Friday 6 February 2015

Butchery Skills - The Flat Iron and The Rump

I had the good fortune of working with Quality Standard beef and lamb and Red Tractor in 2013 as a judge in their Battle of the Burgers competition, which pitted eight lucky finalists – whittled down from 100s of entries – to cook their best burgers for a panel of judges. So it was with great pleasure that I agreed to join master butcher Martin Eccles for a butchery demonstration, hosted by Quality Standard beef and lamb.

The Quality Standard Mark for beef and lamb is a scheme that provides you with high levels of assurance about the meat you buy.  All beef and lamb carrying the Quality Standard Mark is chosen according to a strict selection process ensuring it is succulent and tender. You can find out more about the scheme on their website – needless to say it’s difficult to meet the standard, and those farmers that do are producing meat of a far higher quality.

Martin’s role at Quality Standard beef and lamb is predominantly educational. He works with farmers, processors, food service companies and butchers to ultimately help them be more commercial with their meat production and butchery, and to reduce waste for the consumer. They manage this in a number of ways – the first is to work with farmers to ensure that when they’re finishing off their beef they do so in the most effective way. An example is where a farmer will finish a cow on grain before being sent to the abattoir, where a good majority of the fat is wasted.
The second, and in my view, more important aspect to this work is to help butchers make more of the meat they’re selling – effectively marketing it better – along with working on new and better butchery techniques to reduce waste, improve profits and give consumers a better product.

Butchering the rump

The Challenge: To demonstrate the education process, Martin worked on a whole rump, which in traditional butchery is simply sliced along the grain of the meat into large, unwieldy steaks, and includes several sheets of sinewy gristle. As a consumer, it’s heavy (i.e. expensive) unless you cut it thin (in which case it’s very easy to overcook it) and you end up with a lump of gristle on your plate – not a great experience.

The Solution: Butcher the rump into three distinct steaks. Removing the two major sheets of gristle in the rump and increasing the utilisation of the meat. 

Pichana steak
The Pichana steak is a favourite in South America, normally skewered and cooked over charcoal. It is essentially rump cap situated at the top of the rump – and it’s Brazil’s most prized steak owing to its low fat and full flavour. This is a very tender cut of steak.

Bistro steak
The bistro steak is a relatively new term for meat taken from the most tender part of the rump. It’s removed from the rest of the rump and then heavily trimmed, taking out some hardcore connective tissue. What you’re left with is a tender, flavoursome steak (slightly smaller than the prime rump) which can be cut into medallions. Its dark, rich, and looks a lot like fillet steak.

Prime rump steak
The other piece. The prime rump is the final bit left after you separate the picanha and the bistro. There’s one more piece of gristle to remove and then you have a third, kidney-shaped steak that looks impressed when divided up into steaks. 

With all the above steaks, they’re tidied up at either end, and the offcuts put to one side to mince for burgers (see, I told you there’d be burgers) before being sliced across the grain into steaks. The resulting wastage is purely the sheer, silver muscle tissue – which increases profitability for the butcher, and increases the quality of the product for the consumer – it’s a win/win.  

Flat iron steak (feather blade)
The flat iron steak is the next one we tackle – again a relatively new cut in the UK for steak, it’s taken off the blade bone in the shoulder of the cow, which is under a huge amount of stress supporting its weight, but butchered right it’s a wonderfully marbled cut of beef. 

The secret here is to remove the long, full length sinew that runs as a seam through the entire flat iron. It’s pretty straightforward if you know how to cut it, and you’re left with a hunk of beef that can be sliced into flat iron steaks. Due to the composition of the muscle, you have some great marbling, but that causes a challenge with the cooking as it tenses up when applied to a griddle. To counter this, slice some shallow cuts diagonally across the steak, and it will retain its shape for when you’re slicing it up for the plate. 

This steak is the main feature of Flat Iron, the Soho steak restaurant.

A big thank you to Quality Standard Beef and Lamb and Martin Eccles for the demonstration and for setting up the day - interesting and educational.

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