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What Is Flank Steak?

9 Mins read
what is flank steak

What is flank steak? Flank steak is a delicious and versatile cut of beef that comes from the abdominal muscles of the cow. It is a long, flat piece of meat with a rich flavor and a slightly tougher texture compared to other cuts. Flank steak is popular for its affordability and its ability to absorb marinades and flavors, making it a favorite choice for grilling and marinating. 

With its distinctive grain and lean composition, flank steak are perfect for slicing thinly against the grain to maximize tenderness. Whether used in stir-fries, fajitas, or as the star of a steak sandwich, flank steak offers a delectable dining experience. So, let’s delve deeper into the world of flank steak and discover the many ways it can be enjoyed!

What Is Flank Steak?

Flank steak is a popular cut of beef that is known for its rich flavor and versatility in cooking. It is derived from the abdominal muscles of the cow, specifically the lower chest or abdominal area. The flank itself is a long, flat muscle, which explains the shape of the steak.

One characteristic of flank steak is its relatively tough texture compared to other cuts. This is because it comes from a heavily exercised muscle in the cow’s body. However, with the right cooking techniques, it can become tender and juicy.

Flank steak is often prized for its affordability, making it a budget-friendly option for meat lovers. It is also favored for its ability to absorb marinades and flavors, making it a great choice for marinating and grilling.

When it comes to cooking flank steak, it is essential to slice it thinly against the grain. This technique helps to break down the tough muscle fibers and enhance their tenderness. Thinly sliced flank steak is perfect for dishes like stir-fries, fajitas, and beef tacos, where it can be quickly cooked and mixed with various vegetables and seasonings.

Apart from its use in cooked dishes, flank steak is also a popular choice for steak sandwiches. The thinly sliced meat can be piled onto a crusty bread roll, accompanied by toppings such as caramelized onions, cheese, and sauces.

To maximize the flavor and tenderness of flank steak, it is advisable to marinate it before cooking. Common marinades include a combination of soy sauce, garlic, ginger, citrus juices, and various spices. Marinating the steak for a few hours or overnight helps to infuse it with flavors and tenderize the meat further.

When it comes to cooking methods, grilling, and broiling are popular choices for flank steak. The intense heat helps to sear the outside of the meat while retaining its juiciness. It is essential to monitor the cooking time carefully, as flank steak can become tough and chewy if overcooked.


How to Buy Flank Steak

When it comes to buying flank steak, there are a few key factors to consider to ensure you select a high-quality cut. Here are some tips on how to buy flank steak:

Look for Freshness: Choose a flank steak that is fresh and has a bright red color. Avoid steaks with a grayish or brownish tint, as this could indicate that the meat is past its prime.

Check the Marbling: Although flank steak is a lean cut, some marbling can contribute to tenderness and flavor. Look for thin streaks of fat throughout the meat, as this can enhance the overall taste and texture.

Thickness and Size: Flank steak is typically sold in long, flat cuts. Opt for steaks that are about 1 to 1.5 inches thick, as this thickness allows for even cooking and retains juiciness. Additionally, choose a size that suits your cooking needs and the number of servings you intend to prepare.

Inspect the Texture: Gently press the meat with your fingers. It should feel firm but still have some give. Avoid steaks that feel too soft or mushy, as this could indicate poor quality or mishandling.

Consider Grass-Fed or Organic Options: If possible, look for flank steak that is labeled as grass-fed or organic. These options often come from animals that have been raised on a natural diet without the use of antibiotics or hormones, resulting in potentially higher-quality meat.

Visit a Trusted Butcher or Retailer: For the best selection and advice, consider purchasing flank steak from a reputable butcher or a trusted retailer with a good track record for quality meat. They can provide guidance and recommendations based on your preferences and cooking method.

Ask for Assistance: Don’t hesitate to ask the butcher or staff for assistance. They can provide information on the origin of the meat, and its quality, and offer suggestions on cooking methods or recipes.

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How to Cut Flank Steak

When it comes to cutting flank steak, following the correct technique is essential to maximize tenderness and achieve desired results. Here are some detailed steps on how to cut flank steak:

Start with a Sharp Knife: Before you begin, make sure you have a sharp knife specifically designed for cutting meat. A sharp knife will make the process easier and more precise.

