Lifestyle SmartNews

The kitchen rut: Making the most of your cuts of meat


I have the best of intentions. I’m sure you do too.

But then, life happens, and boom your freezer is full of all the cuts of meat that you are tired of, bored with, or simply don’t know what to do with.

The internet can be an overwhelming place of recipes. I can start to get decision paralysis when looking for recipes online, and then my husband and I end up with a frozen pizza and a freezer of home-raised beef and pork that I don’t have a plan for.

Here’s my secret, I’m not great in the kitchen. Growing up, my mom was busy building a farm from the dirt up and raising three girls with very little outside help. She didn’t have a ton of time to make a lot of home-cooked meals. Dad was zero help in the kitchen unless it was hot dogs or pancakes. So I didn’t learn a lot of the kitchen “essentials” from them.

As an adult, especially in the past year, I’ve delved in to cooking good, wholesome food for my husband and I. My favorite thing, recently, to make is homemade bread and dough for cinnamon rolls and pizza. The thing is, I’m not an expert, and I mess a lot of things up. But you’re not going to learn if you don’t try.

So experiment. Try the things and don’t be afraid to mess up.

I’m always looking for a list with options for each beef cut that I pull out of the freezer. My hope is you can save this or print it off and stick it on your freezer for some easy inspiration when you’re pulling out meat to thaw or meal planning. Add your own favorite recipes. Then you’ll have a comprehensive list of meals that your family love and when you’re in a rut, you can turn to this.

Image by Brent Hofacker, Shutterstock

Minute/Round Steak

Did you know minute and round steak are the same cut? Minute steak, sometimes called cube steak, is tenderized. Round steak is not. Both are normally sliced very thin and are very lean. They pack the same nutritional punch as some of the more expensive cuts. But what do you do with them?

  • Chicken Fried Steak: I love this recipe from the Pioneer Woman that incorporates the mashed potatoes and gravy.
  • Steak Fingers: You can use the same recipe from the chicken fried steak, just cut the steak in to strips before dredging it in the flour and egg mix.
  • Fajitas: This recipe from Blue Apron just went on my to make list in the very near future.
  • Philly Cheesesteaks: This could be used with minute or round steak or even flank steak.
  • Cracker Steak: I hope I’m not giving away secret family recipes here, but my husband likes cracker steak better than chicken fried steak. Mash up a bunch of saltine crackers. Put together an egg/milk wash. Dip your steak in the egg mix then put in pan with mashed up crackers. Then really press those crackers in with your hands. Put in hot oil and cook. Because minute steaks are so thin, it doesn’t take very long to cook.
  • Mushroom Steak: This recipe from Neighbor Food makes a nice crockpot meal on those busy days.
Image by Andrei Iakhniuk, Shutterstock

Flank/Skirt Steak

This is a cut that we hadn’t previously had any experience with but decided to try it on our last locker appointment. And boy are we impressed with it! We use cast iron for almost everything in our kitchen. My husband put a little oil in the cast iron, salt and pepper on the steak, and made sure not to overcook it. It was done in just a few minutes and absolutely delicious. Again the Pioneer Woman has a grill recipe that is pretty similar to what we did.

These are normally cuts that are thought to be great for fajitas, but it was great eating plain. These cuts would also be delicious in your stir fry recipes.

Image by Anna_Pustynnikova, Shutterstock


Of course the primary meal with a roast is the typical pot roast, but then what do you do with leftovers?

  • Tacos: I doubt there’s much we have to say here. Except for, Yum!
  • BBQ beef: Put some honey or brown sugar and ketchup with your shredded roast and let it simmer on the stove for a while to incorporate the flavor.
  • Hot Roast Beef Sandwich: My MIL is excellent at making po’ boy sandwiches. Put some of your leftover roast on bread of your choice, put some cheese on it and place under the broiler for a few minutes. Garnish with some pickles and condiments of your choice.
Image by Dani Vincek, Shutterstock

Stew Meat

  • Stroganoff: Modern Crumb has may be reaching when she claims to have the world’s best stroganoff recipe, but it does make a great way to enjoy the stew meat left in your freezer.
  • BBQ Beef: The crockpot is your friend when making stew meat. Throw it in with some water or liquid of your choice. Put your seasoning in at the beginning or just the plain meat and season later. Low and slow is best for getting tender stew meat.
  • Soups: While soup is never on my personal favorite list, there’s a whole bunch of you who certainly love soups. This one from Cooking Classy looks like it’s easy and incorporates the stew meat you don’t know what to do with.

One of my biggest pet peeves is food waste and then eating out because there isn’t food in the fridge ready. I completely understand not wanting to eat the same meal again and again, but with a little planning you can use the same cut for several different types of meals.

Never underestimate the power of your freezer. If you’re already cooking, think about cooking twice as much and freezing so it’s ready for another meal when you have less time. Good luck in the kitchen. My biggest advice I give myself is don’t be afraid to try new things and then take notes about the recipes. My cookbooks are covered in notes. If we like it, I make it again. If I don’t, there is a note made that I don’t.

Remember, food is fuel for the lives we live. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Good luck!

Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer. She grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married into another. Kelsey and her Forever (Matt) farm and ranch with his family where they are living their dream and loving most of the moments.

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