A slow-grilled brown-sugar steak


Dear Lynne: What is a flat-iron steak? Ads talk about it being cheaper than rib eye or the loin steaks. But how do I find it, and what is it exactly? -- Ben in Minneapolis

Dear Ben: Flat-iron steak's flavor can trump much more expensive steaks'. This comes from the shoulder of the steer (also known as the chuck). In contrast, the most tender and expensive steaks come from the upper back of the animal (where there is the least movement, hence more tender meat) and have names like rib eye, top lion, sirloin and tenderloin.

Flat iron's name comes from its triangular shape resembling old clothes irons, and the New York landmark, the Flat Iron Building.

Another name for flat iron is top-blade steak. This steak is chewier than those other cuts, but has good marbling. If you cook it low and slow (a good idea for any meat), keep it rare to medium rare, and thinly slice it for serving, you'll eat very well. Personally, with steak, I'll take flavor over tenderness any time.


What to look for:

-- A 3- to 5-pound, 3-inch-thick chuck-blade pot roast (sometimes called top-blade pot roast). You'll see a squarish piece of meat with the flat, thin shoulder-blade bone across the top third of the cut.

-- If you are lucky, you'll see at the bottom of the roast a roundish-shaped muscle sitting against a piece of curved flat rib bone. This is the end of the rib-eye muscle, as in a rib-eye steak.

-- First cut away the flat iron by running your knife along the long blade bone so you free the top of the pot roast -- that is the flat-iron or top-blade steak. Cut it in half for two generous 1-1/2-inch-thick steaks. Cut those crosswise and you get four modest-sized steaks.

-- Next scoop out that round muscle, cut it into two 1-1/2-inch-thick rib-eye steaks. The meat between the two sections is good for a stew or burgers.

Now for a different way to season your steak.


Serves 2 to 4

Packing the steaks in brown sugar tricks the meat into browning to wonderfully crusty caramelized goodness, yet not overcooking. Though most of the sugar cooks off, the little that stays does great things for the steaks' beefiness.

Having the steaks cut thick is important to how they're going to cook. If possible, give the steaks 30 minutes in the rub.

3 tablespoons robust red wine
1/4 cup good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
1 generous teaspoon each coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/4 tightly packed cups brown sugar
2 to 4 flat-iron or other steaks, cut 1-1/2 inches thick

Combine all the ingredients, except the steaks, in a bowl. Put the steaks on a plate and pack the sugar mixture into the meat. Set aside while you heat the grill.

Create a two-zone fire in the grill by having a generous pile of burning coals at one side and a very shallow pile at the other. Or, with a gas grill, have one burner high and the other low.

Set the steaks over the high heat (take care because the sugar can flame up) and sear them for a minute or two per side. Then move them over to the lower heat. Cook about 8 minutes per side, turning the steaks often with tongs. (Turning often helps keep the steaks juicy.)

For rare, you want a temperature of 125 degrees on an instant-reading thermometer. For medium rare, look for 130 to 135. Now remove them to a clean platter and let rest 8 to 10 minutes. This is when they finish cooking, their juices settle, the meat collects itself and is much juicier for the wait.

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