Blade steak, also sold as flatiron steak, is an inexpensive, flavorful cut of beef. Some individual blade steaks are better than others. By knowing what to look for, you can make sure that you're getting your money's worth. You can choose the best blade steak by carefully reading all labels; examining the color, structure and thickness of the cut; and even examining the butcher shop where the steak will be purchased.
Choosing blade steak starts with savvy label-reading. Some manufacturers enhance the flavor of low-grade cuts by injecting them with a solution of salt and seasonings. Avoiding artificially enhanced blade steaks isn't difficult, however. The most obvious sign that steak has been artificially enhanced is if the label indicates that it has been injected with a salt solution "to preserve juiciness." A more subtle clue is the presence of an ingredient list, especially one that includes “salt” or “spices.”
Color is another indication of steak quality. Good-quality blade steak should be a deep, rich red. Brown coloration in raw meat means that the steak has been sitting in the butcher shop for quite a while, giving the iron in the meat time to interact with oxygen in the air. A vein running through the meat also is a bad sign, because it imparts a bitter, liver-like flavor. If avoiding meat with a vein is impossible, the vein should be removed and discarded before the meat is cooked.
You also should avoid unevenly cut steak. Uneven meat cooks unevenly, making it more likely to burn or under-cook. Individually packaged cuts are the easiest to examine, which is why some experts recommend buying meat in small packages. Large “value packs” of blade steak often hide haphazardly or unevenly cut blade steaks in the middle of the pile. If avoiding uneven steaks isn't feasible, they can be cut up for stew or other slow-cooked dishes.
A final indication of steak quality is the butcher shop itself. Fresh meat, fish and seafood should be displayed on ice, and packaged meat should be kept in refrigerated cases. Well-managed shops should have no noticeable odor and certainly should not smell of must or rotten meat. All surfaces, including the floor, should appear clean, and any spills should be cleaned up properly. If any of these conditions is missing, the meat might be tainted, so a discerning shopper will buy meat elsewhere.