My brother-in-law, who is much younger than me, always had a sophisticated palette. At the age of twelve, when I first met him, he declared that ‘bavette is much the best cut of beef.’ Of course, he’s embarrassed about his pretension now – for a start, these days he would call it ‘skirt’ not ‘bavette’; and furthermore, he wouldn’t assume to tell his butcher brother-in-law which bit of beef is best.
But he had a point. Skirt, the long, lean piece of muscle that hangs just below the ribcage on the flank (also known as the ‘goose’ skirt), is a much under-rated cut of beef. I love Beef Skirt Steak. It is full of flavour and has a satisfying bite that is missing in some of the more tender, but sometimes blander, cuts.
Although traditionally the favourite for steak and kidney pies, as well as Cornish pasties - because it can take long, slow cooking - it also does very well with a quick, hot grilling on the barbeque. Marinated (or massaged with a dry rub) two to three hours beforehand, cooked on a high-ish flame for four to five minutes on each side and then cut into thin slices, a whole piece (say, approximately, 1 kg) will happily feed six.
Even if you simply salt a piece of skirt, it should taste delicious when char-grilled – there is no need for fancy flavours. But sometimes it’s nice to mix it up a bit. A Texan-inspired dry rub is a good option, and somehow feels authentic when you’re cooking over an open fire. Or try Pitt Cue’s very good ‘House Rub’ recipe. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests a simple teriyaki-style marinade in his River Cottage Meat Book – just combine equal quantities of soy sauce and cider vinegar with plenty of grated garlic, a dash of sesame oil and a good pinch of salt.
This is one of my own favourite rubs for skirt, it’s very easy to make.
Quick Lime and chilli rub for beef
- 1 tbsp mild chilli powder
- 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1.5 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1.5 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1-2 teaspoon sea salt and ground pepper
- 1 lime
Juice the lime into a small bowl. Mince garlic and mash to a paste with the salt. Stir the spices into the lime, add the garlic and then add the oil so that a paste forms. Pat steak dry then rub all over with the paste. Leave in a sealed bag in a cool spot for several hours (but bring steak to room temperature before cooking.)
Two things to look out for: skirt steak should be cut against the grain to minimise toughness; and do ask your butcher to trim the sinews on your piece of skirt as this makes it much easier for you to cut. Finally, I noticed a very nice recipe for skirt in the papers last weekend from Thomasina Miers - Skirt steak with watercress sauce and grilled baby gem lettuce - it looks like a lovely summer recipe for friends.