Meat Lovers: No Need to  Pay Up for Prime Rib

Meat lovers don’t have to spend a lot to enjoy a wonderful meal. Inexpensive cuts of beef, pork and chicken can be delicious, too—if you know how to select and prepare them. Some of the most delicious preparation options come from foreign cultures, where cuts of meat that are somewhat overlooked in the US receive more respect. Here, three reasonably priced cuts of meat, plus a recipe for each…


Chuck steak costs 40% to 50% less than prime rib, yet it can be just as tender and delicious…if you buy the right piece of chuck. Simply ask your butcher to point out the “first cut” of chuck. This is the section of the chuck that was immediately next to the prime rib before the animal was butchered—and it has almost exactly the same flavor and texture as prime rib. It is wonderful grilled…in pot roast…in beef stew…and cut into strips for stir-fry.

Quick and easy preparation: Cut the steak into slices around one-quarter-inch thick, and season with salt and pepper. Heat a pan over very high heat, then cook the slices of meat for 30 to 40 seconds on each side.

beef with black beans and pepperBeef, Black Bean and Ginger Stir-Fry 

1 pound first-cut chuck steak, well-trimmed, sliced across the grain into strips ?-to-¼-inch thick

2 generous Tablespoons fermented black beans, rinsed (available in Asian grocery stores)

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

¼ cup chicken broth or beef stock

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

1 piece fresh ginger, around ½-inch long, crushed with skin on

3 Tablespoons peanut oil

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

2 large garlic cloves, minced

3 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise

2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tablespoon cold water

Mash the black beans coarsely with a fork in a mixing bowl. Add the soy sauce, broth/stock, salt and sugar. Whisk until the solids dissolve, then whisk in the sesame oil and crushed ginger. Let sit for 30 minutes, then remove the ginger.

Heat a 14-inch wok or pan over high heat. Coat the cooking surface with the peanut oil. Add the minced ginger and garlic as soon as the oil begins to smoke. Stir for five to 10 seconds until fragrant, then arrange the steak slices in a single layer on the cooking surface. Let these cook undisturbed until lightly browned, perhaps 45 to 60 seconds. Add the scallions, and flip the beef slices to cook on the other side.

Add the ginger/bean sauce and dissolved cornstarch to the wok, stirring well. Cook, stirring regularly, for an additional minute or so, until the beef is cooked through and the sauce has thickened but still is somewhat fluid. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired. Serves two.


Picnic shoulder roast and Boston butt are delicious cuts from the shoulder of the pig. (Picnic shoulder roast is sometimes called upper-arm roast.) You can buy one large enough to feed four people for $10, much cheaper than a pork loin roast.

Easy preparation: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Use a pastry brush to spread a mixture of olive oil, garlic salt and pepper on the roast. Set it in a roasting pan, then roast until a meat thermometer shows an internal temperature of 160°F to 170°F, which should take around four-and-a-half hours.

Cuban-Style Roast Pork

Pork1 6-to-8-lb. bone-in, skin-on pork picnic shoulder or Boston butt

2 large heads garlic, cloves peeled—1 head sliced, the other minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons ground cumin seed

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

Finely grated zest of 1 lime

1½ teaspoons ground black pepper

2½ Tablespoons kosher salt

10 bay leaves—five ground, five whole

1 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced

5 cups fresh orange juice

1½ cups fresh lime juice

In a mixing bowl, combine the sliced garlic, oregano, thyme, cumin seed, ­orange and lime zests, one teaspoon of the pepper, one-and-a-half tablespoons of the salt and the five bay leaves that have been ground or finely crumbled.

Heat one-half cup of the olive oil to a gentle simmer. Pour this over the mixing bowl ingredients. Transfer to a food processor, and process for around 30 seconds, until it forms a loose paste.

Use a sharp knife to score through the skin, fat and one-quarter inch of the flesh of the pork at one-and-a-half-inch intervals to form a diamond crisscross pattern across the entire skin side of the meat. Rub the mixture from the food processor all over the meat, working it into the slits. Place the pork in a dish, cover with foil, and leave to marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove the pork from the fridge, and let it return to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the pork skin-side down on a rack in a roasting pan, and roast for three hours, basting occasionally. Turn it skin-side up, and roast for another one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours, until the temperature at the middle is 160°F to 170°F. (Cover with foil if the pork is browning too quickly.)

While the meat is roasting, combine the remaining one-half cup of olive oil, the minced garlic and the five whole bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for around one minute, stirring occasionally, without browning the garlic. Stir in the onion…the remaining one tablespoon of ­kosher salt…and the remaining one-half teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Return to a simmer, and cook for another minute. Combine the orange and lime juices, then whisk the mixture from the small saucepan into this juice. Salt to taste.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board, and let rest for 45 minutes, then slice. Douse with a portion of the juice mixture, and serve the remaining juice mixture alongside. Serves six to eight.


Chicken legs and thighs, the dark meat of the bird, are moister and more flavorful than the white meat—and less expensive. Keep the skin on and remove after cooking, if desired, to reduce the odds that the meat will dry out.

Quick and easy preparation: Butterfly the legs or thighs by running a knife along the bone, cutting through the meat and taking the bone out. Heat a pan over medium heat, then add a little olive oil. Cook the chicken for three to four minutes per side.

Malaysian-Spice Fried Chicken

Chicken3 lbs. chicken thighs (16 to 18 pieces), cut in half along the bone

1 cup thinly sliced shallots

1 piece fresh ginger, around 1-inch long, peeled and thinly sliced

1 Tablespoon ground coriander seed

2 teaspoons each turmeric, cinnamon and ground fennel seed

1 teaspoon each ground cumin seed and ground black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

2 Tablespoons sugar

½ cup unsweetened coconut milk

Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying

6 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon soy sauce

1½ teaspoons powdered mustard

1 or more hot red chilis, thinly sliced

Use a food processor to make a paste from the shallots, ginger, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, fennel, cumin, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cloves, salt and two teaspoons of the sugar. Add the coconut milk, and process to incorporate.

Place the chicken in a large bowl, and mix with this spice paste until the chicken is thoroughly covered. Refrigerate for three to 24 hours, then remove from the fridge and let sit at room temperature for around 45 minutes.

Fill a 12-inch, straight-sided skillet to a depth of one-half to one inch with peanut or vegetable oil. Bring the oil to 365°F over high heat. Preheat your oven to 200°F. Place half of the coated chicken pieces into the hot oil, skin-side down. Fry for four to five minutes, until the chicken is a deep reddish brown where the spice paste has adhered to it. Turn the chicken over, and cook for four minutes more or until cooked through.

Drain the chicken, and keep warm in the oven while frying the second batch.

Make a dipping sauce with Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, soy sauce, mustard, chili(s) and one tablespoon plus one teaspoon sugar. Serves four.