in the chuck primal as well. It is easily confused with the regular blade steak but the two are not the same. The Denver steak is cut from the bottom or lower side of the cow’s shoulder blade and is, therefore, a portion of it.

This part of the cow has slightly less connective tissue so Denver steaks will have more marbling and less toughness compared to the top blade. It is connected to the top blade steak through a sheet of connective tissue.

It takes an experienced butcher to separate this smaller cut from the blade which is why it is a less common cut to find in stores.

Raw Denver Steak Marble Meat Beef with Herbs

The Denver steak can be cooked fast and on high heat. The fat content in the meat will keep it from drying out and becoming chewy. Since it is a boneless cut, you may benefit from first tenderizing it manually with a meat tenderizer before slapping it onto the grill.

The only reason Denver steak makes it to this list is that it is cut from the chuck primal which is a less popular cut of beef, to begin with. Otherwise, Denver steak has a rich meaty flavor while also boasting some fantastic marbling. It is a great choice when working with a tight budget.

Top Blade Steak

Also known as flat iron steak, top-blade steak comes from the shoulder of the animal which is why it is sometimes referred to as shoulder steak. It is a large cut of beef from an area that gets quite a bit of exertion to move and support the animal.

Flat iron steak is rather tough and lean making it a cheaper cut that is well-suited for braising recipes.

Teres Major Or Petite Tender

This a yet another cheap cut from the chuck at the shoulder of the steer. It is an uncommon cut to find in stores since your local butcher either keeps it or does not cut it and separates it from the rest of the shoulder meat.

This cut is relatively tender and quite lean. Given the tenderness of this cut, you can make a tasty dish by cutting it up and pan-searing the cubed steak on high heat. You may also cook it whole to make a roast.

Shank Cross Cut

The shank cross-cut is retrieved above the knee of the steer. Needless to say, this region has some of the toughest beef. Osso Buco recipes are your best bet if you go for beef shank meat and you will require patience to cook down this meat to fork-tender softness.

Alternatively, you may choose to make a gravy or a stock in which case the tough meat coupled with a lot of bone marrow should make for a nice thick beef stock or gravy to go with mashed potatoes and a veggie salad.


My absolute favorite cut from the chuck is the brisket. This large cut is a bargain worth buying if you are looking for value per dollar in price. This cut comes from the breast of the animal and is best prepared using slow cooking methods.

My go-to is smoking the brisket since it takes so well to a gentle smoke wood flavor.

Raw Brisket Beef Meat Cut on a Wooden Tray

The Rib

The rib contributes the much sought-after pricy ribeyes which are the real ribeye steak. That said the rib also has some cheap beef cuts if you cannot afford the more expensive ribeye steak.

Hanger Steak

This cut also goes by ‘butcher’s cut’ since butchers often kept the cut for themselves. It is called a hanger steak since it is a small cut of meat that hangs along the diaphragm. This muscle does not work as much which makes this particular cut very tender.

It has a rich flavor and cooks rather beautifully in a crock pot on low heat for about four hours. This should tenderize the meat sufficiently before you pan-sear the cut to give a lovely caramelization.

Skirt Steak

Skirt steak is another cheap cut of beef that comes from the plate of the steer which is the section just below the rib cage. Skirt steak is cut from the diaphragm of the cow. This cut features tough fibers and some fat content.

It has an intense beef flavor and shares similar characteristics to the flank steak. It is, however, less tough and much fattier than flank steak. Skirt steak can therefore be cooked on high heat such as grilling though I would recommend that you slice thinly so that it cooks quickly and doesn’t dry out over the hot fire.

Raw Ribeye Steak with Herb

The Loin

The loin is a region that produces a massive amount of meat and individual cuts have varying quantities based on whether the particular muscle is worked or not.

Some expensive cuts of meat are retrieved from this area such as filet mignon steaks or tenderloin which is a cut beloved for its lean and tender qualities. Inexpensive cuts of beef from the loin include tri-tip and flank steak.

Tri-Tip Steak

Tri-tip steak is the only cheap cut that comes from the sirloin of the cow. The tri-tip is cut from the bottom part of the sirloin just as you get to the round which is why the tri-tip is such a tough piece of meat and therefore cheap.

