Skip to main content
Ingredients

What Is Flat-Iron Steak?

It’s the steak trifecta.
By Published Jan. 2, 2023

In 1999, beef producers ran a study to identify undervalued cuts. At the top of the list? Flat-iron steaks. Years later, the flat-iron steak is finally getting the appreciation it deserves. 

Once available only in restaurants, you can now find flat-iron steaks in grocery stores and butcheries. Not only does it have a tender texture and rich flavor, but it also has an economical price tag.

If you haven’t worked this versatile cut into your repertoire, you should! Here’s more on what it is, where it’s from, and the best ways to cook it.

Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter

The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.

What Is Flat-Iron Steak? 

Named for its anvil-like shape, flat-iron steak is a relatively inexpensive cut with a beefy flavor and tenderness comparable to that of steaks cut from the prime rib roast.

Where Does Flat-Iron Steak Come From?

Flat-iron steak is cut from the chuck, or the shoulder, of the cow. The chuck runs from the neck down to the fifth rib.

Flat-iron steaks are part of the blade roast. The blade roast has a line of gristle that runs the length of the roast, and flat-iron steaks are cut from either side of the gristle, so they don’t include it. (Blade steaks are what you get when the blade roast is cut crosswise through the gristle to create individual steaks.)

Flat-iron steaks are cut from either side of the gristle that runs the length of the roast; blade steaks are cut crosswise through the gristle.

Cuts from the chuck usually contain a lot of connective tissue that takes time to break down in stews or braises. But because of their location in the shoulder, flat-iron steaks aren’t exercised as much as other cuts, so they’re more tender.

What Does Flat-Iron Steak Taste Like?

Flat-iron steak has decent marbling and big beefy flavor, but it can also come with a slightly mineral flavor. To camouflage those notes, we recommend preparing flat-iron steak in a way that introduces other flavors, such as smoking, marinating, or stewing.

What’s the Best Way to Cook Flat-Iron Steak?

Flat-iron steak is a perfect candidate for smoking, as the smoke camouflages any overly metallic notes and gives the steak even more dimension. But grilling isn’t the only option for this versatile steak. It’s also great broiled, stir-fried, stewed, and braised.

Whatever cooking method you use, flat-iron steak needs to be cooked to medium (130 degrees Fahrenheit) for the muscle fibers to shrink and loosen enough to be tender. For most steaks, we recommend cooking them to medium-rare for the juiciest, most tender results. 

IACP Award Winner

Meat Illustrated

Learn to cook steaks and any other cut with confidence! Meat Illustrated empowers home cooks to expand their meat recipe repertoire with 350+ foolproof meat-centric meals tailored for over 70 cuts.
Save 45%

Flat-iron steaks are an exception. It comes down to muscle fibers. 

Cuts like a filet mignon have relatively thin muscle fibers, while a flat-iron steak has wider, longer muscle fibers. When you cook a steak, the muscle fibers in the beef shrink in width, resulting in a separation that makes them easier to chew. For the thin-fibered filet mignon, the amount of shrinking and tenderizing at 125 degrees is sufficient. For the longer, wider muscle fibers of the flat-iron steak, you need to cook it a little longer so they shrink further before they’re acceptably tender. A flat-iron steak hits its sweet spot between 130 and 135 degrees.

Watch Us Cook Through This Recipe for Grill-Smoked Flat-Iron Steaks:

More Favorite Recipes for Flat-Iron Steaks:

Southwestern Beef Kebabs

Most beef kebabs are disappointing, with overcooked meat and vegetables that are either raw or mushy. Using inexpensive beef, we set out to find a simple one-skewer recipe that cooked everything perfectly.
Get the Recipe

Grill-Smoked Herb-Rubbed Flat-Iron Steaks

Adding a packet of wood chips to the grill can take an inexpensive steak to the next level. But there’s a fine line between perfection and going up in smoke.
Get the Recipe

Carbonnade a la Flamande (Belgian Beef, Beer, and Onion Stew)

We wanted hearty chunks of beef and sliced sweet onion in a lightly thickened broth, laced with the malty flavor of beer.
Get the Recipe

Slow-Cooker Braised Steaks With Horseradish Smashed Potatoes

Steak and smashed potatoes are a classic pairing that we wanted to bring to the slow cooker.
Get the Recipe

Slow-Cooker Braised Steaks With Mushrooms and Onions

This dish promises meltingly tender blade steaks smothered in a sauce of sweet onions and earthy mushrooms, a combination that works perfectly in the slow cooker.
Get the Recipe

0 Comments

Try All-Access Membership to Unlock the Comments
Don't miss the conversation. Our test cooks and editors jump in to answer your questions, and our members are curious, opinionated, and respectful.
Membership includes instant access to everything on our sites:
  • 10,000+ foolproof recipes and why they work
  • Taste Tests of supermarket ingredients
  • Equipment Reviews save you money and time
  • Videos including full episodes and clips
  • Live Q&A with Test Kitchen experts
Start Free Trial
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.