One of the most tender cuts of meat from the chuck primal — the blade steak — is often overlooked because it requires some extra preparation. In fact, the full blade steak is often cut in two just to avoid its long center stripe of cartilage (aka gristle)! But if you’re willing to do a little home butchering, the blade steak is an affordable and delicious cut.
Today, we’re going to take a full-scale look at the blade steak. You’ll learn what it tastes like, how to cook it, and a few recipes to make the best of it. Then, we’ll give you the lowdown on its nutrition facts and a few similar cuts as alternatives, as well as where to buy a fine quality blade steak.
What Does Blade Steak Taste Like?
Every cut of meat from the chuck primal is known for its pronounced “beefy” taste, and the blade steak is no exception. It’s rich and flavorful, with a refined marbling that gives it a soft and buttery finish.
But there’s a reason that not many butchers leave the blade steak fully intact: It has a line of connective tissue directly down the center. And if you throw this directly onto a hot grill, you’ll end up with an unpleasantly chewy center. There’s a few ways to get around this, and we’ll get into that in a moment.
What Are the Best Ways to Cook Blade Steak?
If you leave a blade steak whole, your options for cooking a tender and flavorful meal are limited. And it’s all because of that line of connective tissue. Heat it too quickly or over too high a heat, and it will tense up and become tough as shoe leather.
That means the best ways to cook blade steak are those that involve low heat, long cooking, and plenty of moisture. Braising works well, as does smoking low and slow.
Alternatively, you can cut the blade steak into two pieces and remove the cartilage altogether. Then you’ll have two separate steaks (one’s called a flat iron, the other a top blade) that are fit for grilling, broiling, or oven roasting.
So in summary: If you leave the steak whole, cook it low and slow with plenty of moisture. If you want to cook fast and over high heat, cut the steak in two and discard the central band of connective tissue.
Blade Steak Nutrition Facts
Nutritionvalue.org gives the following nutrition facts for a 4 ounce portion of blade steak:
- 157 calories
- 7.3 grams of fat, with 3.1 grams of saturated fat
- 78 milligrams of cholesterol
- 23 grams of protein
- 16% daily value of iron
- 8% daily value of potassium
That’s in addition to a rich and complex serving of all your daily B vitamins, and plenty of trace minerals like selenium and zinc, too.
Overall, that makes blade steak a high protein, high vitamin and mineral option — with the only downside being its fairly high fat and cholesterol content. This makes it pretty standard as far as steak cuts go, but definitely healthier than fattier ground beef blends.
Blade Steak Recipes
The recipes that make the best use of blade steak have one thing in common: They’re very specific about how to prepare it before you even start cooking. So let’s take a look at three different ways to cook it — whole, and cut into top blade and flat iron steaks.
Braised Blade Steak
Whenever you’re working with a cut of meat that has a tough or fibrous component, you should look first towards wet heat cooking methods. For a full blade steak, oven braising is the easiest way to get a tender, full-flavored, well-seasoned steak — and as a bonus, you can make a darned good gravy out of the drippings.
The basic procedure for braising a tougher cut like a full blade steak is this:
- Pat both sides of the steak with plenty of kosher salt, then leave covered in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours.
- Heat a Dutch oven over medium high heat, and then sear the steak on both sides. Set it aside.
- Cook sliced onions and garlic in the Dutch oven with a little oil, 10-12 minutes, until translucent.
- Return the steak to the pot, and add enough braising liquid to partially cover it
- Cover the Dutch oven and put it in the oven at 350 degrees. Cook for 2 hours, then lower the temperature to 250 degrees. Cook for 2-3 more hours, until the steak is pull-apart tender.
Now the question is: What should you use for your braising liquid? Beer, wine, and beef stock all work well as a base. Then you can add more aromatics like herbs and spices if you’d like to make a more intense gravy.
To make the gravy, use the reserved braising liquid. Strain any leftover bits out of it, then whisk in a few tablespoons of flour while cooking it over a medium heat in a sauce pot. This will give it a rich, silky texture that pairs wonderfully with the tender blade steak.
Grilled Flat Iron Steak
The flat iron steak, one half of a full blade steak, is much revered by butchers and chefs. It’s affordable and easy to handle, with a robust meaty flavor and rich texture. In short: It’s a near-perfect steak for grilling.
