Since You Asked: Flat-iron steak tender, inexpensive

I've seen flat-iron steaks listed on a lot of restaurant menus and don't recall reading about this cut prior to a few years ago. What is it and why is it so popular now?

— Justin R., Medford

Restaurant cooks love flat-iron steak for its versatility. It can be grilled or pan-fried and takes well to rubs, marinades and other seasonings. Steaks average 11/4 to 13/4 pounds apiece and are very reasonably priced.

Cut from the shoulder and sometimes labeled "top blade steak," flat-iron is said to be as tender as sirloin or even filet mignon. It boasts uniform thickness and stays fork-tender if grilled whole to medium-rare, about 8 minutes per side.

The steak is ideal for dishes that feature slices of beef, all a similar size when cut across the grain. Try it with this beef satay recipe from "The Best Grill Pan Cookbook Ever" by Marge Poore. It makes about 24 appetizer portions:

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/3 cup dry vermouth, 1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce and 3 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar. Bring mixture to a boil and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Lower heat if it starts to boil over. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons canola oil, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper and 1 tablespoon rice-wine or white vinegar. Let mixture cool completely.

Slice one flat-iron steak across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick strips. Place strips in a sealable bag or bowl with cooled marinade. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.

For grilling, soak bamboo skewers in warm water for at least 30 minutes. Remove meat from marinade and thread onto skewers. Grill over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes per side or cook under the broiler for the same time.

Send questions to "Since You Asked, A la carte" Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.

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