Budget-Friendly Hacks To Make Restaurant Quality Meats And Fish At HomeBy Harpreet K
Have you ever bitten into a piece of grilled fish or meat at a restaurant and thought it worth the expensive price tag? If so, you’re not alone. Even though seafood and meat can be pricey depending on where you live, there are some tricks to prepare them to make them taste as luxurious as the finest steakhouse. We all love a piece of fillet mignon or Japanese Kobe steak, but that’s usually only for special occasions. We are here to help you elevate sirloin, rump, and stewing beef, to name a few. From marinating to simple seasonings, here are 45 hacks to help you make cheaper seafood and meat cuts taste better than your favorite restaurant. These hacks will give you the yummiest seafood and meat without the massive bill at the end. Moreover, you can prepare these for the whole family while staying within the budget.
1. See where you cut
Who knew making a tender meat dish is more about cutting it than adding the spices and other condiments. Whenever you cut a steak, you must pay attention to how you slice it, or you may end up with hard meat for dinner.
It’s a good idea to cut your meat across the grain when preparing it for cooking. This will make sure that they have more flavor and be much easier to eat since breaking up tough muscle fibers helps with tenderizing dishes.
2. Bring out some pineapple juice
Pineapple juice has long been an excellent drink for staying hydrated, but did you know that adding some extra punch can give foods more flavor? Pineapples are full of enzymes that break down collagen during cooking, so the meat doesn’t turn tough or dry.
You may only think of pairing pineapple juice with pork; however, try it with other meats. Try pairing steak with some pineapples to get that sweet and tangy flavor everyone loves! There’s also bromelain in the juice – meaning it’ll break down steak collagen molecules to make them tender.
3. Add some spice ginger
Ginger isn’t only great for adding spice to your food – its powerful nutrient content makes this little herb perfect when cooking meats like pork or beef! Ginger contains essential oils that have health benefits on their own, but it also adds a spicy kick to the food.
Ginger is not just an excellent flavor, but it also has tough-tasting proteolytic enzymes that will make even the toughest steak delicious and tender while cooking. The result will be juicy and tender meat that has a balanced spicy flavor.
4. Cook salmon with coconut curry
Salmon is a popular fish that fits many North American cuisines. However, you can treat your guests to a special dinner by cooking it with some coconut curry. It might be rare in the West, but many fish recipes in Southeast Asia utilize it.
What makes it more valuable is that coconut curry can work with frozen salmons. You need to add some coconut milk as you saute the salmon with oil. Gently stir it around the meat and add ginger and spices to your taste.
5. Look for the correct fish fillets
Most people like to get their fish sliced and diced to avoid the pesky tiny bones. However, if you want the best taste, a steak-cut fish fillet will be more beneficial. It locks in the moisture and retains a decent flavor even when grilled.
For a similar reason, skin-on fish fillets are a great choice. The scales of a salmon, cod, or halibut keep the flavor from escaping, especially for those who love dishes that involve sauteing the fish. You can also save a few bucks since these cuts are cheaper than diced meats.
6. Make your rib into a brine
You can’t get the seasoning to reach deep into any meat without cutting it. But, doing that lets the freshness out, and you can’t lock in the flavor properly. A simple solution to the problem is adding salt to your favorite cut.
Making a dry brine locks the freshness in and helps the seasoning penetrate the meat. Moreover, it makes the meat a bit tender and efficiently traps any moisture. An ideal brine should have 3 to 4 grams of salt per flesh.
7. Enjoy making some beef bourguignon
The most economical cut of meat is also the one with plenty to offer. If you use your beef chuck to make sure that it cooks up into a melt-in-your-mouth dish, there will never be any doubt about its quality.
And what better way to cook it while following along with Julia Child’s famous beef bourguignon recipe at home. You’ll notice how juicy and tender the beef is and not feel like you spent such a low amount on the meat cut.
8. Salt rub and leave for an hour
If you’re looking to cook up some meat but don’t want it tough or flavorless, try this tip to make your steaks tender and delicious. Coat each thin cut with a generous layer of coarse salt before letting them sit on the countertop for one hour to become tender.
This will allow time so that the meat has a tender flavor throughout. After an hour, wash the salt off, and cook the beef just like you always do. You’ll taste an instant change in the texture and consistency of the meat compared to skipping the salt rub.
