11 Cheapest Meats for Philly Cheesesteak

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A Philly cheesesteak, with its tender meat, melted cheese, and soft bread, is a culinary delight that’s hard to resist. While many swear by luxury cuts for that unparalleled taste, I’ve ventured into a question: Can we craft an equally tantalizing Philly cheesesteak on a budget?

My love for this iconic sandwich, paired with an appreciation for economical choices, led me to explore affordable cheesesteak meats. And the discovery was enlightening! Splurging on the priciest cuts isn’t a necessity for a delectable cheesesteak. There are budget-friendly beef options that promise flavor without a hefty price tag.

sliced meat on black surface - Cheapest Meats for Philly Cheesesteak

Table of Contents

Understanding Meat Cuts

Diving into the world of beef, I quickly realized that understanding the anatomy of a cow is crucial to making informed choices about meat cuts. Different parts of the cow yield different textures and flavors, and not surprisingly, they come with varying price tags.

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As I delved deeper, I discovered several factors that influence meat prices. From the feed the cow consumes to the methods of raising and processing, every aspect plays a role in determining the cost. It’s not just about the cut itself; it’s also about where it comes from on the cow.

Recognizing these beef sections and the associated price factors has been instrumental in helping me choose the right cut for my Philly cheesesteak without stretching my budget.

List of Budget-Friendly Beef Cuts for Philly Cheesesteaks

  • Chuck Steak: Originating from the beef shoulder, Chuck Steak offers a rich flavor profile. Its marbling ensures a juicy bite, making it a flavorful yet economical choice for a cheesesteak.
  • Top Round: Hailing from the rear leg, Top Round is lean but can be tenderized with the right techniques. Its balance of texture and taste offers great value for its price.
  • Skirt Steak: Derived from the diaphragm, Skirt Steak boasts a unique flavor and tenderness. Its natural marbling and grain provide a rich taste without a premium price tag.
  • Flank Steak: Located along the cow’s belly, Flank Steak is lean yet flavorful. When sliced against the grain, it offers a tender bite, making it a cost-effective choice for those seeking both taste and value.
  • Ground Beef: A versatile mix of various cuts, Ground Beef is both affordable and adaptable. Its blend of flavors and textures, combined with its lower cost, makes it an excellent choice for a value-packed cheesesteak.

1. Chuck Steak

In my journey to find the perfect budget-friendly meat for a Philly cheesesteak, I stumbled upon the Chuck Steak. Originating from the beef shoulder, this cut immediately piqued my interest. It’s not just its economical price tag that caught my attention, but also its distinct characteristics.

The Chuck Steak, with its rich marbling, promises a depth of flavor that can rival some of the more expensive cuts. And while some might overlook it in favor of pricier options, I’ve found that with the right cooking methods, this shoulder meat can truly shine.

Whether it’s slow-cooked to tender perfection or marinated to enhance its natural flavors, the Chuck Steak has proven to be an affordable yet delicious choice for my cheesesteak endeavors.

Cooking Methods: It’s best suited for slow-cooking methods like braising, stewing, or slow grilling to break down the connective tissues and make it tender. It can also be used for ground beef.

Average Price: As of now, the average price for chuck steak in the U.S. is around $5.99 per pound.

11 Cheapest Meats For Philly Cheesesteak

2. Top Round

As I continued my quest for the ideal budget-friendly meat, the Top Round emerged as a compelling contender. Hailing from the rear leg of the cow, this cut is notably leaner than some of its counterparts.

At first, I was a bit skeptical. Could such a lean cut deliver the juicy, flavorful bite I craved in my Philly cheesesteak? But as I delved deeper into its characteristics, I realized its potential. The key lies in the preparation.

With the right techniques, like marinating or slow-cooking, the Top Round can be tenderized to perfection. And the best part? It offers a delectable taste without putting a dent in my wallet. Truly, this leg meat has shown itself to be an economical yet tasty choice for my cheesesteak experiments.

Cooking Methods: It’s often used for roast beef and can be roasted, grilled, or broiled. It’s also commonly sliced thin for sandwiches or cut into cubes for stews.

Average Price: The average price for top round in the U.S. is approximately $4.99 per pound.

11 Cheapest Meats For Philly Cheesesteak

3. Skirt Steak

In my culinary adventures, the Skirt Steak has always held a special place. When I first learned it comes from the diaphragm of the cow, I was intrigued. This unique origin gives the Skirt Steak a flavor profile that’s truly hard to match.

Its natural marbling and grain make it a cut that’s bursting with flavor. But what truly cemented its place in my heart was its potential in a budget-friendly cheesesteak.

While it’s already tender and flavorful, with a little care in preparation, it can be elevated even further. A quick marinade or the right grilling technique can make this affordable steak melt in your mouth.

Every bite of a cheesesteak made with this diaphragm meat is a testament to the fact that you don’t need to spend a fortune to enjoy a rich, flavorful experience.

Cooking Methods: It’s best when marinated and grilled or pan-seared over high heat. It’s often used in dishes like fajitas.

Average Price: The current average price for skirt steak in the U.S. is around $8.99 per pound.

11 Cheapest Meats For Philly Cheesesteak

4. Flank Steak

During my exploration of budget-friendly meats, the Flank Steak quickly became a favorite. Its position on the cow, along the belly, gives it a unique combination of leanness and flavor.

At first glance, its long grain might seem challenging, but therein lies its charm. I’ve found that when sliced thinly against the grain, this steak offers a tenderness that’s perfect for a Philly cheesesteak. And when it comes to cooking, it’s quite the chameleon. Whether it’s quickly seared on high heat or marinated to infuse additional flavors, the Flank Steak consistently delivers.

What’s more, its cost-effectiveness means I can enjoy a delicious cheesesteak without any guilt about overspending. Every time I use this lean cut, I’m reminded that great flavor doesn’t always come with a hefty price tag.

Cooking Methods: Like skirt steak, it benefits from marinating and should be cooked quickly over high heat, either grilled or broiled. It’s commonly used in dishes like stir-fries or fajitas.

Average Price: The average price for flank steak in the U.S. is about $9.99 per pound.

11 Cheapest Meats For Philly Cheesesteak

5. Ground Beef

When it comes to versatility in the kitchen, nothing quite matches Ground Beef for me. It’s this wonderful amalgamation of various cuts, bringing together a medley of flavors and textures.

As I delved into crafting the perfect budget-friendly Philly cheesesteak, I realized the untapped potential of this humble meat. While some might argue that a traditional cheesesteak requires a specific cut, I’ve found that with a bit of creativity, Ground Beef can rise to the occasion.

By selecting the right blend, perhaps with a higher fat content for juiciness, and seasoning it just right, I can achieve a cheesesteak filling that’s both flavorful and cost-effective. Plus, the myriad ways to cook and season it mean I can experiment to my heart’s content.

With Ground Beef, I’ve discovered that making a delicious, wallet-friendly cheesesteak is not just possible, but an absolute delight.

Cooking Methods: Ground beef can be used in a variety of dishes, from burgers to meatballs, tacos, and more. It’s typically pan-fried, but can also be grilled, baked, or used in soups and stews.

Average Price: The current average price for ground beef in the U.S. is approximately $4.49 per pound.

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11 Cheapest Meats For Philly Cheesesteak

Alternative Meat Options for a Low Cost Philly Cheesesteak

  • Chicken: A leaner option that’s widely available and often priced lower than beef. Its versatility in cooking and ability to absorb flavors makes it a cost-effective choice for a cheesesteak.
  • Turkey: Another poultry option that’s typically light on the wallet. Its lean profile offers a health-conscious alternative without compromising on taste.
  • Pork: Cuts like pork shoulder are flavorful and often priced lower than traditional beef cuts. Its savory profile can add a unique twist to the cheesesteak at a fraction of the cost.
  • Lamb Shoulder: While lamb can sometimes be seen as a luxury meat, the shoulder cut is more affordable. When cooked properly, it offers a rich and tender meat option for a cheesesteak.
  • Tofu (Meat Alternative): A plant-based protein that’s both affordable and versatile. Its ability to take on flavors makes it a great vegan alternative for those looking to save without sacrificing taste.
  • Seitan (Meat Alternative): Made from wheat protein, seitan is a cost-effective meat substitute with a meaty texture. Its ability to mimic traditional meats in dishes makes it a budget-friendly choice for a plant-based cheesesteak.

1. Chicken

In my journey to discover cost-effective alternatives to beef for a Philly cheesesteak, chicken quickly stood out as a top contender. The lean profile of chicken breast, combined with the richer flavor of the thigh, offers a delightful balance that can rival the traditional beef filling.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with various cooking methods, from grilling to pan-frying, and found that with the right seasoning, chicken can truly shine in a cheesesteak. Whether I’m aiming for a lighter meal or simply want a change from the usual, opting for a chicken cheesesteak has never disappointed.

The versatility of poultry, especially when considering its affordability, makes it a fantastic lean meat alternative for those looking to enjoy a delicious cheesesteak without the beef.

Cooking Methods: Can be grilled, roasted, pan-fried, or slow-cooked. Chicken breasts are leaner, while thighs offer more flavor.

Average Price: $3.00 to $5.00 per pound.

grilled meat with white sauce

2. Turkey

On my quest to diversify the flavors of the classic Philly cheesesteak, I stumbled upon turkey as a promising alternative. The lean nature of turkey breast, combined with its subtle yet distinct flavor, got me thinking about its potential in a cheesesteak. As someone who’s always conscious about health benefits, I appreciate that turkey offers a lower-fat option without compromising on taste.

Over time, I’ve honed my cooking techniques to ensure the turkey remains juicy and flavorful, whether it’s grilled or pan-fried. And with the right seasonings, a turkey cheesesteak can be just as satisfying as its beef counterpart. For those days when I’m craving something lighter yet equally delicious, turning to turkey as a light meat option for my cheesesteak has been a delightful choice.

Cooking Methods: Often roasted whole, but turkey breasts and ground turkey can be pan-fried, grilled, or used in stews.

Average Price: $1.50 to $3.50 per pound.

11 Cheapest Meats For Philly Cheesesteak

3. Pork

In my culinary experiments, I’ve often sought to reimagine classic dishes with a fresh twist. That’s how I came to consider pork for a Philly cheesesteak. While beef has its undeniable charm, there’s something about the savory depth of pork that intrigued me. I’ve played around with various cuts, and the pork shoulder, with its marbling, has consistently delivered in terms of flavor and tenderness.

The pork loin, on the other hand, offers a leaner alternative while still packing a punch in the taste department. Over the years, I’ve refined my cooking techniques, finding that a slow roast or a careful grill can truly elevate pork in a cheesesteak. And with the right blend of seasonings, a pork cheesesteak can be a mouthwatering alternative that stands tall next to its beefy counterpart.

Whenever I’m in the mood for something different, yet undeniably delicious, pork has proven to be a savory meat option that never lets me down.

Cooking Methods: Various cuts can be roasted, grilled, or slow-cooked. Pork shoulder, in particular, benefits from slow roasting or braising.

Average Price: $2.50 to $4.00 per pound.

Raw fillet pork or beef steak pieces closeup top view

4. Lamb Shoulder

During my culinary adventures, I’ve always been drawn to the unique flavors that different meats can bring to a dish. This curiosity led me to experiment with lamb shoulder as an alternative for the traditional Philly cheesesteak. The richness of lamb, combined with its affordability, made it an enticing option.

As I delved deeper into the world of lamb, I quickly realized the many benefits of the shoulder cut. Its marbling ensures a juicy outcome, and its distinct flavor profile adds a depth that’s hard to match. Over time, I’ve perfected my cooking techniques for this particular cut, finding that slow-roasting or braising truly brings out its tenderness and enhances its natural flavors.

With the right seasonings and a bit of patience, a lamb shoulder cheesesteak emerges as a delectable, cost-effective alternative that’s both satisfying and full of character. Whenever I’m looking to elevate my cheesesteak game, turning to lamb shoulder has been a decision I’ve never regretted. I’ve developed my own recipe for what I think is the tastiest lamb cheesesteak ever, check out the recipe in my how to make a lamb Philly Cheesesteak recipe article.

Cooking Methods: Best when slow-roasted, braised, or stewed to break down the connective tissues and release its rich flavor.

Average Price: $5.00 to $8.00 per pound.

11 Cheapest Meats For Philly Cheesesteak

5. Tofu (Meat Alternative)

In my pursuit of creating inclusive dishes that cater to diverse dietary preferences, I began exploring plant-based alternatives for the iconic Philly cheesesteak.

This journey introduced me to tofu, a versatile and protein-rich ingredient that quickly became a favorite. The beauty of tofu lies in its ability to absorb flavors, making it a blank canvas for culinary creativity. I’ve experimented with both firm and extra-firm tofu, finding that their textures hold up well in a sandwich.

Over time, I’ve mastered the art of marinating tofu, ensuring it’s packed with flavor before hitting the grill or pan. The key, I’ve found, is to press the tofu well to remove excess moisture and then let it soak in a rich marinade. Once cooked, tofu offers a delightful bite that’s both tender and flavorful.

Opting for a tofu cheesesteak has not only been a nod to my vegan friends but also a delicious plant-based twist that’s won over even the most ardent meat lovers in my circle.

Cooking Methods: Can be fried, baked, grilled, or used in soups and salads. It’s a versatile ingredient that absorbs flavors well.

Average Price: $2.00 to $4.00 per pound.

11 Cheapest Meats For Philly Cheesesteak

6. Seitan (Meat Alternative)

In my continuous exploration of plant-based delights, seitan emerged as a revelation. Often dubbed as “wheat meat,” seitan boasts a meaty texture that’s uncannily similar to traditional meats.

As I delved into the world of seitan, I was captivated by its chewy consistency and its ability to mimic the feel of meat in dishes. My experiments led me to understand that the key to a perfect seitan cheesesteak lies in its preparation. Whether I’m simmering it in a flavorful broth or sautéing it with aromatic spices, seitan absorbs flavors beautifully, making it a joy to work with.

Its wheat protein composition gives it a unique bite, and with the right seasonings, it can be transformed into a mouthwatering plant-based cheesesteak filling. Whenever I’m aiming to impress my vegan guests or simply want a meaty yet meat-free option, turning to seitan has consistently proven to be a winning choice.

Cooking Methods: Can be sautéed, fried, simmered, or used in stews. It’s versatile and can take on various flavors.

Average Price: $5.00 to $7.00 per pound.

11 Cheapest Meats For Philly Cheesesteak

Comparison of Cheap vs Luxury Cuts

As someone who’s had the privilege of tasting a wide range of meats, from the most budget-friendly to the luxurious, I’ve developed a keen sense of the nuances that different cuts bring to the table. When I think of luxury beef cuts, ribeye and filet mignon immediately come to mind among a few others I’d list under the best meat cuts for a Philly cheesesteak. These cuts are celebrated for their tenderness, marbling, and rich flavor profile. But how do they stack up against our budget-friendly alternatives?

Taste is subjective, and while the deep flavors of a ribeye or the melt-in-your-mouth texture of filet mignon are undeniably delightful, the budget cuts we’ve explored have their own unique charm. The key, I believe, lies in the preparation and the seasoning. With the right techniques, even a budget cut can rival a luxury steak in taste and texture.

Price, of course, is a significant factor. The premium you pay for luxury cuts is not just for the meat itself but for the experience it promises. However, I’ve found that with a bit of culinary creativity, even budget cuts can deliver a gourmet experience.

Lastly, it’s essential to consider the role of other ingredients. A Philly cheesesteak isn’t just about the meat. The bread, cheese, onions, and peppers all play crucial roles in creating that perfect bite. Sometimes, a simpler meat cut allows these other ingredients to shine, creating a harmonious balance in flavors and textures.

In the end, whether you’re reaching for a luxury cut or a budget-friendly alternative, it’s the love and care you put into the preparation that truly makes a cheesesteak memorable.

Role of Other Ingredients

In my culinary journey, I’ve come to realize that while the meat is the star of a Philly cheesesteak, it’s the ensemble of ingredients that truly brings the performance to life. Each component plays a pivotal role in creating that iconic taste and texture we all crave.


Take cheese, for instance. Its creamy meltiness binds the meat and adds a layer of richness that’s simply irresistible. Whether I opt for the traditional provolone or venture out with a spicy pepper jack, the choice of cheese can dramatically alter the cheesesteak’s flavor profile. I’ve experimented with so many cheeses in a number of recipes including Cheesesteaks. I pulled together my findings in an article covering the very best cheeses for Philly Cheesesteaks.


Then there are the onions. Caramelized to perfection, they add a touch of sweetness that contrasts beautifully with the savory meat. Their soft texture melds seamlessly with the other ingredients, ensuring every bite is a harmonious blend of flavors.

Peppers, whether green bell peppers or spicier varieties, introduce a crunch and a hint of freshness. They cut through the richness, providing a balance that keeps you coming back for more.


While the meat and toppings play starring roles, the bread acts as the stage that holds the performance together. The choice of bread can influence the sandwich’s overall texture, flavor, and even its structural integrity. Whether it’s the chewy resilience of a classic hoagie or the crusty exterior of a fresh baguette, the bread encapsulates the filling and enhances every bite.

For a deeper dive into the world of breads perfect for your cheesesteak, explore our article, Best Bread for Philly Cheesesteaks, and discover how this foundational ingredient can elevate the entire sandwich experience.

As I’ve experimented with different cheesesteak variations, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of these complementary ingredients. They’re not just fillers; they’re essential components that elevate the sandwich from good to unforgettable. It’s a symphony of flavors and textures, and each ingredient, no matter how seemingly insignificant, has its part to play in this culinary masterpiece.

11 Cheapest Meats For Philly Cheesesteak

Maximizing Flavor on a Budget

Throughout my time in the kitchen, I’ve learned that you don’t need to break the bank to create dishes bursting with flavor. Especially when it comes to Philly cheesesteaks, there are countless ways to elevate budget cuts to gourmet levels.

Marinating for Maximum Flavor

Marinating has been a game-changer for me. By letting the meat soak in a blend of herbs, spices, and other flavorful liquids, I can infuse even the most affordable cuts with deep, rich flavors. It’s amazing how a simple combination of olive oil, garlic, and a splash of soy sauce can transform a piece of meat.

Boosting Flavor with Sauces

Another fantastic way to elevate the taste of your budget-friendly Philly cheesesteak is through the artful use of sauces. Sauces can add depth, moisture, and a burst of flavor to every bite, turning an ordinary sandwich into a gourmet delight.

Whether you’re a fan of a classic cheese sauce, a tangy barbecue drizzle, or a spicy aioli, the right sauce can make all the difference. For those keen on exploring a range of sauce options to complement their cheesesteak, be sure to check out my article diving deep into the Best Sauces for Philly Cheesesteaks, where we delve into a variety of mouth-watering options that can enhance your sandwich experience without stretching your budget.

Cook To Perfection

Then there’s the magic of cooking techniques. Slow cooking, for instance, can turn tougher cuts into melt-in-your-mouth delicacies. On the other hand, a quick sear on high heat can give the meat a delightful crust while keeping the inside tender. It’s all about understanding the cut and applying the best method to maximize its potential.

Perfect Pairings

Ingredient pairing is another trick up my sleeve. Pairing budget cuts with the right complementary ingredients can amplify their taste. Think of caramelized onions with a splash of balsamic vinegar or roasted peppers with a hint of smoked paprika. These combinations can take a simple cheesesteak to new heights.

Tasty Toppings for Top Flavor

Toppings are the unsung heroes when it comes to maximizing the flavor of a Philly cheesesteak, especially when you’re working with a budget. Crispy caramelized onions add a touch of sweetness, while tangy pickles introduce a refreshing crunch.

Consider roasted bell peppers for a smoky depth or mushrooms sautéed in garlic for an earthy richness. Even a sprinkle of hot chili flakes can elevate the heat and complexity of your sandwich. These toppings not only enhance the overall taste but also add layers of texture and flavor that complement the meat beautifully.

For a comprehensive list of topping ideas and their unique contributions to the cheesesteak experience, delve into our guide on Best Toppings for Philly Cheesesteaks. Discover how the right toppings can transform your budget-friendly cheesesteak into a gourmet treat.

In essence, maximizing flavor on a budget is all about creativity and understanding the ingredients at hand. With a bit of knowledge and a sprinkle of passion, it’s entirely possible to craft a mouthwatering cheesesteak without stretching your wallet.

11 Cheapest Meats For Philly Cheesesteak

Economic and Practical Benefits of Budget Cuts

Over the years, as I’ve navigated the ever-changing landscape of culinary costs, I’ve become acutely aware of the rising prices of meats. It’s not just a matter of cents and dollars; it’s about making choices that align with both my palate and my pocketbook. This journey has led me to appreciate the undeniable value proposition of budget-friendly meat cuts.

From an economic standpoint, the benefits are clear. Choosing budget cuts allows me to stretch my grocery budget further, enabling me to enjoy meat dishes more frequently without feeling the pinch. In a world where the cost of living continually rises, finding ways to save without compromising on taste has been invaluable.

But beyond the economics, there’s a practicality to using budget cuts that resonates with my daily cooking routines. These cuts are often more readily available at local stores, saving me the time and effort of hunting down more expensive and sometimes elusive luxury cuts. Plus, with the right techniques, these budget cuts can be just as tender, flavorful, and satisfying as their pricier counterparts.

Furthermore, the versatility of budget cuts means I can experiment with a variety of dishes. From stews to grills, from sandwiches to roasts, these cuts offer a canvas for culinary creativity. It’s this blend of affordability and flexibility that makes them a staple in my kitchen.

In essence, the choice to opt for budget-friendly meat cuts isn’t just about saving money. It’s about making smart, sustainable decisions that cater to both my love for cooking and the realities of daily life.

Savoring Every Bite: The Budget Cheesesteak Journey

As I reflect on my culinary journey, it’s evident that a mouthwatering Philly cheesesteak doesn’t always require luxury cuts. The essence of this iconic sandwich lies not in its price tag but in the passion and creativity poured into its making.

Throughout my experiments, I’ve discovered the hidden gems among budget cuts, each bringing its unique flavor and texture to the table. With the right techniques and seasonings, these cuts have proven that they can stand tall beside their pricier counterparts, delivering a cheesesteak experience that’s both delicious and wallet-friendly.

But beyond the flavors, there’s a deeper satisfaction in knowing that I’ve crafted a meal that’s both economical and delectable. It’s a testament to the fact that with a sprinkle of ingenuity and a dash of love, any ingredient, no matter how humble, can shine.

So, to all the fellow food enthusiasts out there, I say this: Don’t be deterred by budget constraints. Embrace the challenge, explore the world of economical cuts, and savor every bite of your tasty budget meal. The perfect Philly cheesesteak is within reach, and it doesn’t have to break the bank.

FAQs About Cheap Meat for Philly Cheesesteaks

What cheap steak to use for Philly cheesesteak?

You can use several budget-friendly cuts for a Philly cheesesteak, including Chuck Steak, Top Round, Skirt Steak, Flank Steak, and Ground Beef. These cuts, when prepared correctly, can offer a delicious alternative to more expensive options.

What can I use instead of ribeye for Philly cheesesteak?

Instead of ribeye, you can opt for Chuck Steak, Top Round, Skirt Steak, or Flank Steak. These cuts are more affordable and, with the right cooking techniques, can provide a flavorful and tender filling for a Philly cheesesteak.

What cut of meat do you use for Philly cheesesteak?

Traditionally, ribeye is the preferred cut for a Philly cheesesteak due to its marbling and flavor. However, if you’re looking for more economical options, Chuck Steak, Top Round, Skirt Steak, Flank Steak, and Ground Beef are excellent alternatives that can still deliver a tasty cheesesteak experience.

By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind CooksDream.com, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

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