Do you love steak but hate the high prices? Do you wish you could afford filet mignon every day but settle for hamburger? There is nothing wrong with burger – I love it and am always looking for new ways to creatively transform it. But some days I just really “need” a steak, LOL. I’ve got a new favorite that is reasonably priced, has all the flavor of strip/New York’s and is becoming more readily available in grocery stores and butcher shops.
A few years ago on one of our day trips to Napa Valley, The Artist and I stopped in Yountville and had lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Bouchon, part of the Thomas Keller empire. Following the French traditions of bistro fare, a standard offering is Steak Frites and I almost always order it. Both the steak and fries are always perfectly cooked and it satisfies my Midwestern meat-and-potatoes cravings.
The type of steak they offer varies from time to time depending on availability, but lately they are often serving flat iron steak. If you haven’t heard of it before, it is a great cut that is only recently becoming the darling of the meat industry and is certainly one of my new favorites.
Also known as butler’s steak in the UK and oyster blade steak in Australia and New Zealand, it can be sold as top blade steak or patio steak in the U.S. It comes from the shoulder or chuck area of the cow, an area usually known for extremely tough cuts. But the flat iron is protected from a lot of usage by sitting directly under the scapula or shoulder blade. Because of its location, it was usually ground into hamburger by most butchers, but recently was discovered to be incredibly tender and flavorful.
Well marbled and quite tender, this is a cut you should be looking for. It isn’t always easy to find, but you can always ask your butchers to let you know when they will have some available. One trick is to cut the meat across the grain when carving it. This helps offset any possible toughness from the fibers running through it. As you can see in the following photo, the grain tends to run lengthwise. Make sure you look before you marinate or cook it so you can be sure to know which way it runs when you get ready to slice and serve it.
You have lots of choices in preparation, but I personally prefer to marinate and then grill it. Today I chose an Asian marinade, but you could try a Southwestern or Mexican-style marinade, a spicy dry rub, or simply salt and pepper with a little onion and garlic powder. Whatever you and your family prefer will be wonderful on this cut of meat.
You definitely want to serve this medium-rare to medium and no further or it will become dry and tough. There are other benefits to eating your meat more on the rare side. If you have ever suffered from iron deficiency, you should pay attention. The rarer the beef you eat, the more iron you get out of it. Instead of taking iron pills, try eating your meat either medium-rare or rare. You will also discover that the dry and tough meat you took for granted becomes tender, moist and much more flavorful.
Go out and find a flat iron steak and give it a try. If it is good enough for Thomas Keller (one of the most acclaimed chefs in the world), it’s good enough for me!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Whether you are cooking beef on the grill, on a stove-top grill pan or skillet, always make sure that the surface is fully heated. This will give you the quick sear that seals the juices inside the meat, keeping it moister and more flavorful.
Asian ingredients often include gluten. Make sure you check the labels and buy only those that are certified gluten-free. If in doubt, you can make your own versions for better control.
- 1 to 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 1/2 cup dry white wine, dry vermouth, or sake
- 2 tbsp soy sauce*
- 1 tbsp char sui*, hoisin*, or your favorite Asian barbeque sauce*
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 5 to 10 drops Sriracha, or more to taste, optional
- 2 tsp olive or vegetable oil
- 1-1/2 to 2 lb flat iron steak, trimmed
- About 2 tbsp cornstarch
- In a small bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients and whisk until smooth. Place steak in a resealable plastic bag (or shallow container) and pour marinade over the steak. Seal the bag and let meat marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, turning regularly so all sides of the steak are submerged. If you are marinating longer, place the steak in the refrigerator.
- Preheat an outdoor or indoor grill over medium-high. Remove steak from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the marinade. Lightly dust both sides of the steak with the cornstarch.
- Place on hot grill and cook just until you have nice grill marks and the meat has reached medium-rare to medium doneness. For medium-rare pull the steak off the heat when it reaches 135°F. For medium, pull the steak off the heat when it is at 140°F. The timing will depend on the thickness of your steak. Use an instant-read digital thermometer for best results.
- Move the steak to clean cutting board and let sit on the counter to rest for 10 minutes before serving. During this time it will finish cooking, coming to the final ideal temperature and the juices will have a chance to be reabsorbed. Using a very sharp knife, thinly slice the meat against the grain.
- *If you cannot eat gluten or are cooking for someone with gluten-intolerance or celiac disease, make certain you are using gluten-free versions of these ingredients.
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