Buying the best flat iron steak is similar to buying the best of any other cut of steak. After identifying which meat is the highest quality, the next best step is to get a well-butchered cut to maximize the tenderness of this type of steak. Understanding the different quality grades of beef and the correct way to cut a flat iron is essential in getting the best meat.
When buying quality steak, whether flat iron or filet mignon, you should generally stick to the highest grades of beef, which are prime and choice. The grading is primarily based on how much fat is distributed, or marbled, through the meat. Prime is the best marbled and generally the most tender, and choice is the next best marbled.
The grades below choice are still tasty cuts of meat, but they are by no means the best. Select is a slightly better than average grade of meat, while standard or commercial meats are considered to be lower in quality, with tougher meat and less marbling. Meat that has been assigned a lower grade is generally passed up by brand name companies, so it is usually found as store brand or generic meat. This meat is less expensive than choice or prime, but it is generally not considered a good cut of meat.
Learning to recognize the properties of a properly cut flat iron steak is essential in choosing a quality steak. Some butchers, especially inexperienced butchers, can have difficulty making the cut correctly. A correctly cut flat iron should not have a visible tendon.
Quality flat iron steaks will have a large amount of visible fat distributed fairly evenly throughout the meat. Though some larger deposits of fat do appear in the best flat iron steak cuts, you want to look for fat ribbons in the meaty parts, creating a visual effect called marbling. The more marbling the meat has, the more likely it is to be juicy and tender after cooking.
Since the flat iron steak is a fairly new cut of meat that has become trendy in some food scenes, buying a flat iron steak can cost more than buying a top blade roast and having the butcher cut it into flat iron shape. This type of steak is generally eaten sliced thin, which an in-house butcher will usually do for you if the steak is not already sliced. Getting your flat iron steak professionally sliced can improve the quality of the cutting and save you preparation time in the kitchen.