Flank steak is a popular and affordable cut of beef that you’ve probably enjoyed in stir fry, fajitas, and on its own. It’s versatile and well suited for any recipe that calls for long, thin strips of beef.
Cooking flank steak is an essential skill for any budding grillmaster to learn. It’s a lean cut of meat which means it lacks that fatty marbling that makes other steaks naturally tender. But if you learn how to cook beef flank steak the right way, your flank steak can be tender and flavorful, too.
Flank steak, sometimes known as London broil, is a cut of beef taken from the animal's abdominal muscles. It’s typically about a foot long and an inch thick. It’s usually cooked whole.
There’s some debate as to whether flank steak is technically steak at all. The Oxford English Dictionary defines steak as “High-quality beef taken from the hindquarters of the animal.” However, it’s a popular cut of beef that can be the star of the meal or an essential supporting player depending on the recipe.
Flank steak is cut from abdominal muscles. It’s located directly underneath the short loin and bottom sirloin, and behind the plate. Since cows use these muscles frequently, flank steak is known for having tough muscle fibers. That doesn’t mean flank steak can’t be tender, it just means you need to take some extra care while prepping and cooking it.
Though they’re sometimes used interchangeably in recipes, skirt steak is different from flank steak. Flank steak is cut from the flank or abdominal muscles. Skirt steak is cut from the plate or diaphragm muscles. Flank steak is thicker, wider, and has a slightly less beefy flavor than skirt steak. Both should be cut against the grain, and either take to marinades well.
No, flank steak is an easy cut of beef to cook. It’s known for having tough muscle fibers (which sounds intimidating) but when flank steak is marinated and cooked quickly over high heat, smoked, or braised, those muscle fibers break down and create a tender result.
Flank steak is easy to find at most grocery stores or butchers. It might be labeled as London broil, so be on the lookout for cuts with that name. Flank steak is an affordable cut of beef that rarely exceeds $11 per pound.
Understanding flank steak is key to learning how to cook it. You have to use a preparation and cooking method that will enable you to break down those tough muscle fibers. Here are some tips and tricks for cooking flank steak.
The best way to prepare flank steak is to marinate it. Marinating your flank steak for a few hours or overnight will help tenderize the meat. If you don’t have time for a marinade, you can use a rub of spices. However, you may want to use a meat tenderizer to soften the muscle fibers before applying a rub.
Generally, a marinade will provide all the flavor your flank steak needs. You can craft your marinade so it has the flavors you want. We recommend using an acid element like lime juice, a salt element like soy sauce, and olive or vegetable oil to keep the meat juicy. You could alternatively use a rub to season your flank steak.
For our Smoke 'N Grill Flank Steak recipe, we recommend marinating your flank steak for eight hours.
You don’t have to marinate flank steak, but many recipes recommend it. It has the dual benefit of making your steak both tender and flavorful. You could achieve both flavor and tenderness with a rub and a little extra work with a meat tenderizer, though. You can also cook your flank steak low and slow in a smoker, or braise it to get tender flank steak.
It’s typically recommended you cook flank steak to rare, medium-rare, or medium.
Flank steak is typically grilled over high heat for a short amount of time. It’s a thin cut, so it doesn’t need as much grill time as a thicker steak. You can also braise your flank steak to help break down those muscle fibers.
We prefer to essentially reverse sear flank steak. We suggest smoking the flank steak for three hours at 225 degrees Fahrenheit, then searing for three minutes per side over 450 degrees.
The biggest key to cooking flank steak so it’s not tough is to not overcook it. Marinating helps but if you cook your flank steak to medium-well or well-done, it’s not going to be as tender. Smoking for a few hours, and then reverse searing at a higher temperature, will ensure your flank steak is cