Monday, May 23, 2011

Adventures in Suspiciously Cheap Meat

Yes, we will freely admit it: we shop at Aldi.

Not for everything, but it's a great place to get a very good price on many staple items (like butter, eggs, tomato paste, and some decent oranges). For those who haven't been, Aldi is a deep-discount grocery store with no shelves and scarcely any cashiers. Pretty much everything is a store brand, only cash and debit cards are accepted, and you have to deposit a quarter to release a shopping cart. But, if dispensing with many of the niceties of other supermarkets means 37¢ yogurts and butter for $2.69 a pound, we'll live with it. We do have standards though, of course, and we try to steer clear of their heavily processed, corn-syrup-addled prepared foods, and we wouldn't really buy meat from there.


There is an item at Aldi so ridiculously cheap, so vexingly mis-priced, that I couldn't resist its allure anymore. It's the $1.79 bacon-wrapped filet mignon.

Individually sealed for your protection, this cylinder of bargain beef is augmented with a "solution" that I suppose is meant to lend a little extra flavor to the steak, though I suspect its presence has at least something to do with getting the weight of each package up to the billed five ounces.

Mmm, solution

I made sure to pat it dry before throwing it in a hot grill pan.

Fifteen minutes or so later, the bacon was reasonably cooked and the filet was a touch below medium rare. Doesn't look so bad, does it?

The parsley classes it up

With no small amount of apprehension, I dug in. Based on my dining evidence, here are my hypotheses on why this piece of steak cost so little:
  1. God only knows where it came from.
  2. "Solution."
  3. Though cunningly connived into a filet-like shape thanks to the bacon, my piece (at least) was not a solid cut of tenderloin, but rather two split pieces of tip or end that were bound together. At least I can be thankful they didn't use meat glue to hold it together.
It's two steaks in one!

So how did it taste? Well, the bacon wasn't bad. Baking rather than grill-panning would have crisped it up a bit more. The flavor of the meat, though, I can only describe as "bologna-like". This is no doubt attributable to the overzealous flavor stylings of the Solution: all the spice, while being pleasant enough in the "tasty food" sense, obscured the "delicious beef" flavor that a good steak has. And given the likely provenance of this beef, I'm not sure how much of that flavor would have been there to begin with.

While my curiosity was certainly satisfied by finally trying this item, I can't say that my desire for big steak flavor was. But at $1.79, cheaper per serving than, well, pretty much any other meat I can think of, it presents an interesting monetary value proposition.

Still, I think I'd have to pass on trying this again. If I want a steak, number one I'm not getting a filet, and number two I'm not going to mess around. Aside from the questionable taste, the ethical ramifications of meat this cheap make me a little queasy. So, my curiosity satisfied, I will leave the Cattlemen's Ranch in the refrigerator case and use all the money I save buying everything else at Aldi to save up for a real decent steak every now and then.


Anonymous said...

We had an entirely different experience with Cattlemen's Ranch filets.

Going into the transaction we realized we were not buying custom cut New York Strips.

We fried them medium rare in a steel wok with olive oil, salt and pepper. We then brushed garlic butter over the top before serving them with a madeira sauce.

They were nicely shaped and flavorful. Not bad for a dinner the price of a fast food nation quarter-pound sandwich on a sugar bun.

The only thing we buy at Aldi's are these filets;but, Aldi's is not a grocery chain that sells inferior food.They just discount and pass savings on to the consumer. A lot of their products are from Foodtown, a respected brand.

Anonymous said...

Our family loves these. Great on the grill and a perfect portion for kids and adults that want a portion control.

Anonymous said...

I bought two of these and cooked them on my gas grill. They were inedible - tough and chewy - the worst meat I have ever tasted in my life. I threw them in the garbage. Thanks to Aldi's guaranty, I was able to get a full refund. Never again!

Anonymous said...

I believe the reason they are so cheap is because they use poisonous meat glue to past together random pieces of meat I can tell it is not good quality I think they also have a chicken at aldi's that is formed like this as well. I will stick with other brands I don't like poisonous glue and being mislead.

Joshua ake said...

I got a 2 pack of these as a joke gift.

To funny alien meat. Im not a regifter but these are way to classy not to!!!

Joshua ake said...

These are not tenderloins people. Punch yourself in the face then smack it with bacon

Anonymous said...

Do you guys eat Tyson? All Aldi meat is Tyson. They use their own labels to cut costs and save you money. Get over yourselves.

Anonymous said...

Larry said,
First of all anyone who would cook a 5 oz.filet for fifteen min.
should stay away from the stove, grill or whatever!

These little steaks are great!
If you know how to cook.

Anonymous said...

These things were thoroughly disgusting. They are so gristle-filled I would not even feed them to my dog for fear he would choke. I raised holy h.e.l.l. about them and got my money back. Even the store manager said they were horrible. It has totally put me off any meat named Cattlemen's Ranch. They should pull these. Really gives Aldi a bad name re their meat. My exception is anything from Kirkwood.

Anonymous said...

We had them on a charcoal grill for about 2 - 4 minutes and they were great. At $4.49, i expected nothing great for 2 bacon wrapped filets, but they were actually very tasty at mid rare

Anonymous said...

We love these little filets and eat them regularly. Good quality for the price.

Unknown said...

does it use pork bacon

Sojka's Call said...

I bought a pack of 4 at Grocery outlet due to seeing them several times and wondering how they could be so inexpensive. I salt and peppered, brought to room temp, and pan seared all the sides and finished in the over to a perfect medium-rare. The first two were very tough and not that good tasting.

For the other two, I am thinking of slow cooking in a very low heat oven to 120-125 degrees internal temp and then finish with a sear in a very hot pan. Hopefully, the low-temp/slow-cook would break down the weird stuff and they would be more tender. Has anyone tried that approach? Personally, I will never buy this again even at the price of ground chuck - ground chuck provides better cooking options for me. A good meatball would be more enjoyable than these things. I "thought" they said filet on the package and only after eating them and looking closely did I realize the term was implied but not actually stated.

Anonymous said...

Package directions say to cook each side 8-10 minutes on medium heat...did anyone actually follow the directions, which I assume are there for a reason? How did they come out?

Jennifer K said...

We really enjoy the cattlemans chile burgers. I admit Im not one for flavoured burger meat but these spicy treats are so good you dont even need ketchup. We served them at a party and they were a hit.

Anonymous said...

Had one today and gave most of it to the dog after trying to chew my way through it. The package said "Bacon Wrapped Chuck tender fillets" Tender was quite an over statement. I use chuck for beef stew and cut out ALL silver skin and gristle. The taste was good, but there was no way possible to actually chew this meat. I will not buy again.

Private said...

Thank god someone else knows the basic truth.....