Across the Grain: Grilled Flat Iron Steak
As an eater and a former restaurant worker, I know there’s often some tension around balancing the price and ease of mass-produced meat with the benefits of local meat to farmers, the environment, and society’s health. Put more bluntly, locally raised meat often comes in cuts we don’t know how to cook and is usually more expensive than meat from the supermarket.
Here are some suggestions—and a recipe—to make it work when you buy the local stuff:
- Spend the same amount on meat from the local farmer as you do at the supermarket but stretch the smaller quantity by making stew, stir-fry, or more veggie side dishes. We know we’re supposed to be eating less meat and more veggies anyway, right? More veggies + meat that is actually good for you = happy stomachs.
- Or get a cheaper cut and learn how to cook it to optimize flavor and tenderness. Since farmers do raise entire animals, and a whole beef is more than just 750 pounds of rib-eye, your local farmers’ market vendors sell a variety of cuts. It’s not hard to learn how to cook these other cuts so that they’re delicious and amazing! See below.
Grilled Flat Iron Steak
- Flat iron steak or similar (like skirt steak)
- Olive oil
- Splash of Worcestershire sauce
- Salt & pepper
- Herbs of your choice
Remove any clear silvery membrane that may remain on the steak. This so-called “silverskin” is really tough to chew.
Marinate steak with olive oil and a little Worcestershire sauce, plus salt, pepper, and any herbs of your choice, for 20 minutes or more.
Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking it.
Grill meat at medium high heat until grill marks show on the surface. The browning indicates the meat’s sugars and proteins are caramelizing to offer a wonderful flavor.
Turn steak, repeat browning, and insert a meat thermometer. Turn the heat down or move the meat off to the side and finish cooking to 135º F for medium-rare.
Let steak rest for 5-10 minutes. This allows the juices to be reabsorbed, resulting in more juicy steak.
Cut meat ACROSS THE GRAIN.
Cutting is one of the most important things to get right when cooking tougher cuts like flat iron. Cut across the grain to optimize tenderness.
Let me explain. If you look at a flat iron steak, you can see the thin strips of muscle all going more or less in one direction. In the photo to the right, the grain is going up and down. If you cut the steaks into strips FOLLOWING that grain, you’ll end up with those long (and tough) muscle fibers intact because your knife is just separating them from each other. But if you cut ACROSS that grain, you’re slicing each muscle fiber into short pieces, leaving your teeth with less to do. See the finished slices in the opening photo. Note that if you choose a skirt steak instead of a flat iron, the grain goes from side to side, so you should cut the steak the long way.
Some cuts have really obvious grain patterns. Others—like short ribs—can be more subtle and may even change direction in a single piece of meat. What to do? Slice a small corner and take a look – does your slice have stripes (bad) or little circles (good)? If you need to start again from another side, do that. If you’re cutting away and the grain changes direction part way through, just rotate the meat until you’re cutting in the right direction again. Be the boss of your steak.