If you’re on a budget, or simply don’t have access to quality meats and seafood, it doesn’t mean you still can’t eat like royalty. There are so many hacks, recipes, and tips to make even the cheapest cut of meat or piece of seafood taste divine.
Here are 55 of the best tips, tricks, recipes, and hacks for any and every cut of meat or seafood.
Almost every single cut of meat has the potential to be melt-in-your-mouth good if it’s cooked properly. One excellent technique to toughen up the cheap cuts is to cook it in a slow cooker at a low heat over a long period of time. It will lock in moisture and soak in the flavors of any other ingredient you threw inside. Yum!
Hearing the words ‘acidic marinade’ might bring thoughts of sourness to your head, but we promise it won’t be the case. Marinate your tough cuts of meat or lower-quality pieces of fish in lemon, vinegar, yogurt, or buttermilk. It will tenderize them in no time–plus add a little kick of flavor!
If steak is what you’re preparing, like chuck steak, flank steak, or flat iron steak, these cuts can be quite tough if not properly tenderized. Make them tender and flavorful by applying a generous salt rub before cooking. Coat the entire steak with a thick layer of coarse salt, let it sit on the counter for one hour per each inch of thickness. Wash the salt off, season as usual, and cook!
To help lock in moisture of your seafood, mayo is an excellent ingredient. It might sound strange, but it’s actually quite delicious. In a bowl, mix mayo and whatever seasonings you’d like, give the fish a light coating of the mixture and cook like usual. It will prevent the seafood from drying out and losing flavor.
Marinate any cut of meat in beer for about one hour or so before grilling if you want a juicy, flavorful steak. The beer will add a lovely flavor to the cut and it’s natural acids and tannins will make sure it’s nice and tender.
“Brewing a strong pot of coffee (and chilling it) creates a natural tenderizer. Similarly, a coffee rub helps to break down the meat and add a beautiful, rich flavor to your steak,” says Daily Meal.
If it’s frozen fish that you’ll be preparing, be sure to let it thaw completely before cooking–at least 30 minutes. If not, the shock from cold to hot can dry out your fish or cause it to cook too quickly.
Ginger isn’t just a super delicious ingredient, but it’s actually perfect for helping tenderize tough cuts of meats. It has proteolytic enzymes which will make even the toughest steak much more juicy and tender.
Beef chuck is a very economical cut of meat but it’s also full of connective tissue that can be quite tough to eat if not cooked properly. Using beef chuck to make beef bourguignon is sure to make it melt in your mouth. Try using Julia Child’s famous recipe! Here’s how.
You might think of pork when it comes to using pineapple juice while cooking, but it’s actually a wonderful ingredient for steaks too. It will make your meat nice and sweet, and the naturally occurring-bromelain will break down the steak’s collagen.
“One way to make tougher meats tender starts with your knife and fork (or on your cutting board). Cutting meat “across the grain” simply means cutting crosswise through the long muscle fibers in the meat. Breaking them up makes meat more tender. So when you’re carving a steak for serving, take note which way the muscle fibers are running and cut across them,” says Eating Well.
No need to take sides if you prefer Coke or Pepsi with this hack–any soda will do! Once again, the acid in the soda is the real hero here and will make your cheaper cuts of meat nice and tender. Just marinate for about an hour.
Tilapia is a very inexpensive fish, but sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with it. Try tacos! Fish tacos are always a crowd-pleaser and when done right, they won’t actually taste “fishy” at all. Here’s a delicious recipe for Tequila Lime Fish Tacos.
Of course, drinking wine while eating steak is always lovely, but actually marinating your meat in wine works wonders when it comes to tenderizing. Wine’s natural tannins will make it tender while the acids help retain flavor. Delish!
Beef shanks are another cut of meat that tends to be a little tough if not cooked properly. However, it’s really an overlooked piece of meat and is very delicious! This recipe for beef shanks and cabbage stew is super budget-friendly and tastes oh-so-yummy.
“If you’re more a fan of tea than coffee, this delicate beverage will work just as well for steak. Tea is packed with tenderizing tannins. Adding some strongly brewed tea will bring an earthy flavor to your steak and give it a beautiful tender texture,” says Daily Meal.
Sometimes the issue of tough and chewy meat is just a matter of not cooking it to its proper temperature. Both overcooking and undercooking can lead to a piece of meat that isn’t very enjoyable to nosh on. “Depending on the cut of meat you’re dealing with, taking most quick cooking steaks (sirloin for example) to medium (or 140 degrees) is a good bet. The exception to this rule are tougher cuts of meat like brisket that need to be cooked for longer to become tender,” says Eating Well.
Cod is another wonderful fish that can be purchased on a budget. Make your cod extra fancy and delicious with this yummy cod with miso butter recipe. This is the perfect dish if you want to ‘wow’ your dinner guests.
