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Tips & Trends

Value Cuts Make a Comeback

We surveyed Sysco chefs across the country to learn about their favorite value cuts and how to use them in trending global applications.

When most people think of steaks, they imagine prime cuts such as the rib-eye, New York strip, filet mignon and T-bone. However, as savvy operators know, there is a lot more great beef available than just these pricier cuts. And with the growing movement toward tail-to-snout cooking, creative chefs are embracing the secondary and off-cuts.

These marbled marvels sometimes require a little more care—a precision cut or a longer braise time—but in the end result in juicy and flavorful meat. Use them in on-trend global applications such as Latin and Asian grilling and braising, and you can’t go wrong. We’ve talked to six Sysco chefs to find out about their favorite value cuts and how to cook them to tender perfection.

Cory Schreiber

I’ve had success with the chuck flap loin from Newport Meat. In Italian cooking, it makes for some of the best carpaccio I’ve ever had. It just needs a little added salt and spice. First, freeze the flap loins lightly. This allows you to slice it very thin for carpaccio. Or, you can square it out and trim it, grill and roast it, then slice against the grain, and it’s a beautiful sandwich meat. In today’s kitchen, a center-of-the-plate product should have multiple uses. It should find its way onto the menu at least twice to keep the inventory lower.

Juan Rosado

What we use a lot here at Sysco North Texas is the Casa Solana lifter meat. You can use it for fajitas or vaca frita, the Cuban dish. Latin cuisine is growing. Mexican cuisine and Tex-Mex cuisine have been mainstream for a long time. Now Cuban, Peruvian and Argentinian all have a strong presence, too. And they all use those value cuts of meat: the heart, the entrails, the tripas. Tongue is a great item for tacos and tortas and a lot of other things that, maybe 10 years ago, I don’t think chefs were thinking about.

John Landry

We use center cut top sirloin with the coulotte removed. The coulottes go to Brazilian steakhouses. That leaves the center cut tops, which are nice for ethnic restaurants that are looking for a great steak at an easy and affordable price. The teres major is another one that’s really easy to cut, process and move. We have customers who cut that up for fajitas and carne asada. Others dice it and put it on kebabs. It’s versatile and flavorful. Flavor is everything right now; we’re seeing a lot of Middle Eastern flavors lately, which is fun.

Klaus Mandl

Our Certified Angus Beef® boneless flap meat beef loin is versatile and economical. You can use it in multiple recipes, allowing for greater inventory control. You can grill it whole or cut it into smaller bavette steaks. It’s also ideal for cutting into chunks to be used for kebabs or into even smaller strips for stir-fries. Because of its coarse texture, this cut takes on marinades extremely well, which in turn is ideal for different ethnic recipes. It can also be braised, and it comes apart into tender shreds, as in the Cuban dish ropa vieja.

Bryan Hudson

When Buckhead Beef gets an order for tomahawk rib-eyes, they have to French the rib. In doing so, they produce what is called rib finger meat. This beef by-product is great for many uses, such as braising or searing quickly to use in a variety of sauces. Also, so many chefs like to use short ribs in various preparations, but if you use chuck flap, which runs along the same muscle complex, you end up with basically the same cut for $2 or $3 less per pound and the same amount of marbling. This is a great value for any operation.

Elizabeth Wheaton

Customers are looking to cut back on labor costs, so portion-cut steaks are a huge deal. We stock an 8-ounce portion-cut bavette steak that is my personal favorite. When it marinates, it holds in flavor very nicely. It grills easily and chars up beautifully. It can really hold itself up as a center-of-the-plate entrée item to be paired with a side. Steak frites is making a big comeback, especially around the Boston area. With portion cuts, operators can cost out menus with precision. That saves so much time and gives you peace of mind.