The flat iron steak (also known as a top blade steak, top blade fillet, and shoulder top blade steak) has gained popularity, now appearing in grocery stores and on restaurant menus as a good alternative to more expensive steaks; it is nearly as tender as a tenderloin at a fraction of the cost. Flat iron steak is cut from the shoulder of the cow (called the chuck) and is nicely marbled with lots of beefy flavors. When cooked properly, a flat iron steak turns out tender and juicy.
Originally part of the top blade roast, the flat iron was born as a result of the tough connective tissue that ran through the middle of the cut of meat. Once this was removed, the two pieces were treated separately, one becoming the flat iron steak. The flat iron (supposedly named because it looks like an old-fashioned metal flat iron) is uniform in thickness and rectangular in shape.
If your butcher stares blankly at you when you ask for a flat iron steak, it might not be because he’s a bad butcher. It could be that this particular cut (or actually this particular name) hasn't caught on in your neck of the woods. If requesting a flat iron steak isn't successful, ask for a top blade steak. If it is still unavailable, try your best to track one down and give it a taste. You might just find your perfect steak.
The flat iron steak is quite versatile, as it benefits from the flavors of a marinade but can also simply be coated in oil and salt and thrown on the grill. It is best if it isn't cooked beyond medium; the recommended doneness is medium rare or around 135 F (60 C). This steak is perfect for the grill as the high heat and short cooking time really bring out the rich flavor of the meat.
The flat iron is very similar to any of the flat steaks so any recipe calling for skirt or flank steak will be the perfect opportunity to try the flat iron steak. This cut is best grilled over medium-high heat; don't go as hot as possible unless you pick up a particularly thin cut. Because of the density of the meat, it is generally ideal to start with a quick sear before moving to a lower temperature to finish off to the desired doneness.
The steak's deep, rich flavor makes it perfect not only on its own but also as meat for many dishes, such as steak tacos and hearty sandwiches. To enjoy the steak as is, try it grilled after marinating in a mixture of rosemary and red wine, or in a spicy chili rub; or grill the steak coated with a bit of garlic and then top with spicy lemon pesto.