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Flat Iron Steak, hype or heart?

The Flat Iron steak. You see and hear about it in TGI Friday and Chili's commercials. You've seen it on some 1 and 2 star restaurant menus lately. What is it? Why haven't we heard about it before now? Is it a worthwhile cut of meat? I'm going to answer all of these questions.

What it is: The Flat Iron steak is a relatively new cut of steak. It is rather untraditional, as it takes a defter touch while cutting, cooking, and serving. Also, because of the anatomy , there are only 2 to 4 flat iron steaks per head of cattle, so butchers didn't traditionally place these cuts in the meat case, as there wouldn't be enough to display.

More specifically, the Flat Iron is from the Top Blade, which is off the shoulder of the animal. Here is a boneless shoulder, the top blade is the part that has been removed and is next to it.

Click Here to see Full Size

Normally this muscle is cross-cut into top blade steaks. However, these steaks are tough and full of connective tissues (gristle). Instead, Flat Irons are cut from the two layers of the top blade and have all of that connective tissue removed. When sliced thin, on the bias, incredible marbling is apparent.

Why haven't we heard about this cut until now?: Well, as previously mentioned, this is an non-traditional cut. But, in 2002, the National Cattleman's Assc. used the Checkoff Program, (a very cool program itself) to commission a muscle profiling study. In this study between NCBA’s Center for Research and Technical Services in partnership with the University of Florida and the University of Nebraska where every major muscle of the animal was analyzed separately for flavor and tenderness. The reason behind commissioning this study was to find better, more efficient cuts from the Chuck and the Round for both retail and food service uses. The results were pretty surprising. One of the most surprising things the study found was that the Flat Iron is in fact, the second most tender cut of meat from the steer, after the tenderloin. This cut then became the center star in a new promotional push by the NCA entitled "Value Cuts".

Is it a worthwhile cut of meat? The Flat Iron is, in this butcher's mind, one of the most versatile pieces of beef. It takes to a marinade like no other, it's tender beyond belief, and you can cook it with much success in many methods. Plus, it's cheap. Since it is from the shoulder, it can be found for as little as $3/lb here in the Midwest, and probably not much more than that elsewhere. You can grill it, use if for stirfry meat, use it for fajitas, braise it, fanfry it. Really, it is a great little cut that hopefully you will want to go out and try. If your butcher doesn't carry it, ask them to do some for you. IF they dont know how, refer them to the NCA's site, beef.org, or explain to them what I just showed. It will be worth your time.

Shown after removing the outside connective tissues and the fat layer.

Nose blocked off

Using a meat hook to help remove the internal connective tissue.

Look at all that amazing marbling!
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10 December, 2005 19:58

A great article on a great cut! Would you believe in WA it goes for $8.99/lb? Time to clear the back 40 and get a few head. . .    

07 August, 2006 17:57

I kept hearing about this steak and my local version of Krogers called Fry's Food Store has a sale on cryo-vac flat iron steaks. They where choice grade and only $2.56 per pound. I picked up two and seasoned them with some southwest seasoning (black pepper, salt chili powder, cilantro, cumin) and the juice from 3 limes and let them set in the refrigerator for one hour. I then grilled them to medium rare.

They tasted just as good as strip steaks and were more tender. I went back to the store the next day and bought 6 more. I used two of these for fajitas and they were just as good as skirt steak and half the price.    

11 March, 2007 22:42

Local butcher just started putting them out, but no one around here has heard of them (Atl, Ga).

Have cooked several to perfection (medium+) over mature coals & chips on the Weber. Did I mention to perfection?

Thanks for the article, was wondering what I was eating -- the packaging said it was a 'new cut' using 'newly discovered butchering process' or similar, and it was actually kind of scary!


15 July, 2007 16:45

I am in Atl, GA and I just got one at the local Kroger. I was just researching to see if I needed to do anything special to cook it. Great Article!    