9. Don’t forget to thaw the seafood
Cooking seafood can be a little tricky if you don’t pay attention. For example, the freezing of fish will cause it not to taste as good and may also make your meal less enjoyable since so many people like their food fresh.
It’s essential that once thawed out for thirty minutes(or freshly caught), any meat should stay cool enough, so they do not overcook during preparation time; otherwise, this could lead to them drying out too quickly, resulting in an unpalatable dish overall.
10. Use an acidic marinade
The suggestion of using acidic marinade may make you feel it will be too sour. However, it has the right amount of acid to tenderize the meat. Use an acidic marinade to get the most tender meat, fish, or other seafood.
Acidic marinades will make your tough cuts of meat or lower-quality fish pieces taste better. They can be made from lemon, vinegar, yogurt, and buttermilk that is guaranteed to tenderize them. Besides, you’ll like the tangy kick of the lime.
11. Magic of low and slow heat
If you have a slow cooker, then the cheap cuts of meat will be delicious. If cooked properly, you can make the tough and cheap cuts of meat into melt-in-your-mouth dishes. One excellent technique is to cook it in a slow cooker at low heat over long periods.
This slow cooking method will lock up moisture, so you get delicious flavors with any ingredients thrown inside. So, any spices and sauces you add to the slow cooker will add a delectable flavor to the meat. No more bland-tasting beef at home!
12. Tenderize the meat by pounding
If you don’t wish to chew through a tough cut, there is a simple hack you can use to make the meat more tender. Wrap the meat in a plastic bag and pound it with a mallet for a few minutes.
Ensure that you pound the whole steak evenly. Tenderizing the cut loosens the muscle fibers, which help in making each bite more nutritious. Moreover, it helps thaw out the steak if you had it stored in a deep freezer.
13. Dry-age for a better taste
Dry-aging the meat can make it tender and more delicious for those who can spare the time. With the right ingredients, you can bring out the best of the nutrition from within the fibers and fat by keeping the cut intact.
Add some salt and vinegar to your steak and put it in a freezer with an active fan. Use a tray to collect any drippings and keep the refrigerator from going stale. Leave the cut for 2-3 weeks before taking it out for cooking.
14. Give your fish a mayo massage
This clever cooking method uses mayo to ensure that the seafood stays fresh and delicious. It sounds strange, but the flavor is actually quite good, along with a light coat of mix with whatever seasonings you want, and you’ll be making this marinade again and again.
Give your fish an even coating of mayo with spices before cooking like usual – no more worrying about it drying out or losing its taste because we promise this will work wonders for the quality of the fish even if it may have come from the frozen aisle.
15. Stir-fry to elevate the flavor
Not many people realize this, but stir-frying with an appropriate sauce can give you a great taste from even the most basic cuts. It doesn’t take a lot of time and gives you a remarkable spectacle to show to visitors.
Some additives when stir-frying the meat can add to its flavor. You can create a base with some egg whites and cornstarch before adding some soya sauce. It is the perfect choice for those who prefer a moist, tender cut for their meal.
16. Use coffee as a marinade
What’s better than a juicy steak? A tender, rich one! Prepare some coffee and let it cool to create a natural marinade for your dinner. Similar to how we use spices or other marinades in cooking meats before they’re grilled on the BBQ – this method does two things.
First, caffeine acts as a cleaning agent which seals surface pores so bacteria can’t grow inside. Second, but just as importantly (and more deliciously), its strong flavor welds with the steak and spices while breaking it down to soften it.
17. Don’t just drink your beer
Try beer marinade next time you want to cook a delectable and juicy steak. Marinate any cut of meat in this alcoholic beverage for about one hour, and it will add an incredible flavor while ensuring your grilled food is tender with great texture.
The natural acids found in standard beers make them as delicious as marinades. They break down tissue proteins into amino acids, creating savory flavors when combined during barbecuing or smoking processes. So you can drink your beer and eat it too.
18. Fish tacos to the rescue!
While most people think that a salmon or halibut is often expensive, there are cheaper alternatives you can cook in less time. Tilapia is a coastal fish that you can conveniently get for less than $3 per pound. You can use it to make yourself some tequila lime fish tacos.
Put the marinade together and apply it to the fish. You need to refrigerate it for 30 minutes while making a sauce of your preference. Once done, take the fish out and grill it for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve it with a tortilla, lime slices, and other veggies as per your taste.
