How to take a bloody nice bit of meat and burn it a bit
Once you know your rump from your ribeye, go for it
Despite the trend towards reducing meat in our diets, through the likes of meat-free Mondays, Veganuary or cutting it out altogether, it is still estimated the average person eats 300 meals which contain meat per year.
But while we line our stomachs with tasty cuts of beef, pork or lamb, we often have no idea where they come from. The disconnect between us and our food is nothing new, but a recent survey has highlighted just how significant the detachment has become.
According to the report, commissioned by butcher Donald Russell, the average meat eater consumes 36 roast dinners, 48 sausages, 60 chicken breasts, 36 chicken curries, 24 pork chops, 96 bacon rashers and 30 steaks per year.
But can they tell their bavette from their sirloin, or their flank from their ribeye? It seems, more often than not, that the answer is no. Over 80% of respondents couldn't identify where the ribeye, one of the most popular cuts, comes from.
Not many people have tried a bavette steak (from the flank, and a current favourite among celebrity chefs), while 83% do not know what a flat iron (from the shoulder) is. Both are cheap cuts that, cooked correctly, are delicious.
Even when the clue is in the name (and even more glaringly than the ribeye, which comes from the rib) nearly two-thirds could not identify the location of a rump steak; only 36% correctly pointed out that a pork shoulder came from the shoulder.
There is a lack of knowledge about how to source or prepare the best-quality meat, and that lack of experimentation with different cuts of meat means we are missing out on some of the best options available.
Butcher David Lishman offers his tips on choosing and cooking steak, as well as a rundown on the differences between some of the main cuts.
“If you are looking for steak, choose a cut that is nicely aged – anything from 14 to 30 days – and marbled with fat, as this will impart more flavour,” Lishman explains. “Ribeye and sirloin are the classics, but there are plenty of tasty and more economical cuts.”
Tips for frying steaks
Before cooking, remove your steaks from the fridge and bring them to room temperature. “This will ensure the middle of the steak cooks evenly and allow you to cook it quickly, avoiding over-cooking,” says Lishman.
Apply seasoning and let the meat rest for half an hour prior to cooking. Lishman says you can go simple – olive oil, salt, pepper – or experiment with garlic and rubs.
“Oil your pan or griddle as you would grease a cake tin, applying a layer of fat rather than pouring in a pool of oil,” Lishman advises. “Turn up the heat until your pan or grill is smoking, as this will help sear the meat and give a tasty caramelised crust.”
One of the most important tips is to not overcook it. “Medium-rare to medium is perfect for a marbled cut. Any less and the fat won’t caramelise and impart its flavour; any more and the steak will become tough.”
Before serving, rest the meat, which will help it retain more of its juices when slicing, making for a juicier steak.
Which steak should I go for?
The smallest and most tender, but often the priciest of steaks. “They can be quite thick, so to get the best out of them sear on each side for a couple of minutes in a hot griddle pan, before moving to a warm plate to rest for at least 5-10 minutes as it gently cooks through,” is Lishman’s advice. This lean cut is also ideal for a classic Beef Wellington.
A popular cut in South America, particularly in Brazil. “This is the cap from the rump,” says Lishman. “It has a good layer of fat and is super tasty, with a medium tenderness. It is a really tasty cut when handled well. Just be sure that you have chosen a steak that is properly matured and cut across the grain, to ensure a more tender eat.”
For medium rare, cook for four to five minutes on each side, with the fat side down first, to allow the fat to render.
“A steak that makes a real statement. It is basically a ribeye with the short rib still attached to it. While some butchers trim the meat from the short rib, others leave it on. If this is the case, be aware that the meat on the rib will cook quicker than the chunkier meat on the steak, so you will need to wrap the rib in tin foil while the steak is cooking, and then unwrap it towards the end to char it a little.”
For medium rare, sear the steak on each side for three to four minutes, before roasting in a preheated oven for 10 minutes.
One of the most popular cuts, the ribeye comes from near the backbone of the animal, where prime roasting cuts like rib of beef are also located. “As a steak, it is slightly less tender than a fillet, but the fat and marbling in this cut makes it really tasty,” says Lishman.
Look for a nicely marbled steak that has been dry aged for 21-30 days. This will work well for grilling, frying, or, if cut nice and thick, braaiing. Make sure you start cooking at a high temperature to allow the fat to cook.
“The most romantic of steaks is the cote de boeuf, which is basically a double ribeye on the bone, served rare with Béarnaise sauce,” says Lishman. Cook a couple of minutes on both sides for medium rare.
The sirloin is cut from the upper middle of the animal, along the spine, and is slightly leaner than a ribeye, with fat at the edge rather then the distinctive “eyes” of the ribeye.
Cook it like a ribeye, and look out for a steak marbled nicely with intramuscular fat. There is also a leaner version that has been cut from the rump end of the sirloin, and only has a thin layer of fat, and all the gristle removed. Cook for a couple of minutes on both sides for medium rare.
Cut from the rear of the cow, many butchers consider this the tastiest steak, Lishman notes. It should be dry aged for 21 days to ensure succulence, and it is suitable for frying, stir-frying, grilling or barbecuing.
A word of warning: sometimes a whole rump steak can contain more than one muscle, which means it may cook inconsistently, so ask your butcher to cut a smaller piece from one of the muscle groups. Cook for a couple of minutes on each side for medium rare.
“This is the French term for flank, and is a thin steak from the top of the animal’s chest. It is a lean cut with a coarse grain. Be sure to buy a nicely aged bavette of at least 14 to 21 days, or it could be tough. You can simply flash fry or grill this steak, or use it as stewing meat. Marinating before cooking will also help tenderise it.”
Cook on a high heat for for a couple of minutes on each side before allowing to rest on a warm plate.
Sometimes known as onglet or skirt steak, on some menus it can be called a bistro steak. It hails from the lower belly of the animal, and is often termed the “butchers’ steak” as they used to save it for themselves. It is full of flavour, but the gristle should be removed.
“This is an economical cut which can be turned into something really special if it is well aged and nicely cooked. It is best slow-cooked or cut very thin for quick frying,” Lishman advises. Saute for a minute on each side, before oven cooking at 200C for five to seven minutes.
“Cut from the hard-working shoulder of the animal, it is one of the cheaper steaks but with slow cooking or braising in rich gravy it will melt in your mouth.” Fry for two to three minutes on each side.
- © The Daily Telegraph