11 August, 2007 19:51

In DA Bronx, N.Y we call it chicken steak, when it's whole. When it's clean of grizzle and fat a Greek woman ask for it by Roman broil. Mike Santavicca Bronx N.Y    

02 September, 2007 09:56

My father was a kosher butcher in the 30's to 60's and this meat was called skirt steaks. No one would buy it thinking it was junk meat!! Yesterday I purchased skirt steakds at $7 a pound in NJ. I usually roll it and skewer the meat and marinate them in my own teriyaki marinade. Some pieces have to be cut as they are too thick. These I butterfly and use for fajitas. The meat is wonderful either in a broiler or grilled on a barbecue.    

05 September, 2007 19:52

This is a great cut of meat. I purchase mine cryovac packed from Fred Meyer here in Bend, Oregon. They generally go for about 5.99 a lb. Great marinated or grilled, very versatile. thanks for your information. Rebecca    

11 September, 2007 11:14

We traveled to Alaska this summer & had flat iron steak 3 times - twice from a grocery store (Fred Meyer) & once in chi-chi Princess Lodge restaurant. Loved it & loved the home-grilled steaks the best. Package recommended a rub & exactly how to grill. Delicious. Now that we're home, I can't wait to go to our local butcher & ask for some. Could be interesting - we paid $6.99/lb. in AK - wonder what we'll get charged here in IL.    

12 September, 2007 08:56

Around here, Wyoming, Flat Iron steak comes in a cryovac bag floating in some sort of seasoned liquid and probably loaded with chemicals.

If I recall correctly, skirt steak is the diaphram.    

02 October, 2007 20:14

My grocery store carried it and discontinued it over one summer because it never caught on. Poor people never figured out what they were missing.    

10 October, 2007 11:14

Thanks for the info. I had one last night for dinner and it is indeed very tender and delicious, but not as flavorful as finer cuts of meat. I'm in Atlanta and I bought it on sale for $6/lb (normally $8/lb).    

09 November, 2007 11:37

I marinate them in chopped figs and balsamic vinegar for 1-2 hours and grill, they are excellent!    

24 November, 2007 07:54

I really wish everyone would shut up already about this cut. I found out about it 2 years ago and it was cheap, every year it seems to get more expensive. I think there are some things that should stay a secret. I had to pay $6/lbs the other day just to get a fix.

Oh and I just rub a healthy portion of salt and pepper and some oil on it then grill it rare, so tender it is hard to believe. Anyone know if it would be bad to freeze it? If I find a sale I want to know if I can seriously stock up? I don't know a whole lot about meat, just what I like.    

10 January, 2008 17:56

skirt steaks are not flatiron steaks....

skirt steak i believe is the diaphragm muscle, while flatiron is part of the shoulder.

my local kosher butcher has never heard of flatiron...

i must educate him!!    

08 February, 2008 17:21

We were serving Flatiron steaks at my old restaurant in 2001. They are awsome! Good flavor, good value, good menu price customer friendly.
Formerly Grappa Owner Atlanta Ga.    

28 February, 2008 01:29

this is the best cut I have ever tasted and it goes for $10.99/lb here on the west coast! You can't go wrong nice and tender like Butter!    

20 March, 2008 23:48

It's not the same as "skirt steaks." I've had skirt steaks for years, and this is different. I found directions for preparing it that involved a pan grill before finishing in the broiler, but no skirt steak I've ever made with this method is as tender.

It's the bomb.    

02 May, 2008 13:03


06 May, 2008 15:15

Skirt Steak and Flank Steak are on the underside of the cow. This is a brand-new cut that took a lot of research to find.    

16 October, 2008 14:31

Thanks mate been doin a bit of researh on the flat iron steak. i want to put it on my menu in australia. its good to get a bit of infomation as this steak is not common over here yet. its going for 15 dollars a kilo. will let you know how it goes in a resturant situation. The stoned crow Sydney    

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