19. Follow an affordable tilapia recipe
Another exciting and easy-to-make dish that you can serve is breaded tilapia with sauteed zucchini. It will set you back less than $1.8 per serving and makes for an excellent family treat. You need a few pounds of tilapia, eggs, butter, a diced zucchini, seasoning, and a few veggies.
The whole recipe takes no more than 15 minutes. Just dip the meat cuts in whisked egg, cover it in bread crumbs, and bake for 7 minutes. Use another 7 minutes to saute the zucchini with the veggies. Put them together on a plate, and you have the perfect budget dinner.
20. Use the sous vide technique
“Sous vide” is fancy speak for “We know you might burn your hand on a pan. So, here’s a machine for slow, smooth cooking.” Sous vide machines are not extremely expensive and can pay for themselves after a few meals. Your nearest Walmart might have one in the kitchen section, or you can order it through Amazon.
Sous vide machines work on the principle of thermal convection. All you need to do is attach it to the pan or pot and fill it with hot water. Secure your meat of choice in a bag and leave it in the pan. The machine automatically heats and stirs the water.
21. Cook some Italian tuna with brown rice
If you want to make the most of canned tuna, you can use this recipe to add a lot of taste without much money or effort. Add some brown rice, capers, and some chopped olives, and you’ll enjoy an excellent lunch for less than $5.
The whole dish takes less than 10 minutes to make. After reserving it in oil, drain the tuna and put it in a bowl with the capers, olives, and brown rice. Add some brine and vegetables for taste. Mix it well and serve.
22. Try marinating your meat with soda
Whether you prefer to drink Coke, Pepsi, or Sprite with your favorite meat cuts, you can also use it to marinate the flesh. Just pour the soda onto the meat and seal it in a plastic bag. Alternatively, you can keep it in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator.
Because the sodas are usually refrigerated, you get the marinating action much faster than vinegar or olive oil. It may not be ideal for spicy dishes, but it saves you spending extra on marinating supplies. It only takes a few sprinkles for each pound, meaning that you’ll have plenty of soda left to drink afterward.
23. Cook a duck dinner quick
If you have a few friends coming over, it is far more tempting to order some dinner rather than take the time to cook a duck. Still, you might want to try the confit meal before dialing the local pizzeria. It takes only a few ingredients and is ready within an hour.
Season the duck and line it inside a container. Do it so that there are no gaps, and top it off with oil, preferably one that hardens at a lower temperature. Put the container in the oven and turn to the lowest temperature setting. Once the duck turns brown, it is ready for a quick pan sear.
24. Marinate skirt steak in soy sauce
You know how chewy a skirt steak can be if you ever had one. It takes a lot of biting power, even when grilled to perfection. But, you can save on some of that by a simple hack for such meat cuts: marinate them in soy sauce!
Soy-based sauces can tenderize meat cuts by breaking down the outer layer of protein. You can get a softer skirt steak after marinating it for just 30 minutes. For best results, chefs advise leaving it for 6-12 hours with other additives such as ginger, garlic cloves, and ground pepper.
25. Indulge in umami flavors
Typically, food can taste sour, bitter, salty, or sweet. But, umami is a whole different savory taste that most people might not know. “Umami” is Japanese for “delicious.” It pertains to three compounds naturally occurring in plants and meat: glutamate, inosinate, and guanylate.
You can savor this unique taste via recipes that include blue cheese and mushrooms as principal ingredients. While you might not prefer consuming MSG, most meats with an umami taste are beneficial for your health. You can add the cheese or mushroom through a thin slit from the side of the meat cuts.
26. Make a cabbage stew with beef shanks
Beef shanks are the meat cuts that require a substantial force to chew through. If not cooked properly, you need to put in a lot of effort to get to the softer meat below the surface. A great way to make it edible is to cook it with a cabbage stew.
You don’t need to modify your stew recipe to add some beef shanks. Just season the beef shanks properly to lock in the flavor. The slow heating eventually makes the flesh tender. Cook the stew for 9 hours, then you can easily shred the meat by hand.
27. Season fish with lemon garlic
The correct seasoning for any fish is complex to pull off, especially when you prefer to keep the meat juicy, like a halibut. In its place, you can use a simple hack that can make your plate much more delicious without burning a hole in your pocket.
