A blade steak is a cut of meat from the shoulder of a cow or pig. Most people think of beef when they think of this type of steak, with pork blade steaks sometimes being referred to as “pork steaks” to avoid confusion. This cut can be tough, making it more suited to marinating and braising than quick grilling or searing, but it can also be quite flavorful, and sometimes remarkably tender, depending on how it is handled.
This cut of meat comes from the primal cut known as the “chuck,” a section of the animal that basically covers the shoulder. It is classified as a cross cut steak because it is made by cutting across the chuck to produce steaks. There are two types: the top blade steak and the under blade steak. The top cut is much more tender, while the under tends to be a bit tougher and more difficult to work with.
Blade steaks are easy to identify, because a streak of gristly connective tissue runs down the middle of the steak. A variant on the steak, the flat iron steak, is made by cutting around the connective tissue on a top blade steak to yield a single piece of meat that can be quite flavorful. The very top of the shoulder is also quite tender, once the connective tissue is cut away, making the flat iron steak a coveted item in some butcher shops.
When working with blade steak, it is important for a cook to find out whether the cut is from the top or the bottom, as top and bottom steaks need to be handled differently. The more tender top cut is a more versatile cut of meat, and it can be cooked lightly for people who like medium and rare meats. The under steak usually requires more work to tenderize it, such as a slow braising or roasting. In both cases, overcooking will yield a tough, rubbery steak, and excessive marination can lead to soft, mushy meat.
Cooks may also see top blade steaks referred to as book steaks, top chuck steaks, petite steaks, or lifter steaks. Under cuts are known as bottom or California steaks to some butchers. As with any meat product, steak should be kept under refrigeration until it's ready to be used. Cooks can thaw frozen blade steak by placing in the refrigerator overnight, as room temperature thawing can promote the growth of bacteria.