From the beginning of our history, Americans have loved beef. According to Harper's Weekly, in 1864, the most common meal eaten in America was steak. With vast expanses of grass in the West, places like Texas became known for huge herds of cattle, including the legendary Texas Longhorn. Steakhouses began to appear in New York City in the middle of the 1800s where steak was served with potatoes and tankards of ale. The hankering for a delicious, beefy steak is still a powerful draw for most Americans today.
Known for its rich, meaty flavor and a tenderness that is hard to describe, flat iron steak has become a champion of the beef industry as well as the American dinner table. The flat iron is a tasty cut of beef that comes from just behind the shoulder of the steer. Sometimes called "top blade roast" or "top blade steak," it is a boneless cut with a hefty amount of marbling. Developed by research teams at the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida with the cooperation of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and introduced in 2002, it is a relatively new cut of beef which has since become highly popular. Because the top blade roast from which it is cut has a tough section of connective tissue running through the middle of it, this meaty section was usually ground into hamburger. Once university researchers developed a specialized way of cutting it to remove the tough tissue (similar to fileting a fish,) a new and delicious cut of steak came pounding out of the chute and into the steak lovers' arena.
Interestingly enough, this steak is called butlers' steak in the United Kingdom and oyster blade steak in Australia and New Zealand. While some sources say that this cut of beef got its name due to the fact that it is shaped like an old-fashioned metal "flat iron," others disagree. Some say the gristly connective tissue that runs down the center of the cut is "iron hard," and lends the steak its unusual name. This connective tissue has to be removed because it is so tough and gristly, leaving behind the most delicate part of the meat. It can be prepared using many different cooking methods, and is so tender it does not require marinating or other methods of tenderizing. According to many steak fanciers, it is the second most tender cut of beef after the tenderloin, but costs about half the price. The taste is rich and deep, making the need for seasoning minimal. Bodybuilding.com lists flat iron as one of the top ten steak cuts.
Eight ounces of flat iron steak provides a walloping 102% of the protein you need in a day. Protein builds muscle and increases bone density. Flat iron steak is also high in potassium, a heart-healthy mineral. This steak is extremely high in vitamin B6, and provides over a third of the recommended daily allowance of iron. Flat iron steak is also a good source of zinc, vitamin B12
, and riboflavin. So, eaten in moderation, it is a healthy addition to a balanced diet. Flat iron steak can be part of a "clean eating" regimen too.
When choosing a flat iron steak, stick with prime and choice grade cuts. These cuts contain the most marbling, which gives the beef its juicy flavor. Buying your steak from the case where the butcher can take it out for you to examine may be a better choice than buying pre-packaged steak, since you can't turn it over to look at the other side or smell it through the packaging. Your butcher can help you make the best decision concerning which piece of flat iron to choose, so don't be afraid to ask. It should smell fresh and meaty, never sour, and have no brown spots. The meat will be bright red when it is first cut. If it is sitting unwrapped in the case, it may turn slightly darker due to oxidation as the day goes on, but this doesn't mean it is bad. In fact this slight aging may even enhance the flavor. The fat should be creamy white. Look for thin ribbons of fat in the meaty parts. There should not be any visible tendon if the steak has been cut correctly. If you don't see flat iron at the butcher counter, ask your butcher to remove the seam from a top blade roast and cut it into steaks. If your supermarket doesn't have a meat case, and you must buy your meat pre-packaged, make sure to look it over carefully. Don't buy packages containing excess liquid. This may mean the meat has been frozen and thawed or that it has been sitting there for some time. Never buy a package with a cracked Styrofoam tray or torn plastic wrap, as this could allow bacteria to enter. Read the package labels and check the "sell-by" date. Refuse to buy steak that is out of date. Once you take it home, steak can stay fresh in your refrigerator for up to three days or in your freezer for up to six months.
Once you've purchased the best flat iron steak the butcher has to offer, it's time to use a cooking method that can help make the most of this tender cut. Broiling is one of the ideal methods of cooking flat iron steak. It's similar to grilling, except that you don't have to haul out the grill or wait for good grilling weather to get the same great mouth-watering taste. All you need is your oven's broiler element. Steak cooked this way will not only be pleasing to the eye, but it will be tender, juicy, and full of flavor.
Part 1: Ingredients and Utensils
You will only need three simple ingredients to prepare this dish. Flat iron steak already has a deep, rich, beefy flavor, so throwing on tons of seasoning is unnecessary. The main goal of this article is to have you focus on the method for cooking a flavorful steak. You will need to round up the following to get started.
