5 Inexpensive Cuts of Meat to Wow Your Guests This Holiday Season
The holidays are here.
Twinkling lights and glittering displays, gift giving and cookie exchanges, hot cocoa and holiday movies, festive feasts and delicious eats — it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
But, it’s also the most expensive time of the year. Between buying gifts for loved ones, traveling to see family, attending various holiday functions, the last thing we want to spend extra money on is the Christmas Roast. While we adore seeing friends and celebrating the season, the combination of more holiday gatherings and higher grocery prices this winter can be a big stressor.
That’s why we’re here to help with your holiday dinner. Want to impress your guests within a budget? We’ve got recipes for five inexpensive cuts of meat that will not only wow your family and friends, but save you money this holiday season.
Inexpensive Cuts of Meat for Your Holiday Meals
Beef Brisket and Chuck Roast
Although many people feel that they need to pull out all the stops with expensive beef dishes like short ribs or beef tenderloin, others can be just as flavorful for a fraction of the price.
Among our list of inexpensive cuts of meat: Brisket and chuck roast.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average price of chuck roast is $7.30 per pound, while short ribs come in around $13.99 per pound for much less meat. Brisket is significantly cheaper than buying a beef tenderloin, with the former costing $8.99 per pound on average and the latter ranging anywhere from $20-35 per pound.
Brisket is the breast of the cow, while chuck comes from the shoulder. Both are made up of more muscle fibers and connective tissues than the back half of the cow, making them tougher cuts of meat — and therefore cheaper.
But, just like your toughest in-laws at the holidays, these cuts just need a little extra time and care to yield the best results.
For tangy, tender, fall-apart meat, use a braising method for your brisket like this Tangy Brisket with Fennel and Herbs from Bon Appétit or this Holiday Beef Brisket with Onions from Food and Wine. Or make life even easier for yourself this holiday season and break out the slow cooker for this Tangy Spiced Brisket from Smitten Kitchen.
Chuck roast is the perfect vessel for seasonal flavors like winter berries, hard herbs and citrus. Get your guests in the holiday spirit with Half Baked Harvest’s Cranberry Pot Roast or this Pomegranate Braised Pot Roast from Food52. For something more classic, make this Beef Bourguignon recipe from The Food Network.
The best part? All three go perfectly with warm, buttery potatoes and a big glass of red wine.
Ground beef at the holidays? Yes, you can!
Although many think of this cheap meat ($5.23 per pound on average) as a weeknight staple, a little extra work can transform humble ground beef into the star of the show. This Shepherd’s Pie recipe from AllRecipes is a classic way to wrap cozy, holiday favorites in one, delicious package. Want to make it extra festive? Decorate the mashed potato topper with a rosemary wreath or tree.
Or take a page from Italy.
Italians have been using ground beef in show stopping pasta and rice bakes such as Timballo and Sartu di Riso for years. While both dishes involve extra steps and careful assembly, your family and friends will be thrilled and impressed by the special presentation and international flare. For an easy, make ahead marvel, try this Baked Bolognese. Everyone will love this comforting dish that’s big on flavor, but shockingly simple to put together.
Pork Shoulder or Pork Butt
Despite the different names, both pork shoulder and pork butt come from the shoulder of the pig, making them slightly tougher pieces of meat. But, like their beef shoulder counterparts above, roasting your pork shoulder low and slow will give you incredibly tender, impressive and delicious results. Pork shoulder and pork butt are extremely economical, averaging $3.74 per pound and can easily feed a crowd.
Try roasting your pork overnight like in this recipe from The Food Network to save both time and money. This Garlicky Roast Pork Shoulder from Food and Wine is flavorful and versatile for any occasion. Or infuse your pork with the mouthwatering holiday flavors of Bon Appétit’s Burnt Orange and Coriander Roast Pork. Even your critical great Aunt will be impressed. For something with a little more heat, Alison Roman’s Pork Pozole makes entertaining for a crowd both easy and delicious.
Stretch your pork shoulder or pork butt even further by using the leftovers for pork tacos the next day.
Chicken Legs and Thighs
While turkey and stuffed chicken breasts often take centerstage at the holidays, chicken legs and thighs are the perfect alternative. They are both significantly cheaper at $1.92 per pound on average and much easier to not overcook. No complaints about dry chicken this year!
Alison Roman’s Olive Oil Roasted Chicken with Caramelized Carrots is a one pot dinner that roasts the chicken low and slow until it falls off the bone. (Plus it provides a delicious, schmaltzy olive oil ready for bread sopping — yum!). These Cranberry Balsamic Chicken Thighs from Eating Well are a delicious and perfectly festive option that can easily be doubled for larger dinner parties. Want to try something a little more classic? Impress your guests with Coq au Vin using this recipe from Once Upon a Chef or the iconic Julia Child version from The Endless Meal. It can even be made up to two days ahead to save you more time.
So, skip the unnecessary expenses this holiday season and save on meat! Creating a memorable holiday meal for friends and family doesn’t need to break the bank.
Contributor Michele Becker is a Boston based writer who specializes in food, as well as Italian travel and history.