How to take an expensive cut of meat, like a thick cut Ribeye steak, and stretch the portions so that you can have your steak without worry of breaking your budget. This is also a great recipe for any leftover ribeye or prime rib.
But before we talk about these budget friendly steak tacos I wanted to share some highlights of our cooking events over the weekend.
WillaKenzie Food Truck Weekend
We, i.e. Ember and Vine (our wood-fired catering company), cooked at WillaKenzie Estate Winery over the weekend, along with the sausage king of Oregon, Chef Adam, of Lil’ Chubbies. We’ve talked about Adam’s hand-crafted sausages for over a year now and we love sharing them with our guests! They’ll change the way you think about sausages. Now if we could get him to start selling bulk versions to the public…..
We smoked up our favorite of his lineup, the Chorizo Verde Sausages with Smoked Tomatillo Aioli (so good!).
Also on the menu was a Smoked Pork Tenderloin Sandwich with Rosemary Aioli (I could drink that aioli! No joke!).
And as a bonus we also had a fresh watermelon and basil salad, some smoked almonds (these ones!), and the most delicious smoked tomatillo salsa (and chips) for those not craving the sandwiches.
Our #1 fans were even on hand to support the E&V crew 😉
The event went well. Saturday we sold out of everything (wohoo!). Sunday wasn’t quite as successful. The gloomy weather kept people from coming out so we didn’t do as well as we’d hoped. That’s some of the risk we take in this business. We still had a great time at one of our favorite venues to cook at.
Now back to these Ribeye Steak Tacos
We had a reader reach out to us recently asking if we ever use cheaper or less expensive cuts of meat. He mentioned that we’re often talking about using expensive cuts and if we had any advice to offer someone not wanting to spend so much money on meat and thoughts on lesser cuts or grades of meat.
Quality? Grade? Does it Matter?
For me, I truly believe in investing in quality foods that are going into my body as well as my family. This is a personal preference here. I don’t skimp when it comes to quality. That being said, I also don’t like going overboard when it comes to my grocery shopping bill. To me, “quality” means a trustworthy source. I don’t want meat that’s coming from a scary antibiotic farm. So if we want to take a moment and define what quality means to us; it’s about meat that is raised in a sustainable way – no antibiotics, a life in pasture and free range, finished on a non-GMO grain and then slaughtered humanely. All of that takes time and money and ends up making the price per pound more. I’m okay with that.
Since we do tend to invest in higher quality (and thus more expensive) meats we just choose to eat them less frequently. We’re not eating expensive steak every day, but instead, maybe once every two to three weeks. This also makes me stop and appreciate the times and the meals when I do eat a steak.
But let’s be honest, I also live with a husband who’s constantly wanting to try new methods of cooking steaks and perfecting his craft (it’s a blessing and a curse!).
So, for those days when he’s craving a steak and I’m feeling frugal, we agree to do one steak and spread the wealth, so to speak.
By using the meat in a dish like these tacos, you’re stretching your dollar when it comes to eating a great cut of meat. Instead of one gargantuous steak per person, we’re taking one steak and spreading it out among four people.
This concept reminds me of a great blog post I read by a dear friend of mine. (Forgive me while I go on a quick tangent). She and her wife recently celebrated their 10-year wedding anniversary (Happy Anniversary, Ladies!!!), and didn’t have the budget to go big this year (they’re also busy entrepreneurs, authors, moms, and oh, living in Oakland — one of the most expensive cities in the country). They wanted to be able to indulge in some great wine and food, but didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars. They gave themselves $50 for a quality dinner and wine. Is that even possible? Of course. They went to Whole Foods and bought some artisan cheese, some meats, breads, and a nice bottle of wine and dined at home, together. For under $50!
That’s what I’m talking about here. Not skimping on quality, but still being able to fit within a given means.
You can still eat on a budget without sacrificing quality. And when it comes to steak, I do believe you should still strive for a quality cut from a trusted source, but limit your intake (when you’re not making steak weekly, then you can splurge on the rare the times you do), and stretch your dollar by using the ingredients in other ways, like tacos.
What we did here was take a thick cut 1-lb Ribeye steak and smoked it using the reverse sear method, like we did in this post.
