What is blade steak, and what are the most appropriate substitutes for this cut? Since you might not always be able to find what you’re looking for, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan. By the time you’ve finished reading, you should have such a plan in place.
Blade Steak Substitute
The blade steak comes from the chuck region and has a strip of connective tissue running across it. These qualities make it a better fit for braising than for grilling. If you want to braise the beef, try a beef chuck roast or flank steak instead. For an alternative that you can grill, opt for tri-tip or skirt steak.
What is Blade Steak?
Blade steak, or top blade, comes from the chuck primal. For those of you who don’t already know, the chuck is located in the shoulder region of the animal. As such, the muscles get a lot of exercise, though not as much as some of the abdominal muscles.
Butchers used to divide the chuck into two subprimals called the chuck roll and the chuck shoulder clod. They would then cut across the shoulder clod to make individual chuck steaks.
That’s no longer the common practice. Instead, the clod is now separated into two muscles. Unlike the former chuck steaks, these two cuts have distinctive qualities, and are therefore marketed as entirely different steaks—of which the top blade is one. The other is the flat iron steak, also known as butter steak.
When the butcher cuts across the top blade muscle, it creates a steak that would be fairly tender if not for the seam of connective tissue running through it. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around this strip, which toughens up the meat.
On the other hand, if blade steak is given the proper treatment, it’s still pretty tender. It also has a nice beefy flavor, which is another plus.
How To Prepare Blade Steak
This is one of those steak cuts that isn’t ideal for the grill. Though supermarkets might try to pass them off as such, that strip of connective tissue will toughen up when exposed to high, direct heat.
Braising is the best way to cook top blade steak. That way, the connective tissue and gristle will break down in the sauce, resulting in a meltingly tender piece of meat.
You can also just carve away that line of gristle—that is, if you don’t mind cutting the steak in half. This is a great way to deal with the steak if you’re hoping to use it to make a stir-fry or steak fajitas.
Blade Steak Substitute Ideas
If you can’t find blade steak and are wondering about possible substitutions, here are a few ideas to help you move things along.
Beef Chuck Roast
Since this roast also comes from the chuck primal, it should be similar in terms of flavor and texture. Those of you who prefer a strong beefy taste over a buttery texture will appreciate what this cut has to offer.
On the down side, the beef chuck roast is set at a higher price point than blade steak. So you should be prepared to spend a bit more money. Fortunately, it’s also very versatile, so you might be able to substitute it for other cuts as well.
Have you ever heard of tri-tip steak? Though it’s more popular on the West Coast, it’s gaining traction elsewhere as word gets out about this delectable cut of meat.
The tri-tip takes its name from the fact that it’s cut in the shape of a triangle. It looks slightly odd, but what it lacks in aesthetic value, it makes up for in flavor and tenderness.
This steak comes from the bottom sirloin, toward the cow’s rear legs and just above the flank. It’s leaner and flatter than the top blade, so you can expect it to cook more quickly. In fact, since it’s also more tender, it won’t take much time to cook at all.
If you were hoping to grill your steaks, the tri-tip is a great alternative to blade steak. What’s more, it probably won’t cost as much, as fewer people are familiar with this cut in general.
Those of you who don’t have time to search all over town for a decent blade steak substitute should consider flank steak. The cut is easy to find and instantly recognizable, thanks to its pronounced grain.
Flank steak is broad, flat, and rectangular, with a small amount of marbling. It’s cut from the cow’s abdominal muscles, and is quite flavorful as a result. When you order beef fajitas in a restaurant, there’s a good chance that they were made with flank steak.
Grilling is a suitable method for flank steak, but you can use it in a recipe that calls for braised beef as well. It will be tough if it’s overcooked on the grill, but the moisture from the braising liquid should help to keep it tender.
When serving grilled flank steak, be sure to carve it into thin slices across the grain. Flank steak that’s sliced with the grain will be tough and chewy.
Though skirt steak and flank steak are often mistaken from one another, they’re two separate cuts of meat.
The skirt steak comes from the plate primal, which is located in the bottom center of the cow’s abdomen. The flank, meanwhile, is cut from a spot further back.
Like flank steak, the skirt has a wide grain and a chewy texture, and should be sliced against the grain. It’s best to grill this cut quickly over high heat—directly on the hot coals, if possible—or use the strips to make a stir-fry, tacos, or fajitas.
Where to Buy Blade Steak
Though this wasn’t always the case, blade steak can often be found in the meat department of the supermarket. It might be harder to locate at smaller mom-and-pop outfits, but the larger chain supermarkets should have it.
If you have your heart set on blade steak, ask your butcher if they can procure it for you. They may be able to make a special order, even if they don’t have it on hand right that second. This is one of many reasons why you should maintain good relations with the staff at your local butcher shop.
After bringing your blade steak home, store it in the coldest part of the refrigerator. If it’s well wrapped in airtight packaging, it can keep for up to 5 days. However, it will toughen up if you try to hold on to it too long, so cook it as soon as possible.
Alternatively, you can freeze the meat for a later use. Remove it from its original packaging, then re-wrap it in plastic wrap or wax paper. Add a layer of aluminum foil and mark the package with the contents and the date. Defrost and cook within 3 months.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to a substitute for blade steak, you have a few options.
One thing that most of these cuts have in common is that they don’t have that band of connective tissue running through the center. So in a way, you might be better off choosing one of these.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!