This cut has a rich flavor which is why it is the preferred cut for fajitas and stir-fries. Its rich beefy flavor also means smoking is a great cooking method to prepare tri-tip steak.

Flank Steak

Flank steak is sometimes called skirt steak but the two are different. This cut comes from the flank of the animal hence the name. It is located on the cow’s underbelly adjacent to the hanger steak just after the plate and very close to the rear legs of the cow. Flank steak is a common cut to find at your local store for a bargain.

This cut is rather tough and contains some connective tissue. It is best broiled which is why it is sometimes referred to as London broil. Tenderize it with a marinade and flank steak will make a sumptuous stew meat or stroganoff to pair with pasta and a side of kimchi.

Raw Flank Beef Steak

The Round

Round steak is also a large yet inexpensive cut of beef. Round steak is naturally tough and therefore cheaper since the hip and leg of the steer bear the load of supporting and moving the animal.

Nevertheless, the round is the cut for you if you want some truly tasty stew meat. Some cheap beef cuts from the round include;

Top Round Steak

Top round steak is cut from the inside of the leg. This cheap cut is large and lean making it ideal for a round roast. Top-round steak has a great beef flavor. It contains very little fat or marbling if any and this lean quality is a mean plus should you choose to go for a round roast recipe.

Alternatively, the top round can be sliced thinly and marinated overnight to soften the tough meat for a stew.

Bottom Round Steak

The bottom round steak is cut from the outer part of the leg adjacent to the top round. This cut is similar to the top round but it is tougher and smaller in size. The bottom round also benefits best from long slow cooking methods such as braising.

You can make rich-flavored cubed steak from the bottom round or you can make ground meat for sumptuous burgers. The bottom round contains almost no fat marbling your ground meat will be pure lean beef which makes the best meat for burgers.

Sirloin Tip Steak

Sirloin tip steak is cut from the front region of the round primal just after the loin. The sirloin tip steak is rich with beef flavor though not as tough as top or bottom round steak which means it can be cooked to perfection by braising slow and long or by tenderizing it to allow for grilling and pan frying.

In my opinion, sirloin tip steak is a great buy on a budget since it has the lean quality that filet mignon is known for at a fraction of the cost. Sirloin steak is also ideal for ground meat as well as stir-frying.

Raw Beef Round Eye Steaks with Herbs on the Board

Best Ways to Prepare and Cook Cheap Beef Cuts

When I cook my beef, I shoot for maximum flavor, enjoyable mouthfeel, and fork-tender softness.

This may not be easy to achieve if you are working with cheap beef cuts which tend to be rather tough. They also tend to be lacking fat marbling which means they can easily dry out during cooking.


My Jaccard Meat Tenderizer has been my trusted companion for years. This tenderizer punches tiny holes into the meat effectively shortening the fibers and allowing the heat to penetrate thoroughly during cooking.

Whole roasts and boneless cuts such as sirloin tip steak, brisket, and flat iron steaks should be tenderized before cooking or marinating to take full advantage of the respective processes.


Some cuts of beef such as brisket have to contend with many hours of cooked time when smoking. Marinating provides an infusion of flavor and also serves to break down and soften tough tissue.

Cut Across the Grain

Slicing thin strips and cutting beef cuts across the grain serves to shorten the fibers allowing them to better absorb marinade and heat.

Beef cuts such as top round steak, skirt steak, sirloin steak, and any beef cuts recommended for stew meat should be sliced thinly and cubed across the grain to achieve the best meat for long slow cooking.

Long Slow Cooking Methods

Cheap beef cuts benefit from long slow cooking methods capable of breaking down tough meat to fork-tender deliciousness. Some of these include smoking, broiling, and braising.

These cooking methods often demand that you monitor and maintain the moisture content so that the meat does not get dry and becomes tough to chew.

Grilled Beef Steaks on Wooden Board

Penning Off…

Chuck eye steaks give you great value for your money since this is a cut that is significantly marbled just like a ribeye and retains the tenderness of tenderloin steak. Despite this, the cut has maintained the low price points that chuck cuts typically sell at.

For great value per pound, consider a large cut such as the brisket which can be sold as single cuts weighing over fifteen pounds. This is a large amount of meat ideal for large parties as well as commercial cooking.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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