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Saturday, April 20, 2024

A steak developed at UF has become one of the most popular steaks in the nation.

Working with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the University of Nebraska, UF science researchers led a study to help evaluate undervalued portions of beef. The result was the flat iron: a new, inexpensive and fairly lean cut of steak.

The steak's sales almost doubled from 2005 to 2006, from 47 million pounds to about 92 million pounds per year, stated statistics compiled by Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based research firm. The steak has become the fifth most popular in the U.S.

Dwain Johnson, a meat science professor with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, led the study in 1999 that produced the flat iron.

Johnson said some people even prefer the flat iron to the more expensive rib eye or New York strip steaks.

He classified the flat iron as "a diamond in the rough."

The study was triggered by declining sales of cuts of shoulder beef, known as the chuck.

"The cuts from the round and chuck had really fallen off and declined pretty significantly," Johnson said. "And that's over two-thirds of the carcass."

Johnson added that the meat from this area is traditionally cheaper and used to make ground beef or pot roast.

Johnson's study identified several muscles in these underused areas and determined which would be most appealing as a steak.

Johnson's team found the flat iron to be one of the tastiest, most tender and leanest cuts of steak.

The team developed a simple method for removing an undesirable area of tough tissue that runs through the cut. This method led to the mass production of the flat iron steak.

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Johnson categorized the flat iron as not as fatty or expensive as a rib eye, but not so lean as tenderloin.

The tests to determine the quality of a piece of steak are extensive and intense, Johnson said.

When developing the flat iron, investigators were trained to rate steak on such qualities as juiciness, beef-flavor intensity and overall tenderness.

Johnson said the testers, many of whom were graduate students, tested about 900 different steaks over the course of a year.

The success of the flat iron is a win-win situation for both the consumer and the cattle industry, Johnson said.

While cattle farmers are making money selling the shoulder cut for more, consumers save money by buying a quality steak for less than high-end rib eye or New York strip.

Johnson said that the flat iron steak is well suited for college students. The steak costs about ,6 per pound in Gainesville.

Johnson also said several restaurant chains, such as T.G.I. Friday's, have featured the flat iron on the menu.

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