Do you know the difference between a bavette steak and “skirt”, onglet and flank? You can add aiguillette and hampe to the list too. It is easy to be puzzled about the different merits and identities of these lesser known cuts. The good news is they are very full of flavour, and appropriate cooking will make for a very tasty steak supper or lunch.
What’s The Difference?
These cuts all look very similar with long muscle fibres that are often visible as distinct ridges that are punctuated with fine filaments of fat running through it. When you see them on our counter they are typically longer thinner cuts that are darker in colour. All of these cuts come from the same region of the animal and it is the difference between French and English butchery/cuisine that is adding the complication. In the UK all these cuts are referred to (and sold as) flank or skirt and sometimes hanger steak. It has often been called the butcher’s cut, because it is said in past times butchers reserved it for their own plates!
For a little extra international dimension these cuts are known in Brazil as fraldinha which is literally”little diaper”; and in Colombia, they are known as “sobrebarriga” meaning “over the belly”.
French Cuts Of Flank Steak
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Whilst the meat is really similar in texture it is the different shapes it produces as it is removed from the carcass that have given rise to the proliferation of names. Bavette can be translated as bib referring to its flat shape similarly in English skirt has the same origin. Aiguillette baronne is a long, conical piece, like a large needle, hence its name aiguillette. Onglet translates as tab indicating a quite small but specific cut from the flank area closest to the diaphragm. In the UK these can also be known as hanger steaks. Flanchet is the French term for flank taking the name from the position on the animal. Hampe is a longer thin cut from this area and means shaft reflecting its shape.
Cooking Tips For Bavette, Onglet, Flank Or Skirt
For all these different part of the flank the muscles do not have to work too hard so are tender and do not need a lot of cooking. Typically they are all eaten pan-fried, grilled or from the BBQ. These cuts are widely used in French brasseries for the ubiquitous and delicious “steak frites”.
Flank steaks take on marinades very well are often used in Mexican dishes, as they can take on punchy flavours such as lime and chilli and are well suited to barbecuing.
Before you start cooking take the meat out of the refrigerator allow it to come back up to room temperature. This will avoid any thermal shock during cooking, which can contract the muscle fibres and toughen the meat.
It is best cooked quickly over a very high heat to either rare or medium rare. 1 minute on each side will work well for a thin steak. It is beneficial to caramelize the surface creating flavours and leaving as much juice as possible inside the meat.
Once cooked resting for 5 to 10 minutes under a sheet of foil will allow the meat to relax and the heat to distribute evenly. This will result in even more tender meat
The resulting cooked steaks should always be cut across the grain for serving