Flat Iron vs. Flank Steak

Both flat iron and flank steak are great cuts of beef, but for different reasons. They come from different parts of the cow and have unique texture and taste, but which one’s better? Read on to learn more about the differences between flat iron steak and flank so you can easily choose one that best suits your preferences.

Flat Iron vs. Flank Steak: At a Glance

The main difference between flat iron and flank steak is where they come from on the cow. The flat iron comes from the chuck primal, while the flank steak is from the flank primal. Flat iron steak is more tender, has more marbling, and a richer taste. On the other hand, flank steak is way bigger, has a stronger beefy flavor, and is way more versatile.

Below is a table comparing flat iron steak vs. flank steak, including information on their differences in location on the cow, marbling, texture, and flavor.

FeaturesFlat Iron SteakFlank Steak
Location on the CowChuck primalFlank primal
MarblingHighly marbledLow to Medium-marbled
Size and WeightOn average, about 10 inches long and around 4 inches wide. Weighs 1-2 pounds.On average, about 10-12 inches long and around 5-6 inches wide. Weighs 2-4 pounds.
CookingPan-searing, grilling, sous-vide, smoking, oven.Pan-searing, grilling, sous-vide, smoking, oven.
TendernessVery tenderMedium
FlavorRich flavor similar to ribeyeStrong beefy flavor
PriceExpensive but usually a bit cheaper than flankExpensive

Location on the Cow

The flat iron and flank steaks come from different parts of the cow. The flat iron comes from the chuck primal, right in the shoulder area, while the flank steak is from the flank primal.

Comparison: Flat Iron vs. Flank Steak Cuts from the Cow
Flat Iron vs. Flank Steak: Location on Cow

Marbling

A flat iron steak is a fattier cut, which means it’s got plenty of marbling. On the other hand, a flank steak is leaner and doesn’t have as much marbling. Check out the photos of both cuts below, and look at the USDA nutrition data comparing choice-grade flat iron to choice-grade flank steak.

FeaturesFlat Iron SteakFlank Steak
Calories182165
Total Fat11.3 g8.29 g
Saturated Fat4.19 g3.44 g
Protein18.8 g21.2 g
Flat iron Steak Separable lean only, trimmed to 0″ fat, choice, raw Source.
Flank Steak Separable lean and fat, trimmed to 0″ fat, choice, raw Source.
two raw flat iron steaks
Two raw flat iron steaks
raw flank steak
Raw flank steak

Size and Weight

A whole flank steak is generally larger and heavier than a flat iron steak. On average, you can expect a flank steak to measure around 12 inches in length and 5-6 inches in width. In contrast, a whole flat iron steak typically measures about 10 inches long and 4 inches wide.

As for the weight, a whole flank steak typically weighs from 2 to 4 pounds, while a whole flat iron steak weighs between 1 and 2 pounds. In terms of thickness, flank steak typically ranges from 0.5 to 1.5 inches, while flat iron steak is generally about 1 to 1.5 inches thick.

flat iron steak size versus flank steak

Cooking

Flat iron and flank steaks are relatively easy to cook on a pan or grill. For the best results, cook flat iron steak over high heat like a regular strip or ribeye. This cut doesn’t require marinating; simple seasonings like salt, pepper, and, optionally, some butter, rosemary, thyme, and garlic are all you need. The cooking method for flank steak varies depending on whether you marinate it. Grilling is ideal for maximizing flavor and achieving a better crust for a marinated flank steak. If you prefer a simpler seasoning of just salt and pepper, then searing in a very hot pan is the way to go. I prefer to pan-sear the flank steak, especially when I pair it with chimichurri sauce.

flat iron steak seared in a cast iron skillet with butter, rosemary, and garlic.
Flat iron steak seared in a cast iron skillet with butter, rosemary, and garlic.

Remember, for flank steak, it’s best not to cook it beyond medium rare-doneness. As for flat iron, it’s fatty steak, so it’s still tasty, even cooked to medium doneness. A crucial flank steak tip is always slicing it against the grain. This cut has large, long muscle fibers that are tough. Cutting against the grain shortens these fibers, resulting in a more tender bite.

Tenderness

Regarding tenderness, the flat iron steak is a clear winner over flank steak. The reason? Flat iron is the second most tender cut you can get from a cow. Flank steak is in the middle when it comes to tenderness. But here’s a pro tip: the key to a tender flank steak lies in how you slice it – always against the grain. Those long muscle fibers in the flank steak will be very tough if you don’t do that. As for the flat iron steak, you’re in luck – you can cut it any way you like, and it’ll still be tender.

Flat iron steak cooked to medium-rare in a cast iron skillet and sliced thin on a wooden board.
Flat iron steak cooked to medium-rare in a cast iron skillet and sliced thin on a wooden board.

What’s interesting about the flat iron steak is its ability to remain tender and juicy, even when cooked to medium doneness. It’s a great choice for those who prefer their steak closer to well-done. As for flank steak, it’s best to cook it no more than medium-rare. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a tough and chewy steak.

Flavor

Flat iron steak has more marbling, so it’s generally richer in flavor than flank steak. However, flank steak has a stronger beefy taste and tends to be juicer. Plus, I love how flank steak goes with chimichurri sauce – it’s a perfect match. Remember, whether you go for a flat iron steak or flank steak, you can’t go wrong. Both cuts are fantastic.

Flank steak cooked to medium-rare and sliced thin on a wooden board
Flank steak cooked to medium-rare and sliced thin on a wooden board

Price

Flat iron and flank steaks are both pretty expensive cuts. Usually, you might find flat iron steak a bit cheaper than flank steak, but the difference isn’t huge.

flank steak and two flat iron steaks
Flank steak and two flat iron steaks

Flat iron vs. Flank Steak: Which is Better?

A flat iron steak is better for those who enjoy a steak similar to ribeye or strip. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a steak with a more robust beef flavor, ideal for sauces like chimichurri, or if you want to slice it up for tacos or marinate it, go for the flank steak.

Both these steaks are delicious and usually available at a similar price, so the final choice between flat iron steak and flank steak comes down to what you prefer. I like them both, but I prefer flank steak more often because it’s just so versatile.

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Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam Wojtow is a Polish entrepreneur and writer who founded Steak Revolution in 2020 because of his passion for steaks. Adam has been cooking steaks for over 5 years, so he understands well all aspects of steak, from the types of steaks and their cooking times to choosing the best cooking technique for any steak.