If you are a carnivore, rare, juicy and charred steak with good chips and a nice glass of red is really one of life’s greatest pleasures, but there is a lot to learn about cuts and quality too. Here is our guide to eating great steaks here in Manchester:
Chuck & Brisket
The front of the animal is probably the part that moves the most and therefore works the hardest. This means that the muscles are strong and fibrous with lots of integrated fat which provides deep flavour. The connective tissue and heavy fat content means it requires long slow cooking to render all of it down and create that melt in the mouth texture we all love.
One of the most popular of these cuts is Brisket which comes from the chest area of the cow. Traditionally, brisket is slow roasted, smoked and barbequed over a long period of time to ensure you get that lovely pull apart, tender texture.
You should try it at Cane & Grain – they smoke theirs for hours and serve it in a dirty sub or on top some creamy, gooey mac & cheese. Either will knock your socks off.
Brisket is also the favoured cut when it comes to making Pastrami and Salt Beef because the heavy fat content stops it drying out too much when it is brined, cured and smoked.
I know we go on about it all the time, but you really should try the pastrami at Eat New York. They make it themselves over about two weeks and it is the best use of beef brisket I have EVER come across.
Between the shoulders, you get Chuck Steak – which is sometimes sold as braising steak. This is the kind of standard cubed bits of miscellaneous beef one might buy in the supermarket and as delicious as it can be, it is probably the worst cut if not treated properly.
The shoulders are probably one of the most hardworking parts of the cow’s body- which means it is tight, and tight means tough when not cooked enough and tough means a bad time for everyone and a very mad Kate Tighe.
Chuck steak needs low, slow, gentle cooking- preferably in lots of wine or beer. Think hearty stews like the beautiful Beef Bourguignon from Cote Brasserie which never lets me down when I am looking for tender beef.
You will also find Chuck in most pies – in which case I would always look to Pie Minister and their delicious MooDog with bacon and BrewDog red pale ale.
On the other side, quite literally, is the Rump Cuts which has a totally different character. As you would expect, the rump is a rather fatty cut which makes up for what it lacks in tenderness with some serious flavour.
However, unlike other fatty cuts like chuck and brisket, rump steak is still tender enough to be cooked quickly and served rare if that is what you are into.
I enjoyed a fantastic 200g Tweed Valley Rump Steak a few weeks back at Alston Bar & Beef which was a fantastic example of how good British Beef really is. I always get rump steak cooked a little more than I usually would (which is blue and preferably mooing if you were interested), so go for medium to medium rare for best results.
Fillet & Sirloin
Most people tend to know that Fillet is the proverbial king of all cuts of beef. Gram for gram, the fillet is the most expensive cut and that is because it is one of the easiest to cook. Low in fat, it’s super lean, coming from the middle back of the beast where the muscle is hardly used.
Ordering fillet on any menu is a safe choice if you ask me, especially if you are not a fat of big strips of fat hanging to the flesh. However, due to the lack of it, you are really paying for the melt-in-the-mouth texture rather than the flavour. Sometimes, a fillet is best when you do not cook it at all like in the delicious Wagyu Beef Tartare at Cottonopolis– it really is fantastic and really lets the natural quality of the cut show through.
However, I think the best dish you can make with fillet is a Beef Wellington. What’s not to love? Beef (good), pate (good) pastry (good) – it really is one of the most celebratory dishes ever. Andrew Green’s at Mamucium is the stuff of legend and you should try it if it is the last thing you do.
Sirloin is another popular cut which sits somewhere between the tenderloin (fillet) and the rump. This means it holds a perfect balance of fat and tenderness. Sirloin is best known for its strong meaty flavour and thick layering of fat which is perfectly cooked over a hot grill to ensure it is crispy.
A good sirloin is a real test of a restaurant – so I would try it at any of Manchester’s wonderful steak houses. Serve it with nothing other than good chips and a peppercorn sauce.
Other ‘Prime’ Cuts
Toward the ribs of the beast are some more prime cuts which are known for their tenderness, flavour and subsequently, the price.
Rib-Eye is one of the most popular cuts of beef, both in restaurants and at home. Known for its incredibly rich and beefy flavour, and a central ‘eye’ of delicious fat, this cut comes from the upper part of the ribs which means it is a muscle which doesn’t do much work and as a result – is succulent and tender.
This cut is a bit of a staple on any steak menu, and if you are into fat I would definitely recommend it. Look no further than Gaucho if you want to try it for the first time too. Give their Tira de Ancho (Argentinian spiral cut rib eye) which comes marinated in chimichurri and cooked over flames – it really is steak perfection if you ask me.
Honest Burger also chooses to use rib-eye off cuts in their burgers which is pretty bloody incredible. This makes burgers which are juicier, fattier and with a good ‘bite’ for you to get your teeth stuck into while the flavour takes things to the next level every god-damn time.
Sticking to the ribs, you can also get more show-stopping steaks such as T-Bone, Tomahawk and Porterhouse. These cuts are usually sold on the bone which creates amazingly deep flavour and varying textures from the different parts of the meat the bone holds together.
These cuts are ALWAYS best served as rare as you can take it and are perfect for sharing, so always bear that in mind when you look at the price of them.
Hawksmoor, who we all know is a real contender for the best steak house in town, has an outrageously delicious T-Bone steak for £8.50/100g which is reasonable considering A) the quality and B) the size of the bloody thing.
Big bone-in rib cuts are flavourful too which means they can stand up to some strong sauces, so while you are there, I’d recommend smothering it in their outrageous Bone Marrow Gravy or Anchovy Hollandaise.
The Tomahawk is a bone in rib eye which gets its name from looking vaguely like a Tomahawk axe which sounds like something Thor would wield. As you can imagine, this cut tastes fantastic especially when served alongside some tasty Turkish breads, salads and sauces. You should, therefore, book into KAI on Deansgate to try it for yourselves if it is the last thing you do.
So there you have it. Hopefully, I have cleared up some steak-orientated questions you might have had or been too scared to ask for fear of looking like a philistine. God, I’m hungry for a juicy steak now…rare…with chips….
….oh dear I’m drooling