We smoked the steak at a low temperature, around 160 degrees using fruit wood (we used cherry). Then when the internal temperature of the steak reached 110 degrees we transferred it to a hot grill to finish cooking.
There we closely monitored the meat, and flipped the meat once so that it got an awesome char on both sides, and removed the steak when it hit 127 degrees (you want it between 125 and 130 for medium-rare). Once you remove it, tent it with foil and let it sit for a few minutes for the juices to redistribute. It’ll also keep cooking a little bit with that residual heat.
Slice it up and use for a filling in your tacos.
Since we’re using such a great cut of meat and we took the time to reverse sear smoke the darn thing we didn’t want it drowning in toppings that would have taken away from our hard work. So we kept it simple with some chimichurri sauce and a slice of fresh avocado. Absolutely perfect.
We had 8 people over when we served these tacos, hence the 2 steaks shown in the pictures. But one 1-lb steak is a good amount for 4 people when making tacos.
- 1, 1- lb Ribeye steak
- Salt and pepper
- 8 corn tortillas
- The cooked steak slices from above
- ½ cup chimichurri sauce recipe here
- 1 avocado sliced
- Optional toppings: cilantro cole slaw, mild cheese, lime wedges
Salt the steak on both sides and place on a cookie sheet in a refrigerator for up to two hours to dry brine. Remove about 20 minutes before smoking and add pepper. (we're not using an oil here due to the dry brine or salting)
Smoking: Preheat smoker to 150 - 160 degrees (we used cherry wood), and remove the steak from the fridge.
Apply the pepper on the steaks, and then place them on the smoker. They will take on that flavor and start to turn a reddish hue. When the internal temperature (IT) reaches 110 degrees, remove from the smoker and prepare for the grill.
Grilling: Prepare your cooker for direct heat. In this case we used a Webber kettle grill. You can also do this before the steak reaches 100 degrees. Or you can wait while you prep your sides.
Place the steak over the hot direct heat for about 2 minutes at the most. You're looking for a nice crust. The IT will come up fast on the steak, especially if you have just taken off the smoker. (* some folk may want to re-season at this point, it's up to you. We didn't. The dry brine or salt with the pepper was all we needed. Try it without re-seasoning first and then adjust. It’s easier to add salt and flavor later rather than taking it away)
Flip the steak for another two minutes until the IT reaches your desired doneness, we went for 125 - 130 degrees. Let rest with a loosely tented foil for the juices to reabsorb into the meat then cut and serve.
Warm up your corn tortillas.
Load up the tortillas with a couple slices of the steak, about a tablespoon of chimichurri sauce, an avocado slice, and any other additional toppings. Enjoy
Recipe for chimichurri sauce here: https://www.vindulge.com/2014/10/smoked-tri-tip-sandwiches-chimichurri-sauce/
Wine Pairing for Ribeye Steak Tacos
When it comes to stretching your budget with wine the same can apply by using a winery’s “second label”. There are several wineries that have their main label, like Soter Vineyards for example, and also another label that still offers great quality but at a more affordable price. Now there are several reason for doing this. In Bordeaux for instance, a winery (or Chateau) may use only their very best fruit for their main wine, and then the remaining in their second label. The vineyards are often the same, but the fruit just didn’t meet a specific standard. The second wine is often pretty darn amazing too.
In this case, Planet Oregon, made by one of my favorite winemakers, Tony Soter of Soter Vineyards, was founded with a goal to, “make delicious, environmentally responsible wine at an accessible price. In short, a wine you can enjoy on a Tuesday and feel great about.”
I respect the heck out of anything Tony Soter makes, so even though this is not of their “Soter Vineyards” label, it’s still a delicious wine. And you can find it for under $20 (vs. $6o).
I second the notion that, “Pinot of this quality will never be cheap but the value should be as obvious as the exuberant aromas and flavors.”
We’re still not skimping here. Instead we’re receiving great value for a high level of quality. And the 2014 vintage (pictured here) has some deep dark fruit, great richness and texture. This is the kind of Pinot that has the umph to stand up to steak tacos!
What about you?
How do you stretch your dollar without skimping on quality? Does quality matter to you when it comes to food? What about wine? I’d love to know!
For more tasty recipes, BBQ tips and tricks, check out the Recipe Index.