Blade steak, sometimes called top blade, is a steak cut from a muscle in the beef chuck primal cut, specifically the top blade (or infraspinatus) muscle. The chuck primal cut can be divided into two sections: the chuck roll and the chuck shoulder clod. The shoulder clod is a massive thing, consisting of a multitude of muscles joined together with various pieces of sinew and membrane. Three of the five muscles are used for steaks and roasts, namely the top blade, shoulder center, and shoulder tender.
Once upon a time, butchers would simply slice across the chuck shoulder clod to make chuck steaks. These days it's much more common to take the clod apart and divide it into its individual muscles, each of which can be marketed as a new kind of steak. Thus, the blade steak is now appearing in supermarket meat departments.
Basics of a Blade Steak
Blade steaks are made by cutting directly across the top blade muscle, which is actually pretty tender. The problem is there's a seam of connective tissue running through the center of it, which means that every section of steak has a piece of this tough strip of gristle right in the middle. On the bright side, there's a lot of beefy flavor in a blade steak and it's relatively inexpensive.
Best Way to Cook Blade Steak
You may have seen beef blade steaks at the supermarket, wrapped in those cellophane packages, with labels that say, "Great for grilling!" But because of that strip of gristle, blade steak is actually terrible for grilling. If you cook it on a grill, that piece of gristle is going to tighten up like a thick rubber band, and that is exactly what it will feel like in your mouth when you try to chew it. (This, by the way, is one of the reasons it's so important to find a great butcher.)
The only way to break down the tough connective tissue in the middle of a blade steak is to cook it slowly, with moist heat—in other words, by braising it. Braise it for about an hour and you'll love it.
Turn the Blade Steak Into Flat Iron
Another way of dealing with that strip of gristle is to remove it. And, as a matter of fact, that is exactly how flat iron steaks are produced. Flat iron steaks are made from the exact same top blade muscle, only rather than slicing them crosswise and leaving a section of gristle in each steak, they're sliced lengthwise. That seam of gristle ends up going into the scrap pile (which means ground beef). Thus, the same piece of meat yields two totally different steaks.
Flat iron steaks are more expensive—both because they are objectively more desirable, and because of the additional labor required to produce them. Still, unlike blade steaks, flat iron steaks really are great for grilling.