You’ll be familiar with sirloin, rump and fillet, but would you know how to cook a goose skirt? Discover each cut’s distinct character with this guide courtesy of The Ginger Pig.
Steaks fall into two categories. They either have great flavour or they have tenderness; it is rare for both qualities to go together. The golden rule for cooking steak in general is to sear over a really high heat, then cook to your liking and rest for four or five minutes to let the muscles relax and flavours enhance. And, remember, anything from the front or rear of the animal needs to cook for longer than cuts from the middle, which is much more tender. Read on to find out what steak suits you best.
The inquisitive foodies’ steak. This is not a well-known cut. It comes from the shoulder blade, so there are only two in every cow, and is small, but packs lots of sweet flavour and should only ever be cooked rare or else it will toughen. It is not at all expensive.
The City boy or snob’s steak. From the middle back, this has a good size and is well marbled with tasty fat, but lacks true depth of flavour. It is eaten more than it used to be because modern butchers hang it (for up to 55 days) to add beefy flavour. Expensive, tender and juicy, it is beginning to be sold on the bone a little more, which also adds flavour. As always, flash fry or griddle – sadly grills at home aren’t hot enough these days for cooking steaks, only restaurant salamanders will do the trick.
The youthful trendy eater’s steak. This comes from the fore rib. It is marbled with a central piece of fat and, because of that, is very tasty. A barbecue is perfect for cooking rare steaks, but whatever you’re cooking on, make sure it’s really hot. If you insist on eating steak medium or well done (not recommended), sear it and then reduce the heat so you can cook it for longer without making the outside leathery.
The lady’s steak. The fillet comes from inside the sirloin. This muscle does no work at all, so it’s very tender and has no fat, but on the downside it doesn’t have much flavour and can’t be hung for long. It needs little cooking and is best served rare with a peppercorn, mushroom or blue-cheese sauce to add punch. Or, to make your fillet go further, roll it in eggwhite, then crushed peppercorns, and fry in a little olive oil for about eight minutes. Rest, refrigerate overnight, then slice finely, and serve on an Asian or asparagus salad.
The steak-eater’s steak. This is full of flavour. It comes from the backside and must be well hung. It’s best to buy rump 5cm (2in) thick, flash-fry, then slice into ribbons. But it needs to cook a little longer as it isn’t easy to eat too rare – around three minutes each side (depending on size). It’s a huge steak, so if you’re doing a dinner party but don’t want to cook six individual cuts, buy a really big rump, cook whole and share.
The 70s Saturday-night-out steaks. From the lower middle of the animal, these cuts are part sirloin and part fillet. Both cook at different rates, so you will have a problem cooking the perfect T-bone.
And then there’s the bone, which needs even more cooking, unless you like that fresh-out-of-the-fridge appearance. With this cut, you have to accept the compromise and enjoy it.
The European traveller’s steak. This is a large, sausage-shaped strip from the centre of the animal, running next to the diaphragm. Almost fillet-like in shape, it has dark red meat, rope-like texture (don’t let that deter you) and great depth of flavour. It is often butterflied to make it flatter. It’s tasty, not melt-in-the-mouth, but very good if thinly sliced.
The thrifty but knowledgeable cook’s steak. From the other end of the inner flank, just above the liver and kidney, this is a flat sheet of meat, well marbled, with a rope-like texture and a delicate flavour. Try marinating in it soy sauce for two days, then cooking for one or two minutes, resting and serving sliced across the grain.
The knowledgeable, mature, clever shopper’s steak. It is from the pointed, thin end of the rump where it joins the sirloin. With a funny triangular shape, it has all the flavour of rump with the tenderness of sirloin and is great value. Many butchers won’t know where this is, and around the country there are regional names for cuts, so it’s good to know yourself where it is in the animal so you can point your butcher in the right direction. It is very quick to cook – test how cooked your steak is by pressing with your thumb. If it’s really soft then it is rare – the more solid it is, the more well-done it is. Let it rest on the plate you’re serving it on as the juices will come out. There’s nothing better at this time of year than pairing steak with a salsa of chopped basil, chives, parsley, garlic and oil.
The hungry, economical cook’s steak. Classically from the rump cap, when thinly sliced and quickly fried, this is the ideal cut for a steak sandwich. It can be quite tough, but it’s cheap and is a staple sold all over France. Minute steaks can actually be cut from all over the animal so if you’re friendly with your butcher, feel free to tell them if the last one you had was like old boots and ask them to cut it from a different part this time.
Submitted as a guest feature from Michelle Wilkinson.
This is an edited extract from the The Ginger Pig Meat Book, by Tim Wilson and Fran Warde