FRESH FLAT IRON
University of Nevada, Reno professor creates new steak cut.
WRITTEN BY KURT BICKEL
PHOTOS BY MIKE WOLTERBEEK, UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, RENO
UNR’s Amilton de Mellow displays his newly discovered Bonanza cut of beef
Consider the cow. For somewhere around the last 10,500 years, this massive ungulate has been a domesticated, slow-moving combination of milk bar, clothing store, and walking buffet. Only with the advent of the folding wallet and purses did most of mankind stop using it as a generalized currency. Suffice it to say that human familiarity with cattle is superseded only by that of our best friend, the dog.
With the cow comes the steak. For 600 years we’ve been carving rib eyes, flanks, and tenderloins. You wouldn’t think there could be any surprises lurking beneath the hide.
You’d be wrong.
The 1985 Beef Promotion and Research Act put a $1 surcharge on each head of cattle, funneling money into, well, beef promotion and research. This funding led to a study in 2000 in which 5,600 cuts of meat were evaluated for flavor and tenderness. Among the cuts discovered were the Denver cut, the Vegas strip, and the flat iron, a cut that was formerly turned into ground chuck. Then came patents. And marketing. And more research. Enter Amilton de Mello, University of Nevada, Reno associate professor of meat science and food safety.
The Bonanza cut
In 2014, de Mello was working at a processing plant when he noticed a small, well-marbled bit of meat on the aforementioned flat-iron steak. As a UNR press statement about de Mello’s work revealed, after two years of evaluating this particular cut of meat, “the sensory attribute and cooking yields” of the cut, along with finding the ideal wine pairing, the Bonanza cut was born. Shaped like a quarter moon, the cut is about four ounces, with a fat content of about 13 percent. It is said to rival the filet mignon in overall gastronomic splendor.
Grill tongs in hand, we began our search for the Bonanza. And we discovered from Ken Jolly at Butcher Boy in Reno that, while, yes indeed, it’s a great bit of meat, it’s also just a tiny bit of meat.
“There’s only eight ounces of it on an entire cow,” Jolly says. “I don’t think you’re going to see it in stores or restaurants anytime soon.”
But we have a bottle of 1999 Château Lafite Rothschild and six ounces of truffles; the coals are just coming in, and we have Ben Cartwright’s theme song cued up on the iPod!
“If you really had to have it, you could just buy a flat iron and cut it off of that,” Jolly says.
Hit the speed dial for Blue Ribbon Meat and Butcher Shop in Sparks.
“Bring us the diagram and we’ll cut what you want,” a helpful representative says.
Have Jeeves bring the Rolls around. We’re on our way.
Having been exiled from his native home in 1979 for declaring that Rice-A-Roni was not, in fact, the San Francisco treat, Kurt Bickel has written for a variety of local and national publications.
For cutting instructions and recipes for the Bonanza cut, visit Naes.unr.edu/demello/documents/bonanza_cut.pdf.
530 W. Plumb Lane, Ste. C, Reno • 775-825-6328 • Butcherboyreno.com
Blue Ribbon Meat and Butcher Shop
1436 Prater Way, Sparks • 775-358-8116 • Blueribbonbutchershop.com