My basic procedure for grilling any steak is this:
- Salt both sides of your steak generously, then leave it covered in the fridge for around 12 hours. This will break down the proteins on the outside of the steak, allowing for a quicker and fuller sear.
- Prepare your grill with one hot side, and one unheated side. The hot side will be used to sear the steak, and the cold side will be used to rest it while ambient heat continues to cook the inside.
- Pat your steak dry on both sides before getting ready to put it on the grill. Using the hot side, cook for 1 minute at a time, flipping and monitoring the steak’s doneness.
- Preferably, you’ll have a meat thermometer to guarantee the degree of doneness. If not, you’ll have to go by the texture of the steak when you press on it with a pair of tongs.
- The ideal outcome: A steak with a deeply seared crust and perfectly cooked interior.
The whole process takes a fair bit of practice to do just right. But when you master this general method, you can use it for any cut of steak — and things like chicken and pork chops, too.
Oven Roasted Top Blade Steak
The partner cut to a flat iron steak comes from the other side of the full blade steak. It usually has as much or more marbling as the flat iron, and makes for an excellent one-sheet-pan dinner for the whole family.
Start by salting the top blade steak on both sides, and leaving it in the fridge for 6 to 12 hours, covered. Pat it dry, and heat your heaviest skillet over medium high heat. When it’s fully heated, sear the steak on both sides, then set aside.
Now prepare your sheet pan. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees, and add a bit of good quality olive oil to cover the sheet pan. Cut potatoes into 1-inch cubes, and season them with salt, pepper, and a dash of chili powder or your favorite spice mixture. Now add a layer of green onions over the top of the potatoes, and add a final sprinkle of salt and olive oil.
Return the steak to the sheet pan, and roast the entire meal for 15-25 minutes, depending on desired steak temperature. Rest the steak for a few minutes, cut it against the grain, and voila! You have a full dinner, ready to serve.
Other Cuts Similar to Blade Steak
If you can’t find a full blade steak at your butcher’s, fear not: There are plenty of other cuts that make a good substitute for it.
First of all, look for the blade steak’s two component parts. Many butchers will now separate the steak into a flat iron and a top blade steak, and sell them individually.
Next, consider a blade chuck steak. It’s an inexpensive cut with a fair bit of connective tissue, just like the blade steak. Follow the recipe above for braising, and you’ll end up with a tender and juicy steak with tons of beefy flavor.
A shoulder steak is a darned good option for wet cooking methods, too. It really benefits from either marinating before grilling, or braising just as recommended above.
Just keep in mind that if you’re working with a steak that has a lot of connective tissue, use a wet cooking method. And if you have a tender cut of steak with good marbling, season and grill it instead.
Where to Buy Blade Steak
The first place you should look to buy a blade steak is from your local butcher. In addition to getting some of the freshest cuts of meat, buying locally will put you in your butcher’s good graces — which is a great place to be when it’s time to ask for a specialty cut of meat.
Of course, if you don’t have a local butcher, ordering online is a good option. Here are a few of my favorite places to buy steaks online:
Porter Road is a Nashville-based butcher shop that dry ages their steaks before shipping them off to steak lovers around the U.S. Their steaks are never frozen, only refrigerated, making them perfectly tender and juicy. Their blade steak is a great example of this style; its dry aging further accentuates the intensely beefy flavor of the cut.
Farmer’s Fresh Meat sells blade steaks at a very affordable price, but their stock is always subject to change. If you find them in stock, it’s a great deal for a tasty cut of meat.
Outside of these options, few online butcher shops sell a full blade steak. Most break them down into flat iron and top blade steaks instead.
How to Store Blade Steak
If you’re not ready to cook a blade steak right away, it’s important to store it in a way that both maintains its flavor and prevents cross-contamination in your fridge.
The best way to do this is with a vacuum sealer for meat — but not everybody has access to one of these tools.
Alternatively, store your steak in a tightly sealed plastic bag, with as much air pushed out as possible. Then store it on the bottom shelf of your fridge with a plate under it, just in case any juices escape the bag.
You don’t want to keep a steak in the refrigerator for more than a few days, as it will begin to oxidize. When the outside of the meat starts to turn gray, it’s already begun to degrade and will lose a lot of flavor. At this point, your best bet would be to trim the oxidized parts off, then cube up the steak meat for a stew.
If you end up with more steak than you can possibly eat in a week, the clear answer is to freeze it. Once again, it’s strongly recommended to vacuum seal your meat, this time to prevent freezer burn.