UF researchers know what's for dinner


Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 at 11:21 p.m.
A new cut of steak developed partly by researchers at the University of Florida is showing up on menus around the country and within the last few weeks turned up as one of the specials at Gainesville's Club House Grille.
Gourmets everywhere laud the flat iron steak for being as tender as a filet but as flavorful as cheaper cuts of beef. The steak, which in its untrimmed form has a triangular shape, reminiscent of the solid irons once used to press clothing, is a regular item on the menu at TGI Fridays and other restaurants have picked it up as well.
Here's what New York Magazine had to say about it in 2003: "A slew of smart chefs are just discovering the flat iron steak, a remarkably flavorful, surprisingly tender, and - most important - cheap cut from the shoulder that old-school butchers call 'chicken steak.' "
The cut was developed as the result of research conducted by UF professor Dwain Johnson and University of Nebraska professor Chris Calkins, along with a task force consisting of packers, retailers, processors and other professionals in the beef industry.
The idea behind the research was to make better use of parts of the cow known to be flavorful but oftentimes tough, such as the shoulder. Cuts from the shoulder also known as chuck, for example, are made into ground beef or require prolonged cooking methods to make the meat tender.
The cut has taken time to catch on around the country because butchers have to be trained to cut it, although Johnson said, expert meat cutters only have to be shown once or twice. The meat is carved from along the muscle's fibers whereas most other steaks are cut across the grain. "That particular muscle just happens to be tender," said Johnson, noting it's second in tenderness only to the tenderloin often sold as a filet mignon.
And the flat iron is a lean cut with no fatty edges. "You don't have any trimmings left on the plate," Calkins said.
As a result of the two-year study, the value of the chuck has increased, therefore increasing the value of the animal an estimated $50-$70 per head. "I like to call this a win-win situation," said Nebraska's Calkins. "It's a win for cattlemen, but it's also a win for consumers."
Over the past few weeks customers at the Club House Grille began sampling the new cut steak and it has been so successful owners now plan to make it a permanent fixture on their menu.
"People love it," owner Darren Hussien said. "There hasn't been one bad response about it."

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