Try adding some lemon and garlic after you cook the fish. It only costs around $1.50 per serving, and you can do it within mere minutes. You can add them separately or make a paste, whichever your taste buds prefer.
28. Prepare some easy and quick mussels
The term “Mussels Fra Diavolo” might sound very fancy to the uninitiated. Still, it is, in fact, one of the simplest and least expensive mussel recipes in the world. With it, you can serve six people for less than $6 on your next Christmas Eve.
The key to delicious mussels is the marinara sauce. You can make it by boiling some olive oil and adding garlic, crushed red pepper, and wine. Mix it with some mussels, and you’ll be ready to serve it in less than 10 minutes.
29. Use some wine to marinate your meat cuts
Strongly acidic marinades are effective in tenderizing tough meats. However, you might have to compromise on the taste if you use them on soft cuts. Most people have their favorite pairing of meat and wine. They usually don’t consider using that wine to marinate the flesh.
Marinating your steak with wine locks in the flavor and keeps it soft for an extended period. Since wine is made through yeast fermentation, it makes the meat more susceptible to heat. Thus, a wine-marinated cut is much easier to cook than one with soy-based sauces or sodas.
30. Add some butter for richness
Butter is a flavorful and inexpensive ingredient that you can use to upscale the taste of most meat cuts. You’ll find that Gordon Ramsay uses butter as a go-to ingredient for most meat-based dishes, and with good reason. It has no season, and you can store it for months without going bad.
Bathing the meat in butter is simpler than you might think. An effective way is by using a cast-iron skillet. Brown some butter over it and place your preferred steak to heat. Once done, pour some more butter over the meat with a spoon.
31. Mince beef to BBQ it faster
Beef is one of those meat cuts that require plenty of patience to cook. Yet, you might not be willing to wait that long. A simple way to cook beef faster is to shred it to smithereens. Braised beef is excellent for sandwiches, burgers, or topping for a pizza.
It is something you might prefer if you have some guests over for a barbecue. Before cutting into the beef, you need to simmer it for 3 hours with a sauce of your preference. You can use a knife and fork if you can take your time. Otherwise, put large chunks into a shredder.
32. Use miso butter for cod
Cod is a fish that can help you make a tasty dish on a budget. You can get it for less than $2 per pound. This fish has tender skin from which you can easily remove the bones without steaming or cooking. A great surprise you can serve your guests is to cook it in miso butter.
Miso is a popular Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans and a fungus called koji. It is a healthy addition to many sushi and soup recipes. Miso butter is just mixing this relish with unsalted butter. It gives a unique juicy flavor to the cod without ruining its texture.
33. Marinate your meat cuts with baking soda
With so many acidic solutions that experts advise for marinating steaks, you might not expect something so basic as baking soda to become viable. Since it is a highly reactive agent, you need a single teaspoon of baking soda for every 12 ounces of meat.
Marinating a piece of steak with baking soda has the opposite effect from most other acidic compounds. Where acids break the protein bonds, baking soda prevents the bonds from existing entirely. You can marinate most meat cuts more quickly than vinegar. Although, these cuts often have an aftertaste.
34. Treat your friends with stuffed steaks
There is only so much you can do on a limited budget to make your meat recipes stand out. Still, there is always a way to stuff your steaks. It can make a cheaper cut more flavorful or add a unique twist to the regular fillet.
To make the most of the stuffing, you need to maintain consistency with your dish. A few garlic cloves and marinara sauce are great if you want to spice things up. If your guests prefer something sweet, you can experiment with teriyaki.
35. Try some sugar to trick your brain
You can use the remaining meat cuts from your last party, even if you don’t prefer them yourself. The human brain is an easy target to trick, and the sense of taste is no different. To make the taste more bearable, you can use some sugar.
Simply rub a spoonful of sugar onto the meat when you are done marinating it. It reacts with the proteins on the surface and forms a layer of tasty crystals called Maillard crust. It lets your taste buds enjoy the flavor of the makeshift candy instead of the meat within.
36. Take some time to let the meat rest
Many amateur chefs make the common mistake of hurrying along the final stretch of any meat recipe. Even if you perfectly cook the best piece of steak, it will lose most of its taste if you don’t let it rest. The oil and juice often spillover, which can be hard to notice in a congested kitchen.
A general rule is to let the meat rest for five minutes per inch of thickness in the case of steaks. You’re looking at 10 minutes per pound if it is a roast. Exercise some patience and let the meat absorb the sauces properly. Your guests won’t be able to bite down a hot steak anyway.
