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Pan-Fried Flat Iron Steak with Caper Sauce

“Yes, I know exactly how to cook that.” Is that your reaction when you come across flat iron steak?

If you’re currently cooking flat iron steak with appetite and aplomb, feel free to skip to the recipe below.

But if you’ve never cooked this cut before, well, then this blog is for you. I hadn’t cooked it until this month, so did some research before I fired up the stovetop. (It was January in Pennsylvania, after all, so I couldn’t fire up the grill!)

Don’t be chagrined if you’ve never heard of the flat iron steak before. It’s a fairly new cut, developed in 2002. A meat science professor (yes, that profession exists!) looked at famously flavorful beef shoulder to see if he and his colleagues could find a choice, tender cut there.

The resulting steaks got their name because they were shaped triangularly, like an old-fashioned iron.

Old fashioned flat iron [Smabs Sputzer via Flickr]

Flat iron steaks are shaped like an old-fashioned iron. [Smabs Sputzer via Flickr]

Before Cooking

Like flank steaks, flat iron steaks are best when marinated.

After marinating the steak for 2 hours, I pulled it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature, which took about 20 minutes.

Why get it to room temp? “Frying will be both faster and gentler if the meat starts at room temperature or above and is turned frequently,” advises Harold McGee in his classic guide, On Food and Cooking. He notes that you don’t want to overload the pan with cold, wet meat. So, being careful not to leave the meat out for an unsafe amount of time, let it come to room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the caper sauce (see below).

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Immediately before cooking, on the stovetop, pre-heat a large pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil over medium heat.


Cook steaks uncovered, pressing the meat down with another pan so that more surface area gets hot faster. You want the surface to brown well.

You know the beef is cooking well if you hear a constant sizzle. You want a “continuous strong hiss,” says McGee, rather than “irregular sputtering.” That continuous hiss was a little unnerving to me, as I’m used to boiling or sautéing on the stove top, not pan-frying, but I was confident in McGee’s advice and simply let the beef sizzle for a while.

I cooked the beef for 2-3 minutes per side so it would develop a brown crust, then transferred it to a 400 F oven to reach desired doneness.

The results proved that flat irons have a deep, rich flavor and are incredibly tender when you marinate them, bring them to room temperature, and cook them evenly.



Pan-Fried Flat Iron Steak with Caper Sauce
Recipe type: marinade
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Adapted from Sheknows.com Marinate for 2 hours
4 flat iron steaks
  • ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped.
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
Caper Sauce:
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup capers, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl and pour into a large re-sealable bag. Add steak and transfer to the fridge to marinate for 2 hours.
  2. Let steak come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 400F.
Make caper sauce:
  1. Whisk together all caper sauce ingredients.
Cook steak:
  1. Immediately before cooking, on the stovetop, pre-heat a large pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil (it has a higher smoke point than olive oil).
  2. Cook uncovered, pressing the meat down with another pan, for 2 minutes per side. Transfer to 400F oven to reach desired internal temperature.



Pan-Fried Flat Iron Steakwith Capers Sauce
Category: recipes