Trying to decide between flat iron steak vs ribeye and having a hard time with it? We’ve been there. That’s why we decided to pit the two against each other in this head-to-head matchup.
Flat Iron Steak vs Ribeye
The flat iron steak comes from the chuck primal and is considered the second-most tender steak, after filet mignon. It’s tender enough to be cut with a butter knife, so it’s sometimes called butter steak. Ribeye may not be quite as tender, but it is more popular, pricier, and much more flavorful, with plenty of intramuscular fat.
All About Flat Iron Steak
Though it’s not as well known as cuts such as sirloin and ribeye, the flat iron is considered the second-most tender steak on the cow. Only the tenderloin has a softer texture, though it comes from a different primal.
The flat iron steak is cut from the top blade, which is part of the chuck primal. The chuck is located on the front shoulder of the steer. This portion of the animal gets a decent workout, so it’s a bit surprising that the meat is so tender.
Flat iron steak has several aliases. You might see it referred to as butter steak, owing to the fact that the meat is so tender. Other names include top blade filet, butler’s steak, oyster blade steak, and top blade steak.
This cut is well-marbled, meaning it contains a fair amount of intramuscular fat. That gives it more flavor than the tenderloin, which is sometimes lamented for being too bland. That’s one of the qualities that makes flat iron steak so appealing for grillers.
With a rich, beefy flavor and a tender bite, flat iron is an excellent cut. Taking all that into consideration, it’s also a very good deal. When you can find flat iron steak for sale, it’s typically priced under $10 per pound, though it’s gaining in popularity.
Speaking of which, you might have a hard time procuring this cut, as many shoppers have never heard of it. If your butcher can’t find it for you, try looking at online retailers such as Williams Sonoma, Omaha Steaks, or Wild Fork Foods.
Grilling is the best cooking method for flat iron steak. You can also sear it quickly in a cast-iron skillet, or cut it into strips to use it in a stir-fry. Tender cuts like this one are best when they’re cooked hot and fast.
All About Ribeye
Since there’s a beef primal called the rib, it stands to reason that the steak we know as ribeye is taken from this region. The rib primal is situated between the chuck and the loin, and the ribeye is usually cut from the sixth to twelfth rib.
Ribeye steak is known for its rich, well-marbled texture. The intramuscular fat melts into the surrounding meat as it cooks, giving the finished product a nice buttery texture. The ribeye can be sold bone-in or boneless, and is often cut very thick.
In the US, most people will know what you’re talking about when you ask for a ribeye. Other less common names include Delmonico, beauty steak, and cowboy cut. If you’re in Australia or New Zealand, this cut will be labeled as scotch fillet.
The generous amount of marbling gives the ribeye an intense beef flavor that’s impossible to replicate. Grilling enthusiasts have long extolled the virtues of this cut, with some going so far as to call it “king of the grill.”
Because of its location along the top of the animal’s forequarter, the ribeye isn’t a well-worked muscle. As a result, the meat is very tender, and the marbling makes it even more so.
Now for the bad news: Ribeye is one of the more expensive steak cuts. Its popularity drives the prices up, so you can expect to spend upwards of $15 per pound for a ribeye. Since the steaks are so large, that translates into an expensive meal.
Ribeye steaks are available at many supermarkets, as well as butcher shops and online retailers. Whenever possible, ask your butcher to cut and trim the steaks for you.
Again, the best cooking method for ribeye is grilling, though pan-frying is also acceptable. Be sure to bring the meat to room temperature for about 30 minutes and season it well with salt and pepper before cooking it.
The recommended doneness for ribeye is medium rare. You can cook it to medium if you prefer, but if it cooks past 140 degrees, the meat will start to lose its prized juiciness.
Flat Iron Steak vs Ribeye: Breaking it Down
Now that you know the basics, what are the specific differences between flat iron steak vs ribeye? We’ll take a closer look here.
Here’s the most obvious distinction: These two cuts come from entirely different spots on the cow.
While the ribeye is taken from the rib primal, which runs along the forward-facing section of the animal’s back, the flat iron comes from the chuck, or shoulder. Both the flavor and texture of steak cuts are affected by the location, so this is important.
Whether it’s sold boneless or bone-in, the ribeye can be distinguished by the broad swath of fat running along one edge, its round or slightly oblong shape, and of course, its visible marbling.
Flat iron steak steak has a more irregular shape, though it’s usually longer than it is wide. You can still see some faint marbling, but it’s not as visible as it is in the ribeye. It has a fine grain, which you should slice against while carving it into slices.
On a related note, these steaks are both well-marbled, but ribeye contains more of this prized intramuscular fat. Since marbling contributes to the texture and flavor of the cooked steak, this is another important distinction.
Flavor and Texture
As we’ve established, ribeye is more flavorful than flat iron steak. But although the meat is fairly tender, the flat iron can be cut with a butter knife. Which one you choose should depend on whether you’d prefer more beef flavor or a buttery, tender texture.
As a premium cut of steak, ribeye fetches a relatively high price. Further, it’s not uncommon for a single ribeye steak to weigh 1/2 pound or more. That can add up in a hurry if you’re serving a large crowd.
Flat iron steak is a better deal, but only slightly. As the cut becomes more popular with steak lovers, the price point is rising accordingly. In truth, if it’s a bargain you’re looking for, you might be better off shopping for a different cut of beef.
This is another category in which the two cuts have more in common than not. Both are excellent when seared over a hot grill or cast-iron skillet. You can also use flat iron steak in a stir-fry, though this isn’t the best way to enjoy a good ribeye.
Flat iron is a tad less forgiving than ribeye when it comes to overcooking. The tender texture will turn chewy if you cook the meat past medium. Ribeye won’t be as juicy when it’s overcooked, but it should retain most of its tenderness.
The Bottom Line
As you can tell, while flat iron steak and ribeye are both fine cuts of meat, they aren’t interchangeable. We wouldn’t say that one is necessarily better than the other—it’s a matter of preference and preparation.
If you’re hoping to wow your guests by serving perfectly grilled and flavorful steaks, then ribeye is the way to go. If you want a tender steak and don’t mind a bit less flavor, give flat iron steak a try.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!