37. Pay attention to the temperature
Each cut of stake requires a different way of cooking. Cook a tender piece of elk too much, and you get a rubbery texture. Similarly, undercooked steak keeps the best of the taste within the tough exterior of the meat.
The toughness of the flesh determines the flame and time required for cooking. Most quick cooking steaks need just a few minutes over 140 degrees. Prime beef joints require a higher temperature before you can toss them in the sauce. To keep things accurate, you can use a thermometer to check the temperature of meat cuts.
38. Don’t let fish heads and trimmings go to waste
The fish fillet is enough for most people to enjoy a delicious meal. However, most people don’t realize that you can make the fish heads and trimmings into some quite tasty recipes. Combined with the appropriate sauce and the right spices, you can make yourself a delicious bowl of chowder.
To make the chowder, you need to add some potatoes and onions into a saute pan along with the fish. After 3 minutes, pour some cornflour and clam juice before bringing it to a boil. Put the mixture in milk and stir at a gentle flame. To finish up, add some seasoning as per your taste.
39. Put inexpensive canned fish to good use
The last thing you can expect from canned fish is a succulent main course. Yet, you can do just that from any canned fish for less than $4. Canned salmon is an everyday grocery that you can quickly get from the corner shop and use to make Mediterranean salmon cakes.
The process is quite simple. Firstly, you need to prepare a sauce with cucumber, dill, yogurt, and garlic. Put the salmon in the mix, along with some breadcrumbs and olives. You can use other veggies as per your taste and separate the mixture into cakes. Just heat them on high, and they’re ready to serve within a few minutes.
40. Use tea to marinate meat cuts
The freshly brewed tea is a great beverage to wake you up. But, do you know what else it can do? End the day with a delicious steak meal. You can use tea to marinate your choice of meat cut without letting its flavor escape in the process.
Tea leaves are rich in polyphenols that can add an exquisite aroma to a piece of steak. You need to boil the tea leaves in water and add the mixture to the meat cut. The tendering tannins within the leaves work their magic, and the flesh is ready to cook in a few hours.
41. Experience a change of taste with jerked-rubbed catfish
Usually, catfish does not taste very good. That is why you can get it boneless for less than $4 per pound. Still, you can try out some jerk-rubbed catfish for lunch if you are short on both cash and time.
Take some catfish fillet and mix it with lime juice, sugar, and a few herbs. Grill it over an open pan and sprinkle some Jamaican seasoning evenly. You need to grill each side for just three minutes before the fish is ready to serve.
42. Please your guests with some roast beef
It is challenging to make a meal for every guest in a gathering without compromising the taste too much. If you don’t have a team of caterers backing you up, you can cook some roast beef and spare some money.
Roast beef is easier to prepare as compared to other meat cuts. You need to marinate it for only 3 hours before the joints are ready for the oven. Once heated, you can serve them with mashed potatoes, mac n’ cheese, or creamed corn as per your preference.
43. Keep things familiar with a pot roast
No, you don’t need a fancy steak and a large plate of lasagna to make evening dinners fun. You can cook some simple beef chuck pot roast that will be instantly familiar to friends and family members alike. Best of all, it’s simple and requires only a handful of ingredients.
It would help if you had a beef cut, olive oil, carrots, garlic, and onions. The rest of the stuff can go in as per your taste. You can cook a large pot within four hours with everything in place. However, tougher meat cuts can stretch it to five.
44. Let the meat reach room temperature
Like letting the fish thaw, you need to let the meat cuts catch some air before cooking. You’ll notice that cooking a prime rib after it reaches room temperature makes cooking much easier, and it retains its flavor for far longer.
Most steaks require a thawing time of 30 minutes after you take them out of the cooler. The timing is more crucial for grass-fed meat cuts since they don’t have much fat. If you overcook them, it completely ruins the taste.
45. Befriend your local seafood seller
The best way to procure fresh seafood at great prices is to ask your local sellers. Befriending them would help you gain the first bite of any new supplies. They might have some rather tasty delicacies to share with you as well.
Many sellers often have stock that they would be unable to sell in the next few days. It might help you get some great ideas for budgeted dinners. Moreover, you can ask them about saving your preferred seafood, especially when you know if they quickly sell out to local restaurants.