A few weeks ago, I was at the butcher shop looking for something to cook for dinner. I’m familiar with a bunch of different types of steak, but I usually end up buying a top sirloin. (It’s one of my favorite cuts to buy on a budget.) Before I could ask for my regular order, a steak caught my eye; it was well-marbled like a New York strip but shaped like a sirloin, all without the typical fat cap you see on most steaks.
I took a closer look and saw an unfamiliar name: Denver steak.
When I asked the butcher for more info, I was shocked to learn that this beautiful-looking steak was cut from the chuck (a notoriously tough section of beef), but it’s the fourth most tender steak after the tenderloin, flat iron and ribeye cap. I was intrigued and bought one without asking any more questions. I had to get this thing home and taste it for myself.
What Is a Denver Steak?
The Denver steak—also called the Denver cut, bottom chuck steak or underblade steak—comes from the cow’s front shoulder. The chuck subprimal is well-known for containing rich, beefy-flavored cuts, but you don’t normally think of them as grilling steaks. This muscle gets a lot of work, so the meat can be tough if it’s not cooked low-and-slow (like chuck roast).
Cuts like the flat iron and Denver steak are different, though. You see, the chuck muscle is divided by a large, blade-shaped bone. The muscles that surround this blade gets less work than the rest of the shoulder, resulting in super tender steaks. It’s a bit like finding a diamond in the rough!
Even though this steak isn’t new, it’s not well-known. It takes a deft hand and a skilled butcher to remove this muscle, so you might encounter a blank stare if you ask for Denver steak at a restaurant or grocery store. We’ve had the best luck finding it at specialty butcher shops, although some national chain restaurants are starting to pick it up (we’re looking at you, Maggiano’s Little Italy).
What’s the Best Way to Cook a Denver Steak?
Like a filet mignon, a Denver steak has almost no fat cap. What makes it different (and, more flavorful) is its remarkable amount of intermuscular fat marbling, which keeps it juicy as it cooks. That means you can cook it to medium, and it’ll still taste great. (That said, we do think medium-rare is the perfect temperature for steak.)
Prepare a Denver steak simply with salt and pepper or use your favorite spice blend or seasoning. Cook it over a hot grill for 4 to 5 minutes per side and let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing it. If you don’t have a grill, fire up your cast-iron skillet, and it’ll taste just as good.