The Beef Cuts To Reach For When Cooking Shaved Steak

It hasn't always been a common sight at supermarkets, but shaved steak is rightfully taking its place among the most popular ways to prepare beef. Shaved steak is exactly what it sounds like, think ribbons of beef that have been shaved down from a longer cut. In the U.S. it's most associated with a Philly cheesesteak, but many cuisines use it, especially East Asian preparations like Japanese shabu-shabu and Korean bulgogi. Shaved steak is great in stir-fries, soups, and sandwiches alike where its thinness helps to keep it tender and easily absorb flavor. There are quite a few options you have when picking out a cut for shaved steak. Ribeye and chuck are common pre-shaved options you can find, especially at Asian markets, but there is one other option I prefer even more, and that's skirt steak.

Now purists will tell you that's not the best option. For cheesesteaks especially, but also for hot pots and other meals, ribeye's mix of marbling and texture is considered superior, and I won't deny that. But ribeye is also expensive, and skirt steak is a close substitute that will probably cost you half as much money. As someone who makes weekday skirt steak stir fries like beef and broccoli a regular part of my dinner rotation, I wholeheartedly agree. The big reason is that the preparation of shaved steak actually negates a lot of the advantages of ribeye while fixing what makes skirt steak less desirable.

Skirt steak makes flavorful shaved steak at an affordable price

The reason skirt steak is cheap is that it can be tough. But that toughness comes from the muscle fibers running through the cut, and shaving it against the grain into thin strands completely solves the problem. Cooked shaved skirt steak will only be marginally less tender than other options like ribeye or sirloin. Skirt steak also won't have as much fat as ribeye, but it still has enough for a nice richness, and it's also a particularly flavorful and beefy cut on top of that. It's also important to remember that a lot of recipes that use shaved steak involve broths and sauces that will be the main source of flavor in the dish, and a really good steak won't stand out as much. Ribeye may make a slightly better meal, but when I'm cooking at home, I'll take 90% of the performance at a price that's way friendlier to my wallet.

The one thing you have to do is make sure you prepare it correctly. If you don't have a butcher who can shave it for you, put your steak in the freezer to help it firm up and make it easier to slice. Then use a well-sharpened knife to slice it as thinly as possible across the visible muscle fibers so you're breaking them up. Do that right and skirt steak will make a shaved steak as good as any alternative.