- Eight ounces/230 grams of 1-inch thick flat iron steak
- Kosher/flaked salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Oven grill rack
- Dripping pan
- Meat temperature probe
- Paper towels
- Aluminum foil
- Meat tongs
Part 2: Six Easy Steps for Broiling Your Flat Iron Steak
It is interesting to note that standard home oven broilers can reach approximately 550°F as opposed to those used by restaurants, where the peak temperature reaches more than 2200°F. As a result, using a home broiler will require more time to brown the steak's surface. This could lead to overcooking your flat iron on the inside. To prevent this, be sure to use a thick steak; one inch or more is perfect. Also, broil your flat iron steak straight from the fridge without allowing it warm up to room temperature. This helps prevent the inside of the steak from overcooking. Stick around and keep your eye on the cooking process. An advantage of broiling is that it cooks your food fast, so stay nearby so that you can remove your steak from the oven at the optimal time.
Step 1: Prepare the Oven
Set the broiler to the maximum heat setting and crack open the oven door. It will remain open for the entire time the steak is cooking. Next, prepare the dripping pan by placing a sheet of aluminum foil on it. Place the pan inside the oven onto the lowest rack. The dripping pan will collect steak juices and the aluminum foil will make cleanup a breeze. Place the top rack as high as you can in your oven.
Step 2: Salt the Steak
Take your flat iron from the fridge and pat it dry using paper towels. Add salt to the top side. Start with two to three pinches, but adjust if necessary (e.g. for a low sodium diet.) Don't add any pepper at this stage because it can burn under the high broiler heat which will give the steak an unpleasant flavor. Place the steak onto the grill rack.
Step 3: Time to Broil Your Steak
Once the broiler has reached its maximum temperature, place the grill rack containing the steak onto the top rack in the oven, and remember to keep the oven door open. The steak should be as close to the broiler as possible, without touching it. The goal is to sear and brown the surface quickly to seal in juices that make the steak moist and delicious, and to give the steak a beautiful brown color. A good estimate would be around five to seven minutes per side. When you are satisfied with the amount of browning you see on the steak’s surface, you're ready to move to the next step.
Step 4: Flip, Season, and Probe the Steak
When your steak looks nice and brown, remove the grilling rack from your oven and flip your flat iron steak using the meat tongs. Sticking a fork into the steak will cause some of the juices to run out which will make your steak less moist. Season the other side with salt just like you did earlier. Next, check the inside temperature with the meat probe. A medium-rare level of doneness which is 130F/55C is recommended for a juicy, tender flat iron steak full of robust flavor. Alternatively aim for 122°F/50°C for rare and 140°F/60°C for medium. At this point in the cooking process, your steak will probably need more time to reach the optimal temperature, which is perfectly fine, but it's good practice to check so that you don't overcook the steak. Place the grill rack back inside the oven and broil for another five to seven minutes, or whatever amount of time gives you a nice brown color without overcooking.
Step 5: Check the Doneness and Finish in the Oven
When the second side looks ready, take the grill rack out and check the inside temperature again. Now, if your steak's temperature indicates the doneness that you desire, move to the following step. If your flat iron is a bit rare, switch the broiler off and set the oven temperature to 275°F/135°C with the fan on (or 300°/150°C with the fan off.) Put the steak back inside using the same grilling rack, and wait another 10 minutes or so before checking the temperature again. When the steak reaches the medium rare (i.e. 130°F/55°C) or medium (140°F/60°C) level of doneness, carefully remove it from the oven.
Step 6: Season with Pepper, Rest, and Slice
Transfer your steak to a plate or cutting board. Season with freshly ground black pepper, and let it rest for three to five minutes covered with aluminum foil. After that, cut it against the grain (i.e. across the muscle fibers.) Cutting in this direction makes the fibers in the meat shorter, giving your steak even more tenderness.
Ways to Enjoy Your Flat Iron Steak
Apart from traditional sides such as loaded baked potatoes, fluffy buttered rice, or savory grilled vegetables, here are some other ways you can serve this versatile steak. Try Martha Stewart's Flat Iron Steak Tacos made by placing your tender broiled steak into flour tortillas and topping with a lime-marinated cabbage. How about Broiled Asian-Style Flat Iron Steak? This recipe from Once Upon a Chef is topped with a rich Asian-style brown sauce. Quick Broiled Flank Steak With Quick Roasted Vegetables from Food Network is a recipe for a tasty nutritious meal you can prepare in a flash that includes oven-roasted corn, broccoli, and cauliflower. No matter what you choose to serve with your steak, be ready to sink your teeth into the most perfectly cooked, moist, and delicious flat iron steak you've ever tasted!
Flat iron steak is flat out the best choice when you're hungry for steak. What other steak is extremely tender, quick and easy to prepare, full of rich, beefy flavor, packed with nutrients, and reasonably priced? And because broiling is such an effortless way to cook it, there's no excuse for not jumping on the flat iron bandwagon. Take the bull by the horns, and add a little sizzle with flat iron steak.