When you go to the grocery store and look at the meat section, there are always two options: side beef or a whole cut of beef. Which one is better? The answer may surprise you!
Side beef has many advantages that make it more appealing than whole cuts like easier cooking methods (e.g. slow cooker), and less waste because it comes in smaller portions.
Side beef is much cheaper than a full cut of meat which makes it an attractive option for those on tight budgets. Slow cookers are able to cook side beef in about 8 hours so dinner can be ready when you come home from work and don’t have time to cook anything before then. Plus, with all that extra time, you can make side dishes that not only taste great with beef but also leftover the next day!
Side beef is also healthier for you because it usually comes leaner than whole cuts of beef. The rest of the animal is usually used to make ground beef which tends to be a fattier option. There are lower calories, less fat, and more protein in a piece of side beef. Plus, you have less waste when cooking side beef so what’s not eaten gets stored away for later. But first things first,
What Is Side Beef?
A side of beef is a part of a cow that has been cut into smaller sections. The North American beef industry refers to this as a ‘side’ and the British refer to it as a ‘quarter’. When you purchase your side, you receive one of the following:
– A ‘160 pound’ or 2.5-3.2 meter section, which is usually enough for two people per month when they are consuming seven 500g servings per week.
– An 80-100 pound or 1.7-2 meter section, which is considered to be one quarter and typically feeds four people per month with 500g servings per week.
How Much Does A Side Beef Cost?
Side beef can range anywhere from $4.00/lb to over $8.00/lb, depending on the cut of meat you are purchasing and where it is being purchased from. However, I have found that farms are some of the cheapest places to buy beef because they use sustainable farming practices, don’t make too large of a profit off their product, and know exactly how much beef they will yield when cutting up the cow (which helps them set an accurate price).
Benefits Of Purchasing Beef In Bulk
Purchasing beef in bulk has benefits that range from economical to health-related. One of the first things you may notice is the price of beef, which will vary depending on the cut and supplier. Purchasing a side* of beef at $4 per pound is much cheaper than purchasing a whole cut at $8 per pound, so buying in bulk can save you money in the long run.
Side dishes are another perk! It’s easy to make side dishes for your family members who might prefer different types of food than what you’re cooking for the main dish. If everyone is eating leaner side dishes, it can help keep cholesterol levels down and let you eat more than just protein.
If you’re not sure if you’re ready to buy in bulk, remember that you can purchase smaller quantities. Maybe start out with buying just one side of beef or just a quarter for your first time.
Side Beef Vs. Whole Cut
One thing you’ll notice when looking at side beef versus a whole cut is that there will be less fat and more lean meat with the former. In my opinion, this makes it easier to cook because it’s not as tough.
Plus, if you have a slow cooker that you use often during colder months of the year, then cooking a whole cut may take longer than 8 hours. If you’ve never used a slow cooker before, I definitely recommend purchasing one for cheaper stewing meats.
There are fewer calories and less fat in a side of beef which is perfect for people who are trying to eat healthier. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t have much time to go to the grocery store, then buying in bulk can be easier when fewer cuts are needed.
How Much Beef Can You Expect To Take Home?
If you think having enough freezer space is one of the main factors of buying a quarter of beef, then you’ll also need to know how much meat you can expect to take home with you.
A whole side is estimated at around 950 lbs. in total weight. Since most grocery stores will have it cut down into quarters, this is the equivalent of 225 lbs per quarter.
The same principle applies to half sides of beef – they are just split into two pieces when being sold in grocery stores rather than four. Half sides are estimated at around 475 lbs per piece which translates to about 120 lbs per quarter.
When buying a side of beef, I would plan out for 175-200 pounds of take-home beef and 80-100 ones for a quarter (obviously these numbers vary depending on the cow). This is an estimated range, so you might receive more or less depending on the cow. If you want to be safe with your freezer space, then just plan for 200 lbs of take-home beef.
Best Ways To Cook Beef
When it comes to cooking beef, there are tons of ways you can prepare it. I’m not saying don’t get creative! But here are some of my favorite recipes for leaner cuts of beef:
When grilling your beef, try to avoid charring it or getting it too dry. I recommend using an acidic marinade such as vinegar or lemon juice, and lots of herbs and spices because the meat will be semi-tough if you don’t.
What’s great about slow cooker recipes is that they’re almost completely hands-off. You just throw everything in at one time, let it cook for 8 hours, and eat when you’re hungry. There are tons of slow cooker beef recipes out there that you can try.
I love broiling beef because it’s quick and not as tough to cook under heat for a short period of time. When you broil your beef, skip the BBQ sauce or anything that would be too sweet because this is something you put on afterward.
Seasoning Beef – The Do’s And Don’ts
When seasoning your beef, don’t go overboard on the salt. For those who are on a low sodium diet, this might seem like a no-brainer, but for people with hypertension and other health conditions, it can be easy to forget about using sea salt instead of table salt.
One thing I love about cooking leaner cuts of beef like the ones from GTA Meats is that you can throw some dried herbs on top and see how far they take you. Some of my favorite dried herbs to use (and eat) are thyme and oregano – they’re both very flavorful and pair well with almost any meat.