Identify the Grain: The first step is to identify the grain of the meat. The grain refers to the lines or fibers running through the meat. In flank steak, the grain is easily visible, usually running lengthwise along the steak.

Position the Steak: Place the flank steak on a cutting board and ensure it is positioned horizontally in front of you, with the grain running from left to right.

Slice Against the Grain: To maximize tenderness, it is crucial to slice flank steak against the grain. Cutting against the grain means cutting perpendicular to the direction of the fibers. The grain can be easily seen as lines on the surface of the meat. Take note of the direction and adjust your cutting angle accordingly.

Make Thin Slices: To achieve tender results, aim for thin slices when cutting flank steak. Start by making a shallow incision on one side of the steak and slowly continue cutting through the meat, maintaining a consistent thickness. Thin slices help break down the tough muscle fibers, resulting in a more enjoyable texture.

Use a Smooth Sawing Motion: As you cut through the steak, use a smooth sawing motion rather than applying excessive force. This technique helps maintain control and prevents the meat from tearing or becoming unevenly sliced.

Repeat the Process: Once you have completed slicing one portion of the steak, continue to cut the rest in the same manner. Take your time and ensure each slice is consistent in thickness and cut against the grain.

Adjust for Serving Needs: Depending on your dish or recipe, you may need to cut the flank steak into smaller pieces or strips. Adapt the size of the slices according to your specific cooking requirements.

How to Cook Flank Steak

Cooking flank steak to perfection requires the right techniques and attention to detail. Here is a detailed guide on how to cook flank steak:

Prepare the Flank Steak: Before cooking, remove the flank steak from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. This allows for more even cooking.

Season the Steak: Season the flank steak with your desired spices and marinades. Popular options include a combination of salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and herbs. You can also use a marinade of your choice to enhance the flavor. Allow the steak to marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight in the refrigerator, depending on your preference.

Preheat the Grill or Pan: If grilling, preheat your grill to medium-high heat. If using a stovetop, preheat a heavy skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Ensure the cooking surface is hot before adding the steak.

Cook the Flank Steak: For medium-rare doneness, grill or sear the flank steak for about 4-6 minutes per side. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature, aiming for 130-135°F (54-57°C). Cooking times may vary depending on the thickness of the steak and desired doneness. Adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Rest the Steak: Once the steak reaches the desired internal temperature, remove it from the heat source and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes. Resting allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a more flavorful and tender steak.

Slice Against the Grain: After resting, it’s time to slice the flank steak. Remember to slice against the grain, which means cutting perpendicular to the direction of the fibers. This helps break down the muscle fibers and ensures a tender bite.

Serve and Enjoy: Arrange the sliced flank steak on a platter or individual plates. You can serve it as is or incorporate it into various dishes such as fajitas, stir-fries, salads, or sandwiches. The versatility of flank steak allows for a wide range of delicious meal options.

Optional Tips:

Baste with Marinade: While grilling or searing, you can baste the steak with the leftover marinade or a fresh mixture for added flavor. However, avoid using the marinade that has come into contact with raw meat to prevent any food safety concerns.

Adjust Cooking Times for Doneness: If you prefer your flank steak cooked to medium or well done, increase the cooking time accordingly. However, keep in mind that flank steak is best-enjoyed medium-rare to avoid it becoming too tough.

Tenderizing Techniques: If you desire even more tender flank steak, consider using tenderizing techniques such as scoring the surface with a sharp knife or using a meat mallet to lightly pound the steak before seasoning and cooking.

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What Does Flank Steak Taste Like?

Flank steak is known for its distinct flavor profile that sets it apart from other cuts of beef. Here are some detailed insights into what flank steak tastes like:

Rich and Beefy: Flank steak has a robust and rich beef flavor. The meat itself carries a natural depth of taste that is often described as intense and savory. This flavor is a result of the cut’s location and the muscles it comes from, which are responsible for the cow’s locomotion.

