Bavette is the French name for flank steak. Like onglet, this is a loose textured, highly flavoured flat cut that was largely forgotten as supermarkets took over from traditional butchers. Now customer demand and good sense sees it more and more available. It is highly flavoured and provided care is taken with cooking and resting, gives remarkably good eating pleasure. Like onglet it has often been called the butcher’s cut, because it is said butchers reserved it for their own pleasure.
Not commonly sold, as either bavette or flank steak, but it’s worth asking if it can be sourced from your butcher. More easily available from web-based specialist meat suppliers.
Choose the best
Unquestionably, beef steaks are more tender and most delicious when the carcass has been well aged under controlled conditions. Three weeks, 21 days, is an accepted minimum but developing techniques have extended this to well over 30 days. Aging meat in caves made from blocks of Himalayan salt, which appears to control unwanted bacterial action, gives extended ageing time. Look for ageing information on labels and expect to pay more for maturer steaks.
The best beef will have a definite dark red colour, indicating it is the more likely to have been nicely aged. Beef that is pale and pinkish is usually too little aged and thus likely to be tough and lacking in flavour; this is especially true for steak cuts.
Fresh steak should be refrigerated for several days only. They may be bought frozen or frozen at home, in which case use them within a month or so and defrost very slowly, ideally in a refrigerator overnight. Vacuum-packing further extends life, for months as fresh meat and up to a year for frozen steaks.
Best cooked over high heat on or under a grill, in a pan or on a barbecue, this steak requires great care and restraint. First, cook on the rare side of medium rare - perhaps two or three minutes each side at most and then rest for a longer time, as much as 20 minutes on a warm plate in a warm (not hot) place, until it is almost room temperature. Cut into finger-wide slices, from top to bottom across the grain, just before serving.
It’s often suggested that steaks are coated with olive or other oils before cooking but this tends to create unwanted smoke; using a heavy, non-stick pan is a better plan but an ordinary pan at high temperature is unlikely to stick. Seasoning is best added after cooking, while the steak is resting.
It is very important to keep the cooking temperature high; too low a temperature encourages moisture to escape, which means the steak will stew and toughen. Equally important is NOT to turn the steak constantly which makes timing impossible to calculate - once is enough. Avoid pressing down on a steak as this expresses moisture.
In the end, only careful observation of your technique and the results can teach you to cook steaks the way you like best.