Bavette or flank with a spicy dry rub, seared quickly in a smoking hot pan is the best value cut of beef prepared in the best way.
What is bavette?
Bavette is the French name for flank or skirt steak, the cut of beef which is a lean but thin flap of muscle carved from the belly of the cow.
There is no marbling. You can’t slice it into individual steaks against the grain. There is a shade of tendon over the surface sometimes and other times the tendon sits inside across the width of bavette, making the steak swell as it cooks and the tendon shrinks.
It doesn’t in fact look like a nice piece of beef at all, but it has a hell of a lot of flavour and bags of value.
Bavette needs to be cooked as a whole, slapped onto hot grill, griddle or skillet, or else sliced into strips and flash fried. When prepared expertly, it can be tastier than a lot of rump or sirloin steaks.
I always try to follow Samin Nostrat’s mantra, to salt the meat at first sight – or at least when you bring it home. It makes a huge difference to the flavour and texture and it is especially important with cheaper cuts that might be tough.
A chicken is a chicken, but older lamb, venison and cuts of beef like bavette benefit tremendously from the salty treatment.
Salt your meat
Sprinkle the meat all over and be generous about it. Place the meat on a plate and keep it in the fridge, uncovered, until ready to cook. Do not fret about it going off: salt is a preservative.
Beef, venison and other game can hang around the fridge for up to a week, lamb for three or four days, pork for a couple of days and chicken overnight. You’ll be amazed how much tenderer salt will make the meat.
Once the bavette has had the salt treatment, it can of course be seasoned however you desire. This is a recipe for a spicy steak with a great deal of umami courtesy of the mushroom powder.
Mushroom powder for dry rub
Porcini mushroom powder is available from various online suppliers and it’s really good value. But if all you have in your store cupboard is a handful of dried shiitake, that will do very well too.
You can pound them to powder in a pestle and mortar or grind in a spice grinder. Once you have a small jar of the fragrant powder, I promise you’ll be adding it to all the soups, sauces, gravy and casseroles to come – it is quite a magical flavour enhancer.
I add it to my dry rub, with chilli flakes, oregano and granulated garlic. When rubbed into the steak – and by no means should this rub be only applied to cheap cuts – leave it to sit for an hour or so in the kitchen.
It’s also a good reminder to bring the meat to room temperature, as cooking steak straight from the fridge will play havoc with cooking times and doneness.
What pan is best for searing steak?
Without question, cast iron is the best pan to quickly sear or brown meat as it can get much hotter than all the non-stick pans in the world.
If it’s well-seasoned, it theoretically needs no oil for frying but I make an exception with dry-rubbed meats like this one. Ingredients of the rub or marinade may be acidic and that can mark the cast iron. Also, bavette is seriously lean so the surface will crust up better if the pan is smeared with a drop of oil.
I cook bavette for two and a half minutes on each side and not a second longer. If the cut looks especially flat and thin, cut that time to two minutes per side. It will continue cooking when it’s resting anyway, best loosely wrapped in foil, on a warm plate or in a warm place.
More beef bavette recipes
Do it the Mexican way: bavette or rump, heavily and spicily marinated then grilled quickly into carne asada.
Filipino tapsilog is a breakfast combo of beef, rice and egg. This is the beef element: tapa, sweet and sharp beef bavette strips, stir fried and served over rice.
You could also infuse the bavette with Asian flavours in the Thai beef salad with crunchy fresh vegetables.
More cheap cut recipes
Make the most of new season lamb without spending a fortune: lamb neck fillet is cheap and gorgeous marinated overnight and grilled quickly.
Much cheaper than loin, pork shoulder is also a much more versatile cut. Try braciole, Neapolitan pork roulades cooked in tomato sauce.
Short ribs of beef are also worth mentioning. These are braised in red wine and plum sauce following a recipe created for Barack Obama at the Red Rooster Harlem restaurant.