What Exactly Is A Flat Iron Steak?

Flat iron steaks are beginning to show up on more and more restaurant menus as a more affordable alternative to expensive steaks like fillets and New York strips. They've also long been a staple of butcher shops and supermarket meat departments. But what is a flat iron steak, exactly?

The flat iron steak actually comes from the shoulder of the steer. To be more specific, it's from the primal cut called the chuck, the muscle group called the shoulder clod, and the muscle called the top blade.

Because it's the shoulder, the chuck gets a whole lot of work, so the resulting meat is generally quite lean and tough, with lots of connective tissue (which is why it's such a popular cut for braising). The top blade, however, retains that leanness but doesn't have much connective tissue to speak of, so it results in a very tender and flavorful steak.

Any steak that comes from the top blade muscle can be called a flat iron steak, but they're not all butchered in the same way. The muscle has a line of sinew running through it; some butchers include that line of sinew in the steak (forcing the diner to eat around it), and others butcher them in the other direction, slicing off the meat from the line of sinew lengthwise and dividing the resulting halves into individual steaks.

The flat iron might not get nearly as much attention as rib-eyes and strips, but it's a quality cut of meat, lean and usually inexpensive enough for a nice weeknight dinner. To learn about the 50 best steakhouses in America, click here.