April 1, 2015 |

No Butts About It

By John Gutekanst

steak pizzaCheaper cuts of beef can rock as hard as expensive protein


Beef is a popular menu item in most every restaurant. In fact, some steakhouses may have nine to 12 different cuts of beef on their menus while most pizzerias have only the usual ground beef crumbles. This is probably because most operators, like me, are averse to the higher prices that beef presents in both the price-per-pound and the weight of the product.

Let’s face it: pizzas are a platform for smaller tidbits of taste and texture. Larger, thicker cuts of beef do not work on pizza because of price, and customers cannot eat them properly. There are several ways around the perplexing job of presenting a beefy pie to customers without paying an arm and a leg.

Let’s start with the weight ratio of an expensive beef topping.
Dough $.40
Sauce $.25
Cheese $2
Box $.60
$3.25 for a large pizza

If your beef topping is raw ribeye that you cook, slice and top, it is $10.72 a pound or 67 cents an ounce (and six ounces is how much you put on a pizza). Six ounces sliced ribeye  = $4.02 + $3.25 = $7.27 per pizza.

If you sell this Ribeye Pizza for $12, the food cost is 61 percent. If it is sold at $17.99, the food cost is 40 percent. If you sell it for $20.99, then the food cost comes down to 35 percent.

There are several ways to bring the $7 cost of each pizza down. This is where menu manipulation can save you thousands of dollars each year. Consider:

  • Find another cheaper topping, sauce or cheese to change the flavor profile on each pie, which enables you to use less ribeye. (Now you won’t sell as many pizzas.)
  • Put less cheese on each pizza. (Now you won’t sell as many pizzas.)
  • Find a cheaper cut of beef. (Bingo!)

Flankly speaking, Cheaper cuts of meat are found in the working parts of the cow and from the muscles that are well exercised, like the flank, plate, chuck and round. The challenge to any pizza professional is to incorporate this beef into their menu mix to achieve customer happiness and profitability.

Sliced thinly. Large haunches of round, tri-tip and brisket that are roasted and then thinly sliced offer a beautiful blanket of meaty goodness on a pizza without toughness. These cuts are good because of consistent marbling and lack of large swaths of fat. Always cut against the grain.

Braised and pulled. Large cuts of chuck, chuck blade steak, shank and short ribs cooked in beef broth or water and vegetables with herbs and spices offer a great topping for any pizza. These must be cooked low and slow for hours to break down the naturally occurring gristle and tough meat, but this is where the flavor lies.

Ground and cooked. Any and every cheaper cut can be ground up for par-cooking or making beefy sausage. The key when grinding and cooking beef is to always have enough fat in the mix because this is where the flavor is. Grinders can be expensive, but once you get the knack of making beef sausage and meatballs your customers will thank you.

Here are some affordable cuts of beef that can be prepared to rock a pizza:

  • Choice whole brisket — 25 cents an ounce. This primal cut comes from the lower breast of the cow. This cut is known for its intense beefy flavor. Cooked low and slow is the only way for this. Must be cut across the grain. Used for corned beef and barbeque.
  • Whole Flank steak — 28 cents an ounce. This has traditionally been a cheaper cut but has gained popularity as of late. This cut benefits from marinades and should be scored when grilling.
  • Whole inside top round — 20 cents an ounce. Taken from the hindquarter of beef. This can be roasted dry or wet and can be seen in large banquets for carving boards. Slice thin, rare slices on pizza then cook.
  • Bottom round “Goosenecks” — 24 cents an ounce. This is cut at the natural seams that separate it from the top round, knuckle and shank. This is then divided into the rump roast and bottom round roast. This has good marbling and is good roasted, sliced thin. Braising may take longer with low temps.
  • Whole beef eye of round — 25 cents per ounce. This is a very lean cut and may include the knuckle, which is the sirloin tip. This is a very lean cut and it is recommended to braise this beef.
  • Chuck whole clod — 21 cents an ounce. This is the whole forequarter of beef.
  • Chuck roll — 34 cents an ounce. This well-marbled cut requires a long slow cook.
  • Chuck Flat — 29 cents an ounce. This cut comes from the upper forequarter of the beef. It has a fair amount of marbling and great flavor.
  • Chuck Pectorals — 27 cents an ounce. This is a deep muscle in the upper forequarter left over after the brisket is removed. Used for cubed steak, diced beef and a lot of taco and fajita places use this cut.


Beef “Flankenstein”

This is a great recipe for sauerbraten. Your customers will love this braised beef pizza with potato and sauerkraut with Swiss or Gruyere cheese. Brisket or rump can also be used with this recipe.

Get the Beef “Flankenstein” Recipe.

John Gutekanst owns Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio. He is an award-winning pizzaiolo, baker, teacher, speaker and author and contributes frequently to Pizza Today and International Pizza Expo.