A tried-and-true method to tenderizing meat is to pound the heck out of it! Take cube steak, for example, it only becomes tender after being beaten with a mallet for a few minutes. It helps break away any muscle fibers that would otherwise be making the meat tough.
Skirt steak can be chewy and tough, but if marinated properly, it can be very delicious. A great marinade for this cut of meat is a soy-based sauce. Let it sit for a few hours and grill over a very high heat. Yum! Here’s a great recipe.
Just like letting fish thaw, it’s a good idea to make sure your meat comes to room temperature before cooking. This is even more important when dealing with grass-fed beef or lean cuts of meat because they have less fat which means they’re less forgiving if overcooked. Let meat sit on the counter for around 30 minutes before cooking.
Catfish can be purchased for as little as $6 per serving. But this fish can have a muddy and fishy taste if it’s not seasoned and cooked properly. Try this jerk-rubbed catfish recipe for a mouth-watering dinner that your family will love.
Even if you’ve cooked your meat perfectly, it can be tough and chewy if you don’t let it rest. Here’s the general rule: let rest for five minutes per inch of thickness for steaks or ten minutes per pound if you’re dealing with a roast. Resting will allow the juices to redistribute in the meat instead of spilling out all over the cutting board.
“Your seller can point you to budget buys or specials. “I keep a Rolodex of customers to call when I get a fresh shipment. We’re always trying new fish, and that’s a great way to get good value,” says Frank Tornetta, buyer for the busy seafood department at George’s Dreshertown Shop n’ Bag this link opens in a new tab near Philadelphia,” Cooking Light explains.
If you need to serve a crowd on a relatively cheap budget, roast beef is the way to go. The recipe calls for a tough cut, like rump roast, and cook it slowly for about two or three hours. Here’s the full recipe.
The trimmings and heads of fish aren’t exactly the most delectable looking pieces of fish, but they’re actually really great for making chowders and soups. You can also purchase these pieces of fish at a bargain. Here’s a tasty recipe for fish and potato chowder.
“Pot roast is a traditional one-pot meal that works just as well for a family dinner as for a dinner party. And with the affordable prices of a beef chuck roast, you could potentially have one every Sunday,” says Wise Bread.
The bones and connective tissue of steak-cut fish like salmon, halibut, or cod help retain all of its moisture. And for the same reason, the skin-on fillets are a better choice than ones without skin. Since they haven’t been as cut or processed, they are often cheaper than other cuts.
A great way to make a cheaper cut of meat tastier than ever is to tuck a little treat in there, like garlic! First, crush a clove of garlic and rub it all over the steak. Then, tuck a crushed clove underneath the corner of a cutlet. You can also roll it up in thinner cuts of meat. Try this with other herbs as well.
Make delicious shredded BBQ beef without having to slow cook it by braising it instead. Braising will allow you to easily cook a beef chuck on the stove and give it that delicious shredded texture. Here’s an easy recipe.
“Seasonings can’t penetrate meat very deeply, so when you dry rub in advance, you give them more time to anchor their flavor stronger on the surface rather than deeper into the meat. To hurry it up a bit, adding salt in the rub will lock them in faster, if not farther,” says Thrillist.
Canned or jarred seafood is very inexpensive and can actually be quite tasty if you know what you’re doing. For example, one can of red salmon only costs about $4 and can be used to create delicious Mediterranean Salmon Cakes. Here’s the recipe.
This might be a cheap trick, but it actually works. If you incorporate a little bit of sugar into your rub it will help the protein form what’s called a Maillard crust. Plus, sugar will hit your tongue and turn on receptors in your brain that make you happy!
Transform your bargain protein into a restaurant-quality meal by using the sous vide technique. It’s basically a fancy term for cooking your meat very low and slow in hot water using an immersion circulator. Circulators aren’t very expensive and would pay for itself over just a couple meals.
Here’s a meal that costs just $1.45 per serving and is absolutely mouth-watering. “The nice thing about this is that you can use any white fish you want, so just go with whatever is least expensive at the grocery store. Pair it with a side of roasted veggies for a full meal. Get the recipe here,” says Self.
If you have time to spare, dry-aging your meat is a sure-fire way to make it very tasty and tender. This process uses the meat’s own enzymes to break down all the muscle tissues, making it melt in your mouth. Here’s how to do it at home.
Here’s another fancy-sounding meal that is very inexpensive to make at just $1.66 per serving. Mussels are generally very affordable and are really yummy. You can serve six people for under $6. Here’s how to make it.
This method might not be for everyone but it will definitely help tenderize tough cuts of meat. Baking soda alkalizes the surface of the meat which hampers the bonds in the protein. Some people love this method, others feel that the lingering baking soda taste isn’t for them.
Stir-frying your meat will elevate its flavor without too much fuss. Mix up some egg whites in water along with some corn starch to make a thin coating. Splash in a little soy sauce and fry it up for moist, tender meat.