Saddlebum’s Savvy

Steak is getting mighty expensive! Is “Chuck Steak” an option? sausage making

If you’re watching your budget, but just have to have an occasional great steak in order to survive, consider “Chuck Steaks” – great alternatives to more expensive steaks. Cut from the primal cut, the chuck eye steak is unsurpassed if you know how to cook it. Please don’t be reluctant to talk to your butcher to know just what you are getting, and don’t be afraid to use a good home-made marinade. Chuck steaks are simply not as tender as their more expensive companions and they will benefit from a good saline-based, protein-altering, soaking solution. The best marinades have always been wine marinades, but the substitutions are immeasurable. Marinating will make any chuck steak more tender… as long as you don’t overcook the thing! They are perfect at medium-rare, but tough when cooked any longer.

Some of the best beefsteaks come from the rib and loin sections of cattle. That’s also where the most expensive cuts of meat are located. To save some of those hard-earned sheckles, let’s look seriously at the “chuck” – the primal cut just above the rib primal. This area includes the shoulder which encloses a number of intersecting muscles that can make chuck steaks tough. The muscles here, also cause the grain of the meat to change several times in a single cut. It’s always best to ask the butcher if you have questions or doubts about a cut you wish to purchase.

For some irrational reason, retail marketers just love to label their steaks with nonstandard names. For instance, have you ever had a “Flat Iron” steak? Not sure? It’s also called the “Shoulder Top Blade”. Some folks call it the “Top Boneless Chuck Steak”, or “Petite Steak”. It’s also known as a “Lifter Steak“, “Triangle Steak“, “Book Steak“, “Chuck Clod Top Blade“, or “Butler Steak“. It is a perfectly tender steak for the grill and its characteristic marbling gives it plenty of flavor.

Not all steaks were meant for the grill. Some benefit from slow cooking in a liquid to help breakdown tough connective tissue. For grilling, a higher-quality steak is always worthwhile for the simple reason that meat will become only tougher as it is cooked. For this reason, most steaks are grilled only at medium or medium rare to insure the tenderness of a great steak. On the ranch, there was no such thing as a steak “well done”, and anyone asking for such an incomprehensible abomination, would be quickly led by the arm, down to the creek by big “Iron Mike” Kelly. Anyone asking for catsup on their steak, would usually find a rope ‘round their neck within record-breaking time.

A “Chuck Eye Steak” is cut from the area next to the ribeye steak. It’s the best of the chuck steaks and compared to the rib eye, it is always offered at a great price. It is a perfect grilling-steak and doesn’t require any marinating. Grill the steak with only a bit of salt and pepper and brush it with a little melted butter before serving it.

The “Shoulder Center” or “Ranch Steak” is thin and tender… if you don’t overcook it! It isn’t as fat as other chucks steaks, so you might think it is a bit less flavorful than other cuts. Why not try brushing it with a little virgin olive oil and sprinkling on salt, pepper, and some basic herbs. Don’t walk away from this steak as it cooks! It’s thin and will be done before you know it.

Perhaps you’ve seen “Shoulder Petite Tender”, or “Mock Tender Steak”. It comes from the area next to the Top Blade. This steak will definitely need a marinade if you intend to grill it.

Everyone, it seems, has had “Chuck Steak”. It’s cut from the meat next to the Chuck Eye Steak but lacks the tenderness of the chuck eye. To become tender, this steak definitely needs to be marinated before you cook it. Although the Chuck Steak is a flavorful cut of meat, it is not one of the best steak choices for the grill.

The “Shoulder Steak” like the Chuck Steak, is a tougher cut of meat and should be marinated before cooking. Yup pard, you guessed it! It is not one of the best steak choices for the grill, unless… you cut it across the grain into pieces for use in recipes like fajitas etc.

Chuck steaks require a little more care than more expensive cuts, but the savings makes them worth the effort. Be sure you know how to properly grill a steak and if you need to marinade a chuck steak to make it more tender, try soaking it five or six hours in a non-fruity, red, subtle wine such as burgundy.

Best Wishes,



Peelin’ A Ton Of Spuds! 

Have you got a ton of potatoes to peel for a deluge of relatives? A concourse of people? A horde of cousins, aunts, uncles, and strays? Are you one of those folks who just hate peeling potatoes? Folks are going to want potato salad and mashed ‘taters n’ gravy! Shucks, it would be nice to watch the rest of the game without having to peel ten pounds of those dang tubers for “compny’-comin’ dinner”. Well pards, here’s some good news. Just take yer’ ol’ trusty (not rusty), sharp, pocketknife and open the spay blade. Or, use a good, small, sharp, paring kitchen knife and follow these instructions:

If you are right-handed, place a potato in your left hand and twist it 360° (the full circumference of the spud), as your right hand presses a knife blade very slightly through the peeling. Only a sixteenth of an inch will do the trick. Now, cook the potato by boiling it as you’ve always done. When it has cooked, use cold water to cool the potato. The skins will slip right off! No special tools or techniques here. Just “saddlebum savvy”.

Best Wishes,