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How to shop for and prepare beef on a budget

March 11, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Americans eat nearly 63 pounds of beef per person per year, but food costs are up and so many cuts are pricey. We have the 411 from butchers on how to shop for and prepare beef in the most economical way.

There are no packaged meats at Lindy & Grundy Meats where Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura are considered blue-ribbon butchers.

And while they cater to a high-end clientele, they're economical and efficient when utilizing this popular protein. They gave us the 411 on the best in cuts when cash is tight. Currently, we spend more than half our beef dollars on burger, which is fine with Nakamura.

"I think if you really want to feed your family well and remain economically friendly, a hamburger is really the way to go," said Nakamura. "A pound of ground beef, if you make pasta sauce out of it, that's going to last you a long time. You are going to be able to feed a good 10 people."

A four-ounce serving of beef provides 27 to 30 grams of protein, more than half of what most need in a day. So sticking to that portion helps stretch food dollars.

"I'm always a huge fan of London broil, it's old school," said Posada. "But it's a great economical cut, especially if you are feeding more than a couple of people."

She also likes the faux hangar steak also known at the sirloin flap or Bavette. Beef contains B vitamins, iron, other minerals and protein, but grass-fed cows offer better nutrition than grain fed.

While grass-fed does cost a pretty penny, you're going to get a protein that is lower in calories, slightly higher in omega 3 fats and lower in saturated fat. The USDA also requires that they're antibiotic and hormone free. But less fat means shorter cooking time. Slow and low is often the way to go.

"We always bring our meat to room temperature before we cook it so you can get it a nice even brown and it will cook evenly," said Posada.

About 10 minutes is good. You'll also want to use a meat thermometer. Then let the meat rest to allow juices to pull back in before slicing. They suggest cutting across the grain to reduce chances of stringy meat.