Cows weigh in around a light 1,300-1,500 pounds. That's a lot of walking beef right there! On an animal this big, there are many different cuts of beef and it can be tough to keep them all straight. We selected a few to tell you about this month, all cuts are amazing and have their place on our plate, but this week we’re going to talk about three cuts that often get confused as they are quite similar but each has its own personality. These cuts can be used interchangeably in some recipes, especially if the differences are known.
Flank and bavette are often sold under the same name since they have very similar uses and people often use them interchangeably. But hold your horses. Er, your cows. There are very fine differences that you'll be able to spot if you're a true meatie!
Skirt steak comes from two different areas of the cow: the diaphragm (outside skirt) and the transverse abdominal muscle (inside skirt). The battle of the skirts is very much a thing—some claim the outside skirt is more tender and flavorful, but both cuts work for most recipes. Skirt at your own discretion! Skirt steak is a long, very thin strip of meat that's well-marbled with fat, which has it bursting with flavor. The thinness of the steak means it’s best cooked under high heat and that you can stand to cook it to a higher temperature internally than other steaks while still enjoying juicy beef. Skirt steak is typically used for fajitas or stir-fries because it cooks quickly, but grilled on its own it can shine in the center of the plate.
Flank steak comes from the cow's abdominal muscles. It's a bit tougher than skirt steak and of the three cuts we’re talking about, it’s the leanest. Flank steak is typically used for London broil, ropa vieja or carne asada because it benefits from being cooked slowly over low heat. It has a high yield and needs little prep time to clean up.
Bavette comes from the cow's sirloin flap muscle, ever so slightly above the flank. It's long and flat, with a thick layer of fat running along one side.
The difference between bavette and flank
First of all, flank and bavette look different, bavette looks similar to a skirt (long and skinny, but thicker), but has a similar muscle structure to a flank. Flanks are shorter and wider, almost looking like a giant footprint. It’s thinner and leaner than a bavette. Both cuts can be used in similar applications (fajitas, tacos, sliced applications), but the extra marbling and thickness of the bavette makes it a clear choice for a steak frites.
Hot beef tip: Always cut your steak against the grain. This breaks up the longer muscle fibers making it even more tender. We like to cut the skirt and bavette into 4-6 inch chucks with the grain, then turn the steak and slice against the grain to get manageable pieces.
While we always try to ensure we get everyone the cuts they need, the fact is we only get 4 skirts, 2 bavettes and 2 flanks on a cow. In order to support small farms, being able to use all three cuts for success will help us keep our local system going strong.
There's only one question left for today. What are you cooking tonight, meaties?