This was previously published on Justin Wants to Feed You.
Top sirloin is the best deal on the whole beef. Lean, moderately tender, and flavorful, it’s as close to “fast, cheap, and good” as you can get, without being the cheapest. It doesn’t need marinade, just some salt and pepper. A top sirloin steak usually weighs around a pound: enough for three generous servings, since there’s almost no waste.
A slightly better cut is the sirloin tip, which is cut from a triangular flap that caps the sirloin. The tip is cut into short, thick steaks that, at their widest, are about half a pound: a nice serving size. But since the tips come in all sizes, and they’re a little more tender than regular top sirloin, they’re perfect for kebabs. Sirloin is also a good choice to cut up for kebabs.
Skirt steak and flank steak are both similar to hanger in their coarse grain and rich flavor. Skirt steak is the original cut for fajitas—fajita means “belt” in Spanish, another word for this cut—and is fattier than flank, which has a finer grain and is fairly lean. Both should be marinated and seared to crackling over a high flame. Skirt is very thin and will cook quickly, but that’s okay: you want your skirt more well done than either a sirloin or a flank steak, which are both better on the medium-rare side of the spectrum.
Ground beef is your cheapest grilling option, tasty, and easy to prepare. You can mix ground beef with other ground meats, like lamb and pork, or add flavorful seasonings like minced thyme, basil, garlic, and onion. Seasoned meatballs can be skewered and grilled as kebabs.
Shoulder chops are at least as much fun to eat as ribs, and if you can’t find enough shoulder chops, add some arm chops to the mix. These cuts are relatively cheap for lamb, flavorful, and with a marinade and the grill, become an exotic feast the whole family will be gnawing off the bones. Like other fatty, gristly cuts, you want to cook them fairly well done.
Leg of lamb is the most elegant and versatile cut. It’s so tender that it needs no marinade, and like the beef sirloin, flavorful despite scant marbling. Cut it up into kebabs, grill leg steaks or a whole, boneless leg, butterflied. Leg is good grilled as rare or medium as you like.
Ground lamb, seasoned with herbs and onion, is delicious as a patty or a meatball kebab. Try seasoning the ground meat with mint and green onions, or garlic and rosemary, plus salt and pepper, before forming and grilling.
Most pork is pretty lean, and easy to dry out. If you grill a tenderloin, use plenty of oil in the marinade. Fatty loin chops, rib or center cut, are also good choices for grilling and broiling. My favorite seasoning for a pork chop is ground coriander.
For a nice, fatty cut, try country-style boneless pork ribs. Traditions vary by culture and region, but the cut I’m talking about should be cut from the shoulder, or butt, and have a generous amount of fat on them. Baste them with barbecue sauce as you grill them on a medium flame. Internal temp should reach at least 140 degrees F. on all cooked products containing pork. Shoot for 150, but don’t let it get to 160 or it will be tough and dry.
Ground pork, seasoned with Italian sausage spices like fennel seed and garlic, makes a delicious grilled patty. Try fresh ginger and green onions with a splash of tamari for an Asian-style grilled pork patty.