Flat Iron Steak

flatiron steak on plate

About

Developed by the research teams of University of Nebraska and the University of Florida, the flat iron steak is gaining in popularity with restaurants across the United States. You can thank the National Cattleman’s Beef Association for funding research to make this tasty, tender economical steak available to us today. The beef cut is actually a top blade steak derived from the tender top blade roast. The roast is separated into two pieces by cutting horizontally through the center to remove the heavy connective tissue.

Flat Iron Steak, How it Got Its Name. Facts and Lore

Facts

We finally know (sort of) the origins of name "Flat Iron Steak". We were quite pleased to be contacted by Chris R. Calkins, a scientist at the University of Nebraska who explained about the steak's name.

"I am the scientist who led the project that characterized beef muscles and lead to the development of the flat iron steak. It was developed through a cooperative effort with a national meat processor and a local restaurant chain. The name is an old industry term that has proven to have a lot of charisma with consumers. We have been unable to trace the source of the name. In its current use, it refers to a particular piece of meat cut in a specific way. This new form in no way resembles "an old flat iron" in shape - or in taste. It's one of the two most tender muscles in the beef carcass and has a rich, succulent flavor that most consumers appreciate."

Lore and Details of This Quest

As self-respecting sleuths, we don't want to be purveyors of urban myth. The quest for finding the history of how this steak was named started by an email from Stephen when he asked us to help find the lineage of the name of the flat iron steak.

First we performed the requisite web search, something Stephen had no doubt spent hours at long before asking us. Then we were off on a book search at the local chain bookstore. We located the book "The Complete Meat Cookbook" by Aidells & Kelly. The author made a vague reference that the steak was named because of the resemblance to the old flat iron. Although this historical reference was not conclusive, it was the only one we could find.

In additional readings, our curiosity was piqued about the Flat Iron Building in New York City. We found it once housed a well-know steak house and that encouraged us to wonder..........?

Later we contacted the chef from a very old, very well-know steak house in San Francisco, California but he was unable to shed any light on our culinary mystery.

Today, [November 20, 2001] Stephen has provided us with yet a new theory. According to Stephen, a gentleman named Bill from a meat market in Napa, California had a very different historical perspective. According to Bill, "the French were the first to discover the Flat Iron Steak, not too long ago. This steak, which has a thick gristle and sinew plate running through the center of it, must be trimmed to remove this undesirable gristle. The gristle is so tough, the French got to calling it "iron hard," and since it is flat...voila."

Well, fast forward to [March, 2002] and we have our answer. The quest was a good one. If any readers have other interesting questions you'd like to have answered, please write us and we'll research them for you.

Featured Recipe

Flat Iron Steak

by Bestoftaste

  • 2 x 1lb flat iron steaks or 1 x 2lb flank steak
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic mashed
  • 1 teaspoon chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
  • 1/4 cup Villa Mt Eden Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • salt and generous amount of fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and marinate steak for one hour. Grill over hot coals 4 minutes per side. This steak is best cooked rare to medium rare.

Wine Recommendation: Villa Mt Eden Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel or Pinot Noir

About The Flat Iron Meat Cut

blade chuck roast illustration

Illustration of a Blade Chuck Roast

by:  Ask Tog.  You can visit the Asktog website for more

The blade chuck consists of three distinct types of meat, two of which are steaks normally sold at a premium— one of which is the Flatiron steak and is considered by many as the finest cut of beef available.

Identify the blade chuck by its two major characteristics. First, the blade-shaped bone at the top of the roast, which should not have any protuberances on it (otherwise, it is a center-cut or seven-bone chuck). Second, the words, "blade chuck" on the supermarket packaging. (This latter is less reliable.)

When you get the roast home, divide it into its three pieces, removing the bones in the process.

Orient the meat as shown in Merle's illustration. First, remove the meat above the blade (cut 1). This is the Flatiron steak. It is a little tough. I prefer to use it for stir-fry or stroganoff, although many people simple halve it and cook it up as a couple of steaks.

Second, the steer has been kind enough to provide a line of fat as a guide to removing the chuck eye (2) from the remaining meat (3). Just cut along the white line to separate the steak. You may then cut the steak away from the chine bone that lies along the bottom or you can barbecue the whole thing up, bone-on. Either way, you will be eating a premium steak at hamburger prices.

raw flat iron steak on plate

As for the remaining cut, it is excellent for pot roast or boiled beef or any other recipe that calls for long, slow cooking. And speaking of long, slow cooking, tough meat comes out better the slower you cook it. Microwave ovens, of course, spoil any meat, but so do pressure cookers, though not as badly. Boiling up meat over a hot flame is just about as bad. The real way to do it is to simmer the meat for six to eight hours, the way Mom used to do in the crock pot. That allows the connective tissue to let go of its strangle hold without the muscle cell walls turning into concrete.

Illustration - Beef Chuck

the chuck portion of a beef
photograph: copyright Time Life

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author

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.