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Top Blade Steaks

I have a bit of a puzzle for you chowhounds:

I was at the grocers the other day and I was feeling like eating steak, but not paying too much for it.
There were some steaks marked "FlatIron Steaks" but these looked nothing like a standard flatiron steak. The heading under that was "Top Blade Steak", and they were $4/lb... so I thought, "Why Not".

They have a little strip of connective tissue running down the middle, which I figured might be tough, and after some reading generally that is the consensus. I decided to just salt/pepper them and pan sear at high heat on the cast iron for a minute a side and then into the oven to finish at 425F before resting covered for a few minutes.
With this I roasted some cauliflower (tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper), and wilted some spinach at the last moment with some shallots and a couple little splashes of some 10 year balsamic for acidity.

The steaks were good, a solid medium rare and rather tender except for the middle strip of tissue and a little of similar gristle on the outside edge. Made for a bit of work in comparison to something like a ribeye or a regular flatiron... but for the price they were good.

I had some leftover steaks so I put them in a Tupperware, piled some of the roasted cauliflower on them, tossed in some fresh spinach with some of the sautéed shallots and a little splash of the vinegar.

The next day (at work) I reheated the container in the microwave at 60% power for just under 3 minutes. I wasn't expecting much, but I don't like to waste food.
I pulled everything out and put it on a plate, and when I cut into the steak, although the med-rare was now a med-rare+, the steak was now considerably more tender. The connective tissue was no longer like gristle, but instead like a nice little ridge of barely firm fat, completely edible! The flavour was even better.

What caused this? Was the lower power almost 3 minute cook in a moist environment enough to effectively braise the meat? Did the juices from the cauliflower and the little bit of vinegar tenderize it over night?
I tried this on 2 different containers of the steak with the same results on both containers using 2 different microwaves
Overall, I'd like to know how to make the steak that tender without the Tupperware overnight and microwave because if I can get these that tender and flavourful on the first try I'd happily serve them at a dinner party.

Any ideas?

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  1. Cyclic heating cooling and reheating irreversibly denatures and hydrolyzes collagen protein polymers in lab reactions, may be its the same on the plate

    1. I'm no steak genius so take this with a grain of a salt. Others can critique my post.

      A Blade steak much like a French Entrecote benefits from a longer cooking time. I know because I ordered an Entrecote in Paris 'bleu'. What a mistake - the fat in this cut could have just arrived from the refrigerator. Not the restaurants problem - they gave me what I ordered. Some steak cuts taste better with longer cooking - blue, rare not withstanding. The desirable degree of done is determined by the cut among other considerations.

      Edit: I re-read your post and realized that you know more than I have to offer. ;)

      1. Top Blade and Flat Iron are indeed the same beef, just butchered differently. Myself, I do not like them cooked past medium-rare temperature. If you like the beef, but do not like the connective tissue in the center.....next time you purchase, ask for the entire piece as a roast, When you get home, all you need to do is run a knife right through the center and seam out the two pieces, A whole Flat Iron roast will yield 4-6 steaks.

        Top Blade is usually available at 3.49/lb in my area ...although some stores may charge twice that price as Flat Iron.

        6 Replies
        1. re: fourunder

          My end goal was to get the beef and the connective tissue to both be medium rare and tender. The tissue was actually quite delicious and tender after re-heating, I'm just not sure how it ended up being so soft when it had been like gristle before. I still haven't attempted to re-create the event again, but I will soon.

          1. re: Benjamin B

            If your goal is to get the tissue soft, I suggest you roast it low and slow @ 200 or less to break it down. I have done it before @ 225*, but I even lower would be best if you have the time. I often roast Chuck Roast this way and the connective tissue becomes soft and easy to chew. View the pictures in the following threads to see what your expected results can be.

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/757268

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8147...

            In the second link with pictures provided, the first picture shows a large 7-Blade Chuck Roast. In the first picture, at the top left corner you can see the Top Blade in the 7-bone. The Top Blade/Flat Iron is from this Chuck Section of the primal. I purchase this cut whenever it goes on sale for 2.39 or less. It's a great piece of beef with lots of flavor.

            1. re: fourunder

              Do you think bringing it to an internal temp of say, 130F sous vide and leaving it at that for 2-3* hours then searing at very high heat for 30 seconds a side would give the desired result?

              *(Edit: after reading maybe 1-2 hours would be all that is required?)

              1. re: Benjamin B

                I have no experience with sous vide....so I am unqualified to answer your query. I will say this however.... While I enjoy reading this site and people's opinions, I find their tastes and expectations are often far different than mine. I'm perfectly happy with the low and slow oven method and have no desire to prepare anything sous vide at home. I'll leave that for going out to dinner. I'm sure the meat will come out tender, but the process is too involved for me.....just like the reasons why I shy away from FoodSaver packaging.

                As evident by the two threads I gave you, I like to experiment and suggest you give the sous vide method a try with different pieces of meat at different time targets to see what works best for you. That would be my approach. As for the 130* and then sear....the concept is sound.

                1. re: fourunder

                  Yeah, I don't own the equipment, I was just going to use the beer cooler and zip lock method found here:

                  http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/04/co...

                  1. re: Benjamin B

                    I did the beer cooler sous vide tonight with a blade steak -6 hours in a135 bath.The steak was very tasty and tender. The connective tissue in my had mostly broken down but in my SO's steak it was still noticeable. Even in the most expensive steak I've had theres always been a bit of gristle. This was almost as good but crazy cheap.

        2. I recently made this Molly Stevens' dish: Top Blade Steaks in Mushroom and Onions and it was excellent and transformed the gristle. It is rich.

          http://wegottaeat.com/chefster/recipe...

          Yesterday, however I got a flat iron steak (half pound) that was cut horizontally eliminating the center gristle(as described by fourunder) and just pan fried to medium rare. It was great.

          1. If you take the top blade roast and split it lengthwise removing the thick tendon then it's a flat iron you are familiar with. If you cut the roast across then you have the tendon in the middle of the steak. Just depends on how it's cut