Denver Steak: What is It and How is It Cooked?

August 26, 2022

Also known as the Denver cut, under blade steak, or bottom chuck steak, a Denver steak is a beef cut taken from the animal's front shoulder.

You don't have to be a steak expert to look at a fresh Denver steak and assume it looks good. If I ever see Denver steaks at the local butcher shop, I'm buying them before somebody else does.

Since I was introduced to the benefits and process to cook Denver steak in culinary school, it has always been my top cut of steak for sandwiches. 

It’s also my favorite whenever I'm making a recipe that requires a really beefy flavor. So, today, I'm talking you through a short guide on what this steak really is and how it is cooked. Ready?

Denver Steak

What Are Denver Steaks?

Denver cut steak is an American invention. It is a tender cut taken from the neck of the cow, under the shoulder blade bone. It's the fourth most tender cut of beef and is located between the beef chuck eye and the flat iron.

Denver steaks are perhaps the most marbled of the bovine cuts. What I like about this underblade steak is that it is relatively tender, incredibly juicy, and flavorful but has no bone or fat.

Surprisingly, it costs almost a third less than a rib eye or flank steak. In my opinion, a Denver steak cut is absolutely underrated.

What Makes It Special?

The marbling of this piece of meat is excellent, and the fat gives the meat a great taste. 

It is perfect for pan frying and is very juicy and tender if you prepare it the right way. After grilling/roasting, leave it to rest and cut across the grain.

Compared to the rest of the neck, the Denver cut moves very little and has a particularly large amount of intramuscular fat and beautiful marbling. Only a skilled butcher knows how it's taken. 

Cooked Meat and Grilled Veggies On Black Tray

Why is It Called a Denver Steak?

This piece of meat is the result of research by scientists from (you can guess) the University of Denver, which is how it got its name.

The research group was looking for new cuts of meat that were "marketable." This was about 20 years ago. 

They found what they were looking for in the neck of the cow. While this area is primarily used for pot roasts and ground beef, it also houses the muscle that makes a wonderful steak. 

How to Cook Denver Steak?

One thing I like about the Denver steak cut is how versatile it is when it comes to cooking. It has various cooking methods. You can hot-grill it, pan-sear, and give it a sous vide cooking. 

You can also give Denver steak a good roasting like you're making a chuck roast. I recently showed you how to smoke a chuck roast. This also works for steak lovers. 

My favorite way of cooking Denver steak is by grilling it directly on the cast iron skillet. 

This is how you achieve the Denver steak flavor. I like to give it a reverse searing and then a quick grilling over the embers. 

For me, the ideal is a nice homogeneous searing on the outside, then a nice, tasty crust. The inside must have nice homogeneous cooking. 

I like to aim for an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. The surest way to achieve this would be through reverse searing or low-temperature vacuum cooking. However, you’ll surely need a thermometer – a digital one, especially. 

I often choose the quickest and simplest method that needs more attention: pan-searing.

How to Pan-sear Denver Steak?

This procedure is the most used in Denver steak recipes. You only need a pan and a charcoal grill with butter and some flavoring ingredients.

  1. Heat the cast iron skillet well on the stove, turning the heat up to maximum. Weber recommends a temperature within the range of 450 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. After a couple of seconds, sprinkle the surface of the meat with a thin layer of peanut or olive oil. This is ideal as olive oil has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point.
  3. Place the steak in the pan, searing the first side for a few minutes.
  4. Turn the steak to the other side with the help of your tongs.
  5. Immediately after searing, you'd need to baste the steak. What does this last technique consist of? It's simple! Just put two knobs of butter, a sprig of rosemary, and a clove of garlic on one side of the pan. 
  6. Then tilt the pan a few degrees to collect the melted butter on one side of the pan. And, with the help of a spoon, continuously pour it over the steak. This process ensures the flavoring of the meat and helps improve the crust.
  7. Measure the temperature with an instant thermometer, inserting it into the steak to the thick center.
  8. Remove the beef steak from your pan when it reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Let it rest on a cutting board covered with aluminum foil (do not wrap it).
  9. Pour a glass of red wine into the pan to de-glaze. 
  10. Slice your steak across the grain. Then, pour the freshly prepared sauce over the cooked Denver steak. Easy! There you have your pan-seared Denver steak. 

The following video illustrates well how to do the basting technique, especially pan-seared steak:

FAQs 

Why is Denver Steak Cheap?

Denver steak is less expensive than other beef cuts because it is taken from the lower quality chuck region of the bovine.

Despite this, the Denver steak almost the same quality as more expensive cuts of beef.

Cuts within the same region, such as the chuck eye steak and the flat iron steak, are equally affordable. 

What Kind of Meat is Denver Steak?

The Denver cut is a muscle cut from the back of the neck underneath the shoulder blade – the chuck primal. The meat comes from the front part of the cow. Under the neck is the breast; behind it are the ribs.

Denver Steak Same as Chuck Eye Steak?

No, the Denver steak is not the same as chuck eye steak. Both are neighbors in the chuck primal region. However, the chuck eye steak is taken from the fifth rib. 

Conclusion

I strongly recommend going for Denver steaks if you're looking for high-quality lean meat on a budget. 

With less than 30 years in the culinary world, Denver Steak has many possibilities. 

Like a treasure, it had to be practically dug to be discovered in all its flavor and succulence. 

So next time you're shopping for steaks at the meat shop, local supermarket store, or with the specialized beef vendors online, make sure you ask for it. 

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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