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.
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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.)
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.
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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.