How to Turn One Cut of Beef Into Two Totally Different Dinners
These cuts are particularly stretchable — and the leftovers won't be boring on night two.
Proteins are probably among the priciest items on your grocery list — so you want to shop strategically, especially when choosing cuts of beef. I sat down with butcher Cara Nicoletti — author, winner of Chopped and founder of Seemore Meats & Veggies — for her best advice on how to turn a single cut of beef into two-fer dinners.
Cara smartly suggests striving to find a balance of ingredients. If one night’s dinner is roast beef, pivot to a vegetable-rich dinner the next night that uses leftover meat in a supporting role. This ensures you'll have variety, while getting the most bang for your buck. Here are some tips and ideas to help you settle into this mindset.
Buy cuts of beef with leftovers in mind.
Look for cuts of beef that afford you flexibility. This means focusing on the larger pieces that are easy to find at the grocery store: bottom round, tri-tip and chuck roast.
Cara describes these cuts as the "working muscle" type of cuts, so they can be on the tougher side. So when working with a big piece of meat like these, it generally means braising or slow-roasting for the best texture and flavor. And after you've eaten your first meal, these cuts' versatility means they're also great paired with new flavors later in the week.
Ah, chuck roast. So affordable, such great flavor. Cara notes that this guy is definitely too tough cut into steaks, so it's best suited for a pot roast or stew.
if you have a big 4-pound or larger roast, you can also cut off about 1 pound, freeze it for 20 minutes, and slice it really thin across the grain. Then you can give it a quick marinade and use it in a stir fry — here’s a stir-fry recipe that’s great for chuck.
Cara finds this to be a great lean piece to cook like a roast beef: you can sear it, then roast it in the oven, no need for a braise. You can even cut off a few steaks (a.k.a. cube steaks) to enjoy on the grill — but always tenderize it first. Or did someone say chicken fried steak? Yes, please!
This one is great for a low-and-slow braise. But you can also get nice 1-inch-wide steaks from the tri-tip and grill them up — like in this tri-tip steak with mushrooms recipe.
Make These Cuts Pull Double-Duty
Did you choose your cut? Here are three plans I worked out with Cara for starting with a roast and flipping it into a whole new encore dinner the next night.
1. Pot roast today, pasta ragu tomorrow.
Day 1: Use a chuck roast for a cozy low-and-slow dinner, like Food Network Kitchen's Best Pot Roast.
Day 2: Take the leftover roast and warm it with your favorite tomato sauce. Simmer it 'til the meat is warmed through and falling-apart tender. Then serve over pasta topped with lots of parmesan cheese. We also love Michael Symon's version of a recipe like this.
2. Pastrami today, tacos tomorrow.
Day 1: Make Jeff Mauro’s pastrami-rubbed smoked tri-tip. It's perfect for tonight and a day-two segue. When you're done eating, shred the leftovers while they're still warm and save it in a little of the sauce.
Day 2: Re-warm the beef in a small pot with enough roasted red salsa to coat it and serve it up with tortillas and taco fixings.
3. Roast today, pho-inspired soup tomorrow.
Day 1: Use a bottom round for a cozy low-and-slow pot roast with mushroom gravy.
Day 2: Heat one quart of chicken or beef broth in a medium pot over medium-high heat, while whisking in your leftover pot roast sauce. Simmer with a stick of cinnamon and one star anise pod for 15 minutes. Break up your leftover beef and warm it in the broth. Combine with cooked rice noodles and serve in bowls topped with fresh basil, mint and bean sprouts.
Depending on your needs, some cuts are better than others.