Slightly Gamey: Flank steak can have a subtle gaminess to its flavor. This characteristic is more pronounced compared to other cuts like tenderloin or ribeye. It adds an interesting element to the taste profile, providing a unique and distinct experience.

Lean and Bold: Flank steak is a lean cut with minimal marbling, which contributes to its bold and pronounced taste. The absence of excessive fat means that the flavor is not mellowed out by the richness of intramuscular fat. Instead, the lean meat allows the natural beef flavors to shine through.

Versatile Absorption of Flavors: One of the appealing aspects of flank steak is its ability to absorb marinades and seasonings effectively. The meat acts as a canvas for various flavors, allowing it to take on the tastes of the marinade or spices used during cooking. This versatility adds depth and complexity to the overall flavor profile.

Slightly Tough, but Tender when Cooked Correctly: Flank steak has a slightly tougher texture compared to more tender cuts. However, when cooked and sliced properly, it can be tender and enjoyable to eat. The key is to slice the steak thinly against the grain, which helps break down the muscle fibers and maximize tenderness.

Juicy and Moist: Despite its leanness, flank steak can retain moisture and juiciness when cooked correctly. It is important not to overcook the steak to maintain its succulence. Cooking methods such as grilling, searing, or stir-frying at high heat can help seal in the natural juices and keep the meat moist.

Versatile and Adaptable: Flank Steak’s flavor profile makes it an excellent choice for a wide range of recipes and cuisines. It can be the star of a hearty steak sandwich, the highlight of sizzling fajitas, or the main protein in a flavorful stir-fry. Its bold taste can stand up to bold seasonings and spices, making it a versatile ingredient in various dishes.

Flank Steak Recipes

Flank steak is a versatile cut of beef that lends itself well to a variety of delicious recipes. Here are some detailed flank steak recipes to inspire your culinary adventures:

Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce:

Marinate the flank steak in a mixture of olive oil, minced garlic, chopped parsley, red wine vinegar, and spices for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and grill the steak for about 4-6 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Let the steak rest for a few minutes, then slice it thinly against the grain.

Serve the grilled flank steak with homemade chimichurri sauce, a vibrant blend of fresh parsley, cilantro, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and spices. Drizzle the sauce over the sliced steak for a burst of flavor.

Asian Stir-Fried Flank Steak:

Slice the flank steak into thin strips against the grain.

In a hot wok or skillet, stir-fry the steak strips with sesame oil, minced garlic, ginger, and soy sauce for a few minutes until browned and cooked to your desired doneness.

Add your choice of colorful vegetables such as bell peppers, snap peas, and carrots, and continue stir-frying until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

Finish with a splash of rice vinegar and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Serve the stir-fried flank steak over steamed rice or noodles for a quick and flavorful Asian-inspired meal.

Flank Steak Tacos:

Season the flank steak with a mixture of chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

Grill or sear the steak until cooked to your liking, then let it rest before slicing.

Warm corn or flour tortillas and fill them with the sliced flank steak.

Top with your favorite taco toppings such as diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sliced avocado, and a squeeze of lime juice.

Optional additions include salsa, guacamole, sour cream, or shredded cheese.

Marinated Flank Steak Salad:

Prepare a marinade using olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, honey, and a combination of herbs and spices.

Marinate the flank steak for at least 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Grill or sear the steak to medium-rare, then let it rest before slicing.

Toss a variety of mixed greens with your choice of vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and bell peppers.

Slice the flank steak thinly and arrange it on top of the salad.

Drizzle with your favorite dressing, such as a balsamic vinaigrette or a tangy citrus dressing.

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About author
As the founder and chief editor of Scills Grill, I'm a self-proclaimed BBQ nut. I love cooking outdoors over live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I use various grills, smokers, and wood-fired ovens to produce epic food. Peter Cobbetts is the president and founder of Scills Grill, with over 15 years' experience in barbecue. He's an exceptional pitmaster and grill expert who specializes in smoking briskets, pork shoulders - using charcoal, wood or propane grills/smokers - as well as reviewing kitchen appliances such as grills, smokers etc., having tried out almost every model available on the market.
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