When you can’t find flat iron steak, which cut should you use instead? There are a few options, and all of them should be easy enough to find. It all comes down to what you’re planning to do with the steak once you’ve brought it home.
If you have your heart set on flat iron, try online retailers like Omaha Steaks and Snake River Farms. The steaks won’t be cheap, but the quality should be top-notch. Otherwise, try one of these flat iron steak substitutes.
Flat Iron Steak Substitute
The flat iron steak is a tender yet flavorful cut from the chuck primal. If you’re looking for another tender steak to use as a substitute, consider the ribeye, hanger, or tenderloin. For cuts with a similar appearance and tons of beef flavor, opt for a flank or skirt steak, particularly if you’re making tacos or fajitas.
What Is Flat Iron Steak?
A lot of people get flat iron steak confused with flank steak, probably because the names look similar on the page. But the truth is, there are quite a few differences between the two cuts.
Flat iron steak comes from the chuck, which is located around the shoulder region. By contrast, flank steak is cut from the abdominal muscles toward the rear of the animal. In short, they couldn’t be much farther apart.
Other names for the flat iron include shoulder top blade steak, top blade steak and boneless top chuck steak. Some people refer to it as the butter steak because it has a surprisingly tender texture for a cut from the chuck.
Indeed, the flat iron has a reputation for being the second-most tender steak on the cow, with the tenderloin taking the top spot. Since the chuck section gets a decent workout during the animal’s lifetime, the meat has an intense beef flavor as well.
Since flat iron steak is both affordable and tender, it’s become more popular in recent years. However, it’s still difficult to find in supermarkets. That’s why you might find yourself searching for an alternative for your recipes.
How To Prepare Flat Iron Steak
I think the best way to prepare flat iron steak is to season it with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, then grill it over a medium-hot fire. Make sure to coat the cooking grate with oil before you begin (or apply oil to the steak itself).
You can experiment with marinades for flat iron steak if you’d like. When I go this route, I prefer to keep it simple with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and Worcestershire sauce. However, the meat should take well to whatever marinades you prefer to use on steak.
Try not to cook a flat iron steak past medium. Cooking it to medium rare is the best way to preserve its tender texture. If it’s overcooked, the meat will toughen up, leaving you to wonder why it came so highly recommended.
Ideas For a Flat Iron Steak Substitute
Assuming you can’t find flat iron steak at a store near you, there are a few alternatives to consider.
Since the flat iron has such a soft, buttery texture, it stands to reason that the tenderloin would be a good cut to replace it.
The tenderloin is a long muscle that runs along the animal’s spine. This area of the cow doesn’t move around much, so the meat stays amazingly tender. When tenderloin steaks are prepared correctly, they almost melt in your mouth.
Butchers can divide the tenderloin into several smaller cuts. Filet mignon is cut from the larger end, while the most tender portion in the center is reserved for châteaubriand. The thinner end is cut into small steaks called tournedos.
Tenderloin can’t match the flat iron in terms of flavor. However, if it’s a buttery texture you’re after, this is a wonderful flat iron steak substitute. The taste will be much improved if you grill it over a charcoal fire.
Those of you who find tenderloin cuts too bland might prefer to substitute ribeye for the flat iron steak. While it’s not quite as tender, it does have a bold beef flavor and plenty of marbling. As such, it’s a juicy and delicious steak that’s great on the grill.
The ribeye comes from the rib primal, and can be sold either boneless or bone-in. The bone-in cuts might be called cowboy or tomahawk steak, depending on the style and length of the bone portion.
Given the choice, I would substitute boneless ribeye for flat iron steak. The bone might contribute additional moisture and flavor, but it also drives up the price. Since you can’t eat the bone, there’s no point in paying extra for it in this case.
New York Strip
This cut comes from the short loin, adjacent to the tenderloin. In fact, the narrow end of the tenderloin muscle bisects the short loin.
New York strip steak is a fine-grained cut with a moderate amount of flavor and marbling. Texture-wise, it isn’t as tender as the flat iron, but that would be a tough race to win in any case. It makes a decent substitute in most recipes, assuming you season it right.
As the name suggests, flat iron steak is a flat cut. If you’re making steak fajitas or tacos, or any other dish that calls for thin strips of meat, skirt steak is an ideal stand-in.
The skirt comes from the plate primal, which is located in the belly. It’s a thin cut with maximum beef flavor. While it lacks the naturally tender texture of the flat iron, cutting it into thin slices against the grain will offset any toughness.
Skirt steak takes well to marinades, so if your recipe calls for one of those, consider using it as your substitute cut. Just be forewarned that it can be difficult to find skirt steak as well, so you might have to make another choice.
Although the flank and the skirt are different cuts, they’re similar enough to use interchangeably in most recipes. That’s a good thing, because flank steak is a lot easier to come by.
Like the skirt, the flank has a thick, ropy grain and a ton of beef flavor. It’s best when grilled over high heat and then carved into thin slices. Again, it’s important to slice the meat against the grain to improve the texture.
The hanger steak, also known as the butcher’s cut, is another cut from the plate primal. Long and vaguely cylindrical in appearance, it gets its name from the fact that the muscle seems to “hang” in place, which contributes to its tender texture.
Before this cut became a restaurant staple, butchers would often take it home for themselves instead of packaging it for sale. That’s where the nickname comes from. Once you’ve tried it for yourself, you’ll understand why they were loath to part with it.
The hanger steak is similar to the flat iron in that it’s naturally tender and absorbs marinades beautifully. It also has excellent flavor. The only thing that might throw you off is the shape—this isn’t a flat cut like the flank and skirt.
Where Can I Buy Flat Iron Steak?
Your first stop should be your local butcher counter. As a home chef, it’s in your best interest to strike up a genial relationship with a good butcher in your area. Assuming you’ve already done this, it should be easy to place a special order.
Remember that some people may know the steak by a different name. A good butcher should be familiar with all the various terms, but just in case, try asking for a top blade steak instead. That might do the trick.
What if you need the steak right away and they don’t have any in stock? In that case, you’re going to need a flat iron steak substitute, which is why I put together this guide.
You can also visit a supermarket or big-box retailer. Costco, for example, might have flat iron steaks available. It’s not as common to find flat iron steaks on supermarket shelves, but you can always visit the butcher counter there as well.
If you can wait awhile, another place to check would be online. Snake River Farms, Omaha Steaks, and Crowd Cow are all solid options. Be forewarned, though, that you’ll probably have to pay top dollar if you go this route.
Once you’ve brought the steak home, it should keep in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. Keep that in mind when you’re making your plans. If you can afford it, consider buying flat iron steak in bulk and storing it in the freezer until you’re ready to make it again.
Once you’ve sampled flat iron steak, you might have a hard time understanding how any other cut could measure up. The good news is that there are a lot of excellent steaks out there. It’s just a matter of finding the one that works best with your chosen recipe.