So named because, when cut in the traditional way, it resembles a clothes iron in shape, the flat iron has actually been around for a long time. (Aliases include chicken steak and top blade steak.) No one paid much attention, though, because a tough strip of connective tissue ran down its center, making it unappealing to many steak lovers. That's where Chris Calkins, a University of Nebraska professor of animal science, enters the story. In the late 1990s he came across data showing that a steady rise in the price of the middle meats had been accompanied by a dramatic drop in the price of chuck. "The question was 'How do we add value back to the chuck?'" says Calkins. He helped put together a joint research project between the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida that measured different portions of the chuck for palatability and tenderness. They determined that the tenderest portion of all was a muscle found in the shoulder clod called the top blade.