Q. When can you “skimp” on meat and use inexpensive cuts? For what recipes? —Lizzie, Omro
A. Meat cuts can be broken down into two basic categories: tender cuts and less tender cuts. These categories are determined by where the cuts come from on the carcass of the animal. Muscles that move more are generally tougher than muscles that move less. The easy way to remember this is that we pay for tenderness: the more tender the muscle, the higher the price. For this reason steaks and chops tend to be more expensive and shoulders, legs and shanks tend to be less expensive. Since less expensive cuts tend to be the less tender cuts, they lead us toward moist preparation methods that will allow the connective tissues in the muscles to break down over time and make them tender and delicious. Moist heat cooking preparations include braising, stewing, poaching and steaming. Any recipe that includes moist heat cooking methods would provide us with the opportunity to “skimp” and buy less expensive cuts. In summary, it makes the most economic sense for us to buy the cut that best suits our intended purpose, and prepare it in a manner that will provide the best possible finished product.