Five More A-List Chefs on How to Class Up Their Go-To Cheap Meats

From smoked wings to pork belly carnitas

November 5, 2018 9:00 am

This is Deep Cuts, an ongoing series in which our favorite chefs teach us how to turn oft-overlooked cuts of meat into a meal befitting a king. Enjoy. (And if you missed it, you can check out Volume I right here.)

Your compatriots here at InsideHook are never going to tell you not to eat steak. We love steak. Hell, we’ve got an entire event dedicated to it.

What we will suggest is that you occasionally expand your culinary horizons — and where your butcher’s case is concerned, that means looking past the filets, T-bones and chops to get into what we like to call the “cheap meats.”

Now to clarify, we’re not talking low quality meat. We’re talking about the unsung, oft-overlooked cuts that maybe don’t have the prestige of their pricier counterparts, but with a little knowhow, can yield a meal every bit as belly-pattin’ delicious.

And to help, we’ve enlisted a cabal of chefs from some of the country’s best restaurants to fill us in on their favorite economic cuts, how best to cook them and even what drink to pair them with.

That money you’re about to save? Put it toward dessert.


The Chef: Tadd Johnson, Executive Chef at Holy Ground, NYC

Why Chicken Wings? “It’s a gnarly bit of meat and tendon that can be transformed into deliciousness — when we slow smoke it and then grill it with our signature Holy Ground house BBQ rub made from brown sugar and spices, everything becomes very tender and savory. The low temperature smoke slowly breaks down the tendons and cartilage, and tenderizes the meat. They we grill the wings on the lower temperature side of the grill. The sugars caramelize slowly and then we toss the wings in a house made buffalo sauce.”

What to Drink? “Cold beer, definitely Pacificos.”

Holy Ground’s Slow Smoked & Grilled Manhattan Wings


  • Roughly 20 chicken wings
  • Cherry or apple wood (for smoking)
  • 2 cups Holy Ground Signature Rub* (for smoking)
  • 1 cup Holy Ground Signature Rub (for grilling)

*Nota bene: Holy Ground’s Signature Rub is available  by the 100ml bottle at their NYC restaurant, but for those who can’t make the trip, your current favorite BBQ rub should do just fine — cautions Johnson: “Make sure there is salt in your rub!”


Remove wings from the chicken (or purchase pre-cut) and hit ’em with a generous amount of rub — let sit out for 45 minutes until the sugar in the rub dissolves and goes gooey.

Smoke for about an hour at 250°F so they reach 155° minimum.*

Now they will be dry. Add a pinch of the same dry rub to each wing and toss in a bowl. They key here is to slow char/caramelize the wings, which will take about 10-15 minutes on a grill. You want your grill to be very hot, but not so hot that the wings burn and cause grill marks to appear. They should develop even color all over after 10 minutes.

Dress with your favorite buffalo sauce and enjoy with that beer.

*Nota bene: for those not well-versed in the art of smoking, step right this way for an tutorial (spoiler: it’s WAY easier than you think).


The Chef: Brad Warner, Executive Chef at Bodegra Negra at The Dream Downtown Hotel, NYC

Why Pork Belly? “Pork Belly is the same cut of meat that is typically used for Bacon, so it is succulent and rich when cooked correctly. People are used to having this cut sliced thin and served crispy. When you cook it yourself you can cut it thick and sear the exterior crispy, leaving the interior tender and moist.”

What to Drink? “A nice spicy Paloma would be great. The richness of the pork with a spicy drink would go perfectly.”

Pork Belly Carnitas


  • 5 lb pork belly
  • 1 recipe spice rub (below)
  • 4 serrano chiles, halved
  • 4 red chiles, halved
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 quart water

    Spice Rub:

  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp ancho chile powder
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar



Mix your spice rub ingredients together and pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

Score the fat side of the pork belly in a cross-hatch pattern, then rub it all over with the spice rub and cure it for 3-4 hours in the refrigerator.

Place pork belly in a large pan fat side up with chiles, garlic and onions. Pour water into the pan around the pork belly, being careful not to rinse off the spice rub.

Cover the pan with two layers of plastic and two layers of foil and place in the oven — cook for appx 5 hours or until pork belly is tender.

Allow to cool thoroughly and remove from the pan. Place in the refrigerator and chill overnight.

Cut chilled pork into 1 inch cubes. In a hot heavy skillet, cook cubes of pork until crispy on one or two sides and heated through.

Serve on warm corn tortillas with your favorite salsa verde.


The Chef: Jody Adams, Chef/Owner at SalonikiTRADE and Porto, Boston MA

Why Veal Breast? “I love the heft and challenge of this cut — the bones are big, the meat fights back a bit and benefits from being tamed by low, slow cooking and deep flavors. Even after it’s braised for hours, it still has some fat. I cut between the bones and throw them on the grill. The charred flavor with the deep richness of the braise is amazing.”

What to Drink? “Nebbiolo, Rioja or a Pinot Noir.”

Braised and Grilled Veal Breast with Hibiscus and Honey


  • 1 small whole veal breast, 7-8 lbs
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp Chinese 5-spice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 4 onions, quartered
  • 4 oz balsamic vinegar
  • 4 celery stalks, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved crosswise
  • 3/4 cup dried hibiscus blossoms (available in Middle Eastern stores)
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 8 cups chicken stock, warm
  • 6 savory or thyme sprigs
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/3 cup cocoa nibs
  • Urfa pepper, Aleppo pepper or any other hot or smoky pepper
  • coarse sea salt



Trim the veal breast with a light hand, since the fat will render off as the meat braises. Do take off the fat pockets on the bone side of the meat and any slimy membrane on the meat side. Season all over, liberally, with salt and pepper. Rub all over with Chinese 5-spice. If possible, cover lightly and refrigerate overnight. If you don’t have time to let it rest overnight, let stand at room temperature for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the carrots, onions, celery and garlic with ¼ cup oil and salt and pepper. Spread out in a large roasting pan. Roast until the edges start to brown, about 20 minutes.

To brown the meat, set the meat on top of the vegetables, bone side down, and roast 30 minutes. While the meat is roasting, steep the hibiscus blossoms and honey in the hot water for 20 minutes.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees. Add the hibiscus blossoms in water to the roasting pan and enough chicken stock to come one-third up the side of the meat. Add the savory or thyme sprigs, bay leaves and cocoa nibs. Set on the stove and bring to a boil.

Cover the meat with parchment and then a double layer of foil. Put into the oven and braise until a skewer slips easily in and out of the meat (4-5 hrs).

Remove the pan from the oven, remove the foil and parchment and let the meat cool for 30 minutes. Transfer the meat to another baking pan. Remove the vegetables, herb stems and bay leaves from the braising juices (they can be discarded but are delicious for snacking).

Pour the braising juices into a container and refrigerate. Wrap the meat in foil and refrigerate as well.

The next day, scrape the fat that has risen to the top off the braising juices and discard. Put the juices into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until they have reduced and thickened slightly.

Unwrap the meat and put on a cutting board. Cut between the bones to separate the individual ribs. Preheat a grill to 375 degrees, brush the ribs with oil, and grill on each side until charred and heated through, about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with Urfa pepper and sea salt and serve with the sauce.


The Chef: Lucas Sin, Chef at Junzi Kitchen, NYC

Why Pork Hock? “It’s one of the most wonderful cuts of meat that’s underutilized in home kitchens. Despite its reputation as a tough-skinned cut only used for ham, the hock is one of the most prized cuts in China. Bone, skin, and fat are the pig’s most prized reserves of flavor, unlocked only through patient braising. When cooked correctly, bone-in, skin-on pork hock is a fatty and incredibly tender cut of dark meat. This recipe is a traditional technique called “red-cooking,” which involves a slow braise with soybean paste.”

What to Drink? “As for most Chinese food, beer is a great pairing with this dish.”

Red-Cooked Pork Hock


  • 1 bone-in, skin-on pork hock (appx 4 lb)
  • 3 pc scallion whites
  • 2 pc ginger, 1″
  • 4 tbsp rock sugar or white sugar
  • 2 tbsp Chinese soybean paste
  • 3 tbsp cooking wine
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
  • water

  • 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp cloves
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 pc black cardamom (Tsao-ko)
  • 1 pc star anise
  • 2 pc bay leaf



Over medium-heat, toast spices dry until fragrant.

Place pork hock in large pot and cover with warm water. Bring to a boil and immediately drain. Wash pork hock with cold water.

In a clean pot, combine all toasted spices and ingredients for the braise. Add water 3/4 up the meat and bring to a boil. Immediately lower to a simmer. Let simmer with lid on for at least 3 hours, checking periodically. If the liquid level has fallen, add more water as necessary.

As soon as the meat is fork-tender, remove and serve with steamed rice and a reduction of the braising liquid.


The Chef: Jordan Andino, chef/owner at Flip Sigi, NYC

Why Teres Major? “My favorite ‘cheap meat’ —it’s the part of the shoulder blade that has similar flavor and texture to filet mignon, at a quarter of the price. The teres major is super tender, and easy to use in most cooking applications —grilling, roasting, etc.”

What to Drink? “A nice glass of red wine!”

Roasted Dijon and Herb-Marinated Teres Major with Sweet Chili Brussels Sprouts


  • 16 oz teres major cut
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, pureed with olive oil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce (store bought is ok)



The Steak:

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except steak and mix so they are equally distributed. Rub marinade into steak and let rest at room temperature for 10 min.

Sear steak in cast iron skillet on VERY HIGH heat, four minutes on each side WITHOUT moving it. Remove from heat and let rest for 4 minutes — yields medium rare.

The Sprouts:

In the remaining marinade from the steak, toss the brussel sprouts and coat evenly. Preheat oven to 375 and place brussel sprouts cut side up on oiled and foiled roasting pan — no large rims because you don’t want them to steam. Roast for 25-35 mins until they are dark golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 min. In mixing bowl, toss with sweet chili and serve immediately.


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