For more than two decades, the slogan of the beef industry was, "Beef. It's what's for dinner." Except that in some American households, it wasn't.
And it it's not hard to guess one cause of the downward drift in consumption: According to the USDA, the average price of a pound of beef nearly doubled between 2002 and 2015 ($3.32 versus $6.29). One industry spokesperson dubbed hamburger "the new steak" and steak "the new Maserati."
Enter the Beef Checkoff program, which in collaboration with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, mobilized teams of meat scientists from the University of Florida and the University of Nebraska to come up with affordable alternatives to New York strip steaks, tenderloin, T-bones, and porterhouses.
Their efforts have resulted in some terrific new cuts of beef, such as the popular baseball steak and Vegas strip steak.
Baseball Cut Top Butt Steak/Filet of Sirloin: You would be forgiven for mistaking this steak for filet mignon in its raw state. It sure looks like one. Cut from the center of the top sirloin, this thick (2-inch) medallion of meat domes when grilled, taking on a spherical baseball shape. It is flavorful as well as a good value. Because it's fairly lean, baseball steak benefits from added fat in the form of a compound butter or a circlet of bacon. My favorite method for cooking these steaks is reverse-searing. For maximum juiciness, do not take past medium-rare.
Vegas Strip Steak: Cattle have been domesticated for over 5,000 years. So it raised eyebrows a few years ago when a meat scientist working with the University of Oklahoma applied for a U.S. patent claiming to have "discovered" a new cut of beef. Tony Mata doesn't care if he's controversial. He says that extricating this tender cut (usually condemned to the meat grinder for hamburger) from the fat and gristle of the beefy tasting chuck primal was not intuitive to butchers as it doesn't follow natural muscle seams.
In any case, the Vegas strip steak, which chefs say reminds them of a New York strip, has a glitzy name and its own website. Mata is evasive about the cut's exact location, but the Vegas strip steak is described as "a tender pad of flesh from under the shoulder blade."
Flap Meat/Chuck Tail Flap/Sirloin Tip: From the bottom sirloin butt, this bistro-style cut could easily be confused for skirt steak or hanger steak. (Sometimes, it's labeled "faux hanger steak.") It's a meat lover's meat, intensely beefy. Its coarse texture embraces flavor-enhancing marinades as well as dry or wet rubs. Less expensive than flank steak and a terrific choice for Thai Grilled Beef Salad, Mexican carne asada, or fajitas.
Flap meat takes just minutes to cook to medium-rare, so have your side dishes and/or condiments ready before you commit to grilling. For maximum tenderness, slice each steak with the grain (its fibers run crosswise) into 2-inch pieces, then slice each piece into thin strips against the grain.
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Steven Raichlen is the author of the Barbecue! Bible cookbook series and the host of Project Smoke on public television. His web site is BarbecueBible.com.