Everybody has a favorite steak, but over the course of a long summer it's nice to have a little variety. New and less-traditional steaks, such as the flat iron steak, make a rewarding alternative to T-bones and strip steaks. They're especially good for broiling, on days when you don't feel like hauling out your grill.
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A Quick Introduction
The flat iron steak is a relatively new cut, taken from the larger beef shoulder. Shoulder is better known as chuck, and most chuck cuts are leather-tough. The flat iron is a notable exception. In fact, only the tenderloin is tenderer. The whole flat iron is a flat, rectangular cut, averaging over a pound. Some butchers cut them into individual portions of 6 to 8 ounces. Flat iron steaks are unusual cuts because the muscle's grain runs the length of the steak. Think of it as a small and unusually tender London broil, and you'll have the idea.
Step by Step
Season the steak lightly with sea salt, at least 45 minutes ahead of time. This provides opportunity for the salt to be absorbed into the steak, rather than simply sitting at the surface.
Position your oven's rack so the broiler pan sits 6 inches from the heating element. Close the oven door and turn on the broiler. If it has Low and High settings -- not all do -- set it to High. Heat for at least 10 minutes.
Blot any surface moisture from the steak, and then brush it lightly on both sides with oil.
Open the oven door and use tongs to slide out the broiler pan. Position the steak in the center of the pan, slide it back into place, and close the door.
Broil the steak for 14 to 16 minutes, turning it after the first 8 minutes of cooking time. It's ready when it reaches an internal temperature of 130 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit, or medium-rare, when tested with an instant-read thermometer.
Let the steak rest for at least 5 minutes after cooking, and then slice it thinly across the grain and serve.
A blast of very hot air will escape from the oven each time you open it. To avoid painful burns, keep your face away from it, and protect your hands with a heatproof oven mitt or glove.
A Few Details
The full flat iron steak has a line of tough gristle running right down the middle. You can simply leave it in place, allowing each diner to cut around it as they would with the rind of fat on a T-Bone. You can also remove it entirely with a sharp knife, separating the cut into two thinner steaks. If you do this after cooking the flat iron, nothing changes. Just slice it and serve. If you opt to remove the gristle before cooking, you'll have two thinner, quick-cooking steaks. Treat them the same way, but shorten cooking time to 8 to 10 minutes. The same holds true if you buy individual steak portions from your butcher, rather than a whole flat iron.
That Extra Something
Flat iron steaks are beefy and flavorful, but like any other steak they can benefit from some added flavor. You can massage a dry spice rub into its surface immediately before cooking, as long as you apply enough oil afterward to keep the spices from burning and becoming bitter. Flat iron also works well with marinades. Let it rest for up to an hour in your favorite mixture, or simply brush it with Worcestershire sauce immediately before broiling. Blot the steak's surface dry -- enough marinade remains in the crevices to add flavor -- add the oil and broil it as usual.
Broiling is a smoky business. Open some windows, turn your range hood's fan to High, and -- if possible -- pause your smoke detector until you've finished cooking.