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The Butcher’s Secret

October 13, 2010

Written by Margaret Badger, Maple Lea Farm, West Bolton Quebec

After decades of producing Highland beef and placing orders for specific cuts of meat for customers, we learned recently of a cut of beef that is new to us - the "spider steak" or "bifteck araignée" in French. Our butcher, Carl, divulged the "butcher’s secret" last year and we have been ordering it ever since. . When a butcher cuts a side of beef using the "French cut" method, each muscle is removed separately. The spider steak is a very special muscle only weighing about 120grams (in a Highland) that is found in the hollow of the hip joint and is difficult to remove as a piece. It is a muscle that does not get much work and is therefore very tender. It was traditionally kept as a treat by the butcher as not many people knew about it. The name "spider steak" comes from the appearance of the piece of beef as there are 5 strips of cartilage running through this small piece - perhaps resembling a spider’s web? We started offering it to our clients at the local Farmer’s Market and it soon became as popular as the "bavette", a cut of beef prized by French connoisseurs of beef.

By chance one week the spider steak was left at the end of the Saturday market, so I took it home to try it. We also had a Highland rib steak to barbeque that night, so we started cooking the rib steak and when it was nearly done we put the spider steak on the grill for a couple of minutes of each side, as it was thinner than the rib steak. We shared each steak and I started on my piece of spider steak. Wow!!! What flavour and so tender! When I finished off the spider steak, I started on the rib steak and was amazed at the difference. To my taste the spider steak was much more flavourful and more tender than the rib steak.

Next time you have an animal ready for the butcher, ask for the spider steak. Too bad there is only 1 spider steak per side of beef!

The "Spider steak" is located at number 14 in this diagram.

Spider steak

© 2006, jadhore