Cuts of meat can be confusing. Even if you’ve only shopped for meat in the Twin Cities, you know that the names for different cuts can vary from grocery store to grocery store and from butcher to butcher. If you’ve ever shopped for a pork shoulder, you know that at some meat counters you’re going to have to ask for a pork butt or a Boston butt.
The problem only gets worse when you’re reading recipes written by someone who lives in a different part of the country. For instance, when I was researching what cut of beef is best to grill on a skewer for this week’s Honey Sesame Teriyaki Beef Kabobs, I kept running into the term “steak tips” or “sirloin steak tips.”
When I couldn’t find them, I called Kristin Tombers, owner of Clancey’s Meats in Minneapolis’ Linden Hills neighborhood. “When in doubt, talk it over with your local butcher,” she said. “They can tell you if a cut of meat is called something different in their shop. And they can guide you to a different cut of meat if the one you’re thinking of isn’t available. If you’re flexible, you’ll almost always end up with something that will work.”
For example, if sirloin steak tips (more commonly called bavette or flap meat in the Twin Cities) aren’t available, Tombers recommends flank steak as a substitute. “Both cuts take a marinade well and have good beef flavor,” she said.
I’m pairing that big beefiness with another flavor powerhouse: teriyaki sauce. It’s traditionally made with a simple blend of soy sauce, sake and mirin (a sweet rice wine, mostly used for cooking).
In the U.S., teriyaki sauces usually also include a sweetener, such as white or brown sugar. In my version, I substitute honey for the sugar, which gives a little more dimension to the flavor. I also add a little sesame oil, which brings a toasty nuttiness to the equation.
Along with the beef, I also grill a little pineapple and red bell pepper. What can I say? If we can’t physically go to Hawaii right now, we can at least get a little taste of the islands on our dinner plates.
The grilled beef, coated in the honeyed sauce, caramelizes on the grill, creating delightful spots of char, while still leaving the inside a juicy, moist pink. In this dish, the beef shines through, no matter what you call you it.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.
Honey Sesame Teriyaki Beef Kabobs
Note: Tender, flavorful beef is grilled until slightly charred and slathered in a well-balanced sweet and salty sauce, along with skewers of pineapple and red peppers. Mirin, a sweet Japanese rice wine, can be found in the global section of most grocery stores. Alternatively, substitute 1/4 cup vermouth or sake and 2 teaspoons sugar for every 1/4 cup mirin. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1 1/4 lb. sirloin steak tips (flap meat), trimmed of excess fat, and cut into 2-in. cubes
• 3 tbsp. soy sauce
• 2 tbsp. mirin (see Note)
• 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
• 1 pineapple trimmed, peel, cored and cut into 1 1/2-in. chunks
• 2 medium red bell peppers, cored and cut into 1 1/2-in. chunks
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 c. Honey Sesame Teriyaki Sauce (recipe follows)
• 2 tbsp. thinly sliced green onions
• 2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
If using wooden skewers, soak in water for 1 hour. Place the meat in a large zip-top bag.
In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, mirin, 1 tablespoon oil, garlic and ginger. Pour into the bag and toss to combine with the meat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
In a medium bowl, combine the pineapple, red pepper, salt, pepper and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Toss to coat.
Remove beef from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Thread beef onto metal or wooden skewers. Thread pineapple and peppers onto other skewers, alternating between the two ingredients.
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for medium-high heat.
Place both the beef and pineapple and pepper skewers on the grill for 8 minutes, turning every 2 minutes. Brush the kebabs with 1/4 cup Honey Sesame Teriyaki Sauce and continue grilling, turning each kebab every 30 seconds until slightly charred in spots, on all sides and the beef is cooked to desired doneness, about 9 minutes total.
Brush the kebabs one more time with remaining 1/4 cup sauce and transfer to serving platter. Let rest 5 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds and serve.
Honey Sesame Teriyaki Sauce
Makes about 1 cup.
Note: A twist on traditional Japanese teriyaki, this version gets an added flavor dimension from a generous amount of honey and a splash of nutty, toasty sesame oil. Dry vermouth can be substituted for sake. Mirin, a sweet Japanese rice wine, can be found in the global section of most grocery stores. Alternatively, substitute 1/4 cup vermouth or sake and 2 teaspoons sugar for every 1/4 cup mirin. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1/2 c. sake (see Note)
• 1/2 c. mirin (see Note)
• 1/3 c. soy sauce
• 1/4 c. honey
• 1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
In a 2-quart saucepan, whisk together sake, mirin, soy sauce, honey and oil until combined. Bring sauce to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly syrupy, about 10 to 12 minutes.