Love steak but cringe at the price tag? Then it’s time to do some bargain hunting.
“We have a lot of ‘unwanted’ pieces of the cow when we break down a whole animal,” said Noah Siebenaller, executive chef and general manager of Beasts and Brews, a restaurant-butcher shop. “The most tender, well-marbled cut of steak is expensive, but there are plenty of delicious cuts of steak out there that won’t break the bank.”
He’s talking about hanger, flank, top round and flap. He’s also talking about boneless short rib steaks, which typically are not ribs at all. They are cut from the meat above the ribs closest to the shoulder, or the chuck, and can be cooked just like a steak. In 2012, Whole Foods Market started selling this cut as “Jersey boneless short rib steak” for about $9 a pound.
“We have short ribs on the menu, and it is a fantastic cut,” Siebenaller said. “I like to cook them in a sous vide several hours to soften the connective tissue and then sear them in a hot pan in the wood oven. The biggest thing to remember when buying any meat is, every cut that a butcher or meat cutter makes costs the customer more money. When purchasing anything boneless, it’s going to cost more than bone-in.”
Hanger, flank, top round and flap steaks are great-tasting, inexpensive cuts that can be cooked like a steak. However, these cuts have become popular in restaurants, and consumers are catching on to their value, so the prices are on the rise.
“When I first started working with tri-tip about 10 years ago,” Siebenaller said, “it was around $3.30 per pound. Today it’s $7 to $9 per pound.”
But compared to a New York strip steak, which runs $18.99 a pound at Beast and Brews butcher shop, the less expensive flank and flap are a bargain.
“We have grass-fed local beef flank at $9.99 a pound, and flap is at $8.99 a pound,” he said.
Siebenaller uses flank and flap for tacos and fajitas.
“Flank works great for marinating and then braising for tacos,” he said. “By braising, it builds deep flavor and breaks down the connective tissues to make the meat nice and tender. A lot of chefs would use it for fajitas, but I prefer to use the flap for fajitas. I would marinate it with a dry rub for 24 hours before grilling or searing it in a cast-iron skillet.”
Keith Wells, owner of Three Quarter Circles Cattle Co., is a fan of flap steak, which he buys from the butcher shop at Ranch Foods Direct. We first learned of this cut when Wells was planning a steak and lobster menu for one of his gourmet chuckwagon dinners.
“It’s a great-tasting steak, lots of flavor,” Wells said. “Just don’t overcook it.”
Because of its tight muscle structure and lower fat content, flap meat can go from tender and juicy to tough as shoe leather quickly. Once it reaches medium-rare, you’ll be rewarded with satisfying, meaty flavor. It should be sliced across the grain after it has rested a few minutes.
Elizabeth Karmel, author of “Steak and Cake,” says hanger steak is sold as onglet in France and is commonly served as a bistro steak or steak frites.
“It is excellent ground into hamburger meat and served rare,” she writes. “Flank steak is sometimes sold as ‘London broil’ and is a good steak for marinating. And top round is better when cut into cubes for kebabs.”
Both London broil and top round steaks are available at grocery stores for about $7 a pound. Ranch Foods Direct has hanger steaks for $10.39 a pound. It’s best to call ahead to be sure the butcher or grocery stores have what you’re looking for.
Contact the writer: 636-0271.