"Proper beef flavour": Skirt steak. Photo: Edwina Pickles
What is it?
Skirt is a term used to cover several ''lesser'' cuts of beef from the shoulder, belly and flank of the cow, variously known as inner skirt, outer skirt, flank, and hanger steak. It's tough, working-class meat; fibrous muscle that nevertheless yields great flavour and a satisfying chew. The flank, or bavette, is particularly on-trend, as chefs work with cuts from premium breeds from Coorong, Rangers Valley and Robbins Island.
Where is it?
At South Melbourne's new food-forward cafe, the Kettle Black, Robbins Island wagyu inside skirt is cooked sous-vide (in a water bath) for 15 hours at 54C, then quickly seared to order and tucked inside black squid-ink buns with house-made mustard fruits relish, ice plant, red-vein sorrel and mustard mayo.
''Skirt steak has what you can only call proper beef flavour,'' says chef Jesse Mctavish. ''Honestly, it makes premium cuts taste so boring.''
In Sydney, the Argentinian charcoal grill at Porteno sends out sizzling Kobe Cuisine wagyu beef outside skirt, while at Lochiel House in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, owner-chef Wayne Jenkins uses the thicker flank steak for his ''skirt steak, onion, duck egg and chips''. ''I've always been a fan of the lesser cuts,'' he says. ''You have to show them a bit of love, but the flavour really comes through.''
Darren O'Rourke, head butcher at high-end meat emporium Victor Churchill in Woollahra, loves to see light shone on the ''forgotten'' cuts. ''If only more people knew about them and gave them a shot,'' he says. ''They are so rewarding, and always add value to the plate.''
Why do I care?
Because great steak is all about flavour first, tenderness second. We've got teeth; we should use 'em.
Can I do it at home?
Yes. Keep the cooking simple, add flavour with a spice rub, don't cook beyond medium rare, and when serving, slice across the grain.
SPICE-RUBBED FLANK STEAK
Ask your butcher to trim the steak of any outer membrane. Serve with mustard, salsa verde or Argentinian chimichurri.
1kg flank steak (bavette), trimmed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1. Mix the spice rub ingredients together.
2. Coat the steak on both sides with olive oil, rubbing it in well. Coat with the spices, rubbing them in well. Set aside for one hour or more, before cooking.
3. Heat the barbecue or a cast-iron grill pan to hot, then lightly oil. Grill the steak for 3½ to four minutes on either side, or until charred outside and medium-rare inside. Transfer to a warm plate and rest for five minutes. Finely slice across the grain, and serve with your favourite sauce or relish.
The Kettle Black, 50 Albert Road, South Melbourne 03 9088 0721, thekettleblack.com.au
Victor Churchill, 132 Queen Street, Woollahra 02 9328 0402, victorchurchill.com
Lochiel House, 1259 Bells Line of Road, Kurrajong Heights 02 4567 7754, lochielhouse.com.au
Porteno, 358 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills 02 8399 1440, porteno.com.au