Flank Steak vs Flat Iron Steak [Both Are Great!]

You’ll find the flank steak and the flat iron steak on everyone’s list for the most flavorful and inexpensive beef steaks. Still, although similar in many ways, anatomically, these two steaks couldn’t be more different.

Both the flank steak and the flat iron steak are growing in popularity and are both considered butcher’s cuts, those only enjoyed by those in the know.

Flat Iron vs Flank Steak

Here’s all you need to know about the flank steak and the flat iron steak, their similarities and how to cook them. Let’s dig deep into these versatile cuts of beef and add them to our repertoire for hearty and flavorful steak dinners.

Let’s start with where these cuts come from in a steer. You’ll immediately notice we’re dealing with two completely different beasts! Let’s explore the flank and the chuck primals.

Understanding the Flank and Short Plate Primal Cuts

The flank steak comes from the flank primal cut, located under the short loin and the bottom loin and behind the plate primal. This is the steer’s belly. There aren’t many useful subprimals here but the flank steak.

On the other hand, the flat iron steak comes from the steer’s chuck primal, behind the head, comprising the shoulders and upper back. This primal is much more bountiful, as it is the source of tender medallions, shoulder steaks, boneless pot roast and several other cuts or subprimals. The flat iron steak is one of the most popular steaks from the chuck.

What is a Flank Steak?

The flank steak is an abdominal muscle, so it works pretty hard. This means the steak is lean and tough, but also vehemently flavorful and beefy. The long, flat steak, often 12-inches long and 6-inches wide, has a lot of connective tissue as well, so it can be chewy and tough in not cooked right.

Broiled to make the famous London broil and also used to cook Asian-inspired stir-fries, carne asada and fajitas. This is quite a versatile steak that shines for its flavor, meager fat and relatively low price. Some folks make jerky with flank steak as well.

What is a Flat Iron Steak?

Flat iron steaks are gaining their place as inexpensive alternatives to more popular rib-eyes and strips. Despite coming from the chuck primal, better known for its roasts, the flat iron steak is becoming quite popular for its steak-like quality.

The flat iron steak is also known as the top blade steak or top blade filet, as it is cut from the cow’s shoulder. A tough membrane covers this steak and must be removed before cooking. Other than that, the steak has relatively high amounts of intramuscular fat, AKA marbling, therefore flavor. Some experts compare it the tenderloin for softness.

The flat iron steak is a large, rectangular cut that can weigh two or three pounds, so it’s cut into up to eight flat iron steaks, 12 ounces each.

Similarities and Differences Between the Flank Steak and the Flat Iron Steak

  • The flank steak comes from the flank or the steer’s abdomen. The flat iron steak is cut from the shoulder.
  • Both the flank steak and the flat iron steak come from muscles that do a lot of work, so they’re tough and require special cooking methods.
  • The flat iron steak is fattier than the flank steak. The flank steak is considered a lean cut.
  • Both cuts are inexpensive, although the flank steak is easier to find in supermarkets.
  • Both cuts are intensely flavorful and versatile on the grill and in the kitchen.
  • Flank steaks are often described as beefy for the high blood irrigation in the abdomen, while flat iron steaks gain their flavor from fat.
  • Flat iron steaks are often cut thicker than flank steaks, with a thickness between 1 and 1.5-inches, compared to 1-inch-thick flank steaks.

How to Cook a Flank Steak?

Since flank steaks are tough, they benefit from an acidic marinade, although the steak’s tough grain might require more marinating time than usual. Dry rubs will also give flavor to flank steaks.

Of course, you can always smoke a flank steak on a Traeger if you want something extra special.

When broiled, flank steaks produce outstanding results, but you can also grill them over high heat as long as you don’t go beyond medium-well doneness. Let the flank steak rest after cooking and always cut it against the grain.

Flank steaks make excellent fajitas and stir-fries. Tender, flavorful and juicy, flank steak strips are amongst the best cuts for the category.

How to Cook a Flat Iron Steak?

Marinating is also recommended for the flat iron steak. The thick, tough cut will tenderize nicely with citrus or beer-based marinades.

Flat iron steaks are thick cuts, so they’re best cooked at high heat with a sweet spot at medium doneness. The intramuscular fat in the flavorful steak renders nicely in a heavy-bottomed skillet or on the grill. Reverse searing a flat iron is also a great technique to try with this fatty steak.

Flat iron steaks are earning a place in fancy steakhouses, but they’re still a versatile and inexpensive steak to enjoy at home.

Are Flank Steaks and Flat Iron Steaks Interchangeable?

For convenience, we could say both flank and flat iron steaks can be substituted in any recipe. After all, they both need a good marinade and are best when not overcooked and cut against the grain.

If you can’t find flat iron steak, a bit harder to find, go for flank steaks. Still, the better you know these cuts, the more you’ll notice each is best suited for different cooking methods and preparations.

Incredibly similar, but unique in their own way.

There’s a place for both flank steaks and flat iron steaks in your grilling repertoire. Everyone can cook a rib-eye, but it’s with the lesser-known cuts that can truly show your grilling skills.

Beefy and flavorful, these two specialty cuts complement each other and increase your versatility around the grill, opening possibilities that better-known steaks just can’t offer. You’ll have a blast cooking flat iron and flank steaks, so ask yourself: Do you need a leaner or a fattier cut? Do you need thick steaks for the grill or thin ones to slice and stir fry?

Once considered steaks reserved for ground meat or only enjoyed by butchers, the flank steak and the flat iron steak are now up there with the most crowd-pleasing cuts.

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