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Flat Iron vs Flank Steak

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Can anyone tell me the difference and which one would be better grilled?

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  1. Flat Iron Steak is delicious, cut from the shoulder and has nice marbling. Perfect for grilling or broiling. Flank steak is cut from the abdominal area and is rather tought. These steaks are better for dishes that call for braising. I personally hate flank steaks, but some people, especially those who like well done meat, swear by them.

    1. I have to disagree with jhopp - grilled flank steak, if cooked properly (i.e. no more than medium rare) and sliced thinly across the grain, is delicious. Flat iron steaks are good as well, though, and might be easier to cook (more room for error). They'll also stay more tender if cooked a little longer, so if you're cooking for someone who prefers their meat more cooked flat iron might be a better choice.

      5 Replies
      1. re: biondanonima

        Completely agree with you and disagree with jhopp. Flank steak is very good on the grill and is often used for fajitas. Just can't cook it past medium rare and sliced across the grain (I like straight up and down rather than on the bias if its just for me - bias is only better for presentation purposes).

        Both are good grilling steaks and would come down to preference. The flat iron steaks are going to be more tender and flanks have a bit more chew (in a good way). Flank steak is generally larger than flat irons, so if you want a larger serving or to serve a few people, flank would be the way to go.

        1. re: ESNY

          Thanks for the feedback. It's actually for my wedding. Trying to decide which one to tell the caterer to go with. If cooking for a wedding...I guess I'd be looking for the one with more room for error.

          1. re: ESNY

            I am piling on with disagreeing with jhopp and agreeing with others with one exception -- fajitas are actually better suited to skirt steak, which is similar. Flank really needs to be cut thinly across the cross grain, and if not cut well it can be a little chewy. It is one of my favorite steaks to marinade and grill. I do make fajitas with them, but I find skirt steak is a little more tender (and is more marbled).

            As for flat iron, I put it up there with sirloin. Flavorful, but if what I want is a great steak, I reach for other cuts like rib eye or NY strip. You would never see me order a flat iron in a steak house, assuming they would offer it.

            Not one of these steaks seems suited to catered affair if the meat has to be held at temperature for a while before serving. Flank and skirt, if served as fajitas, might pass, but all of them will be overcooked if held in a warming place. How does your caterer plan to serve the steaks? I think this is one of the reasons you see prime rib offered at formal affairs -- you can just cut it off as needed.

            1. re: ESNY

              I find flank steak is more tender if slightly scored prior to the marinating and/or grilling.

            2. re: biondanonima

              I refuse to cook steak anything above medium rare. If I do it's a true error and most times not worth eating. That being said, you can marinate it, you can cook it perfectly, and you can slice it perfectly, but flank steak never gets above good in my book.

            3. I buy top blade shoulder roasts and split them into flat irons a lot. Flat irons make good steaks and like flank do well with a little marinade before cooking.

              Flank and skirt come from the abdomen and is a stringy muscle that should be cut across the grain to be tender. Flat Iron doesn't have the same grain pattern but even with very good cleaning there is still some connective tissue you may run into. As a shoulder cut you wouldn't expect that it would do well in a quick high heat grill application and be tender but it is and can be served from rare and more done as you like. Coming from the shoulder I find Flat Irons to have a unique flavor, different than steaks from the rib and sirloin section and different than the plate cuts. I don't find it as enjoyable flavor wise as the other cuts although I do buy top blade roasts when on sale as they are an excellent value.

              I recently had the opportunity to try a flap steak which has a more similar grain to the flank and skirt but comes from the bottom sirloin. I found it thicker, more marbled and more juicy than the flank with a sirloin flavor and tender when cut across the grain. Excellent for grilling.