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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Take a look at my expert advice on the best stewing beef to buy.

Brr, it's kinda stewing steak weather at the moment and I get a lot of unsure people come to my meat counter asking for advice on the best beef stewing steak and my advice is simple. From the fore quarter of the heifer you will get a variety of stew types each with their own subtle flavour. The main parts are the neck, the shoulder and shin of beef. There are three other types I'd recommend and I'll come to those later. They are blade, chuck and skirt.

The trimmed neck and shoulder are your standard stewing meat. You can't really go wrong with them. The shin (fore leg) of beef is different as it is slightly sinewy and a darker red colour. It has a more beefy taste which some prefer and if cooked slightly longer, perhaps a third longer than the neck or shoulder the sinews will break down and melt into the meat. If not it can be very chewy. Have a look at the picture below and  can see the sinews running through the muscles.

                                                                     Shin of beef
Now we come to another part of the beef carcass called skirt. This has become so popular it's almost trending. Skirt can come from two places on the animal, either the diaphragm or a thick long muscle on the flank. It is trimmed of most of its fat and is very lean. the reason is it is so popular is because, as I often explain to my customers, the meat is very open textured and this means it will be great at taking on any flavours that you wish to add to it and will melt down quickly in a stewing environment. It makes for fantastic gravy and the skirt meat will also be great for beef curries. The French even slice it diagonally across the muscle for bavette steaks. It is also known as 'plate' in the USA.

Skirt in chunks with the muscle in the piece (above)
Now let us have a look at the braising or casserole steak, traditionally called chuck steak. Chuck steak in the piece looks letter box in shape and can be seen sliced as you might see a rump steak sliced (about a finger thick). It needs a slow cooking method because of the abundance of collagen within the muscle that breaks down when slow cooked otherwise it can be quite chewy. For those of you who have slow cookers or are just very patient as the kitchen fills with the scent of a divine stew cooking up, this is perfect. There are other muscles on the beef fore than can be used for braising or broiling as a joint but we'll keep it simple and I will cover those another time. If you are looking to make a classic beef bourguignon I suggest that you visit a traditional butcher and ideally ask for blade of beef (it is a thick muscle that sits on top of the animal's shoulder blade.) Otherwise a good chuck steak will do at a push. I can also recommend this recipe I found today to make the beef bourguignon. It is written by US cooking expert, Madeleine Kamman. Beef Bourguignon recipe.

                                                                       braising steak

So enjoy making a warming stew on these increasingly chilly days and see you next time. Phil

1 comment:

Karen said...

Skirt is also the best cut for making Cornish Pasties. Not that I've tried making them yet, but that's what the best pastie makers use. I love this time of year, when my slow cooker comes out of it's hiding place at the back of the pantry & I start making delicious stews. I wish the butcher staff at my local Tesco were as helpful as you are Phil.