In that your humble blogger has recently become the proud owner of a respectable outdoor grill (it’s a honey), you can pretty much count on more columns devoted to this subject starting with today. 

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But first, I must admit to a momentary lapse of good judgment. Wanting to initiate this bad boy in a manner consistent with its awesome capabilities, I visited the website of Lobel’s of New York, “the best source for the finest and freshest USDA prime dry-aged steaks, roasts, specialty meats, and gourmet products that money can buy.” Unveiling the mother of all outdoor grills seemed like an event worthy of a few high-quality American Wagyu steaks delivered overnight on a bed of dry ice. I checked the price. Gulp! One 16-oz Porterhouse steak: $118.98—plus overnight shipping. 

Just the thought of forking over a hundred and fifty bucks on a single steak jerked me back to reality with enough force to cause whiplash. Surely there has to be frugal ground somewhere between Lobel’s and what’s left of the buy-one-get-one-free hotdogs sitting in the freezer.

Professional butcher John Smith, Confessions of a Butcher, says that the cheap cuts of beef are often the most flavorful. And also the toughest. But don’t let that discourage you from buying those meat-counter bargains. If you know the tricks you can buy the flavorful cheaper cuts of meat without ending up with meat that is bland and tough. 

SELECT FIRST. Don’t get your mind set on what you’ll be grilling this weekend before you get to the store. That particular cut may not be on sale. Instead go with an open mind. Zero-in on the cuts of meat that are in season, plentiful and well-priced. And if it’s really cheap? Buy extra for the freezer. 

MARINADE. Marinade is the secret to making a tough cut of meat as succulent and tender as a prime cut. Just make sure your marinade of choice contains acids like vinegar, lemon and wine. Acid breaks down the meat to make it tender. Enzymatic action from wine, beer, cider and soy sauce also helps.

Here’s my favorite marinade for any cut of beef, even kabobs. This is so flavorful and loaded with tenderizing acids, you’re going to understand why I call this miracle in a jar. 

  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup white wine or balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ground dry mustard
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons ground cloves

Combine all ingredients in a jar or other container that has a lid. Shake well until fully mixed. Pour over meat and cover. Allow to marinade overnight or longer, turning often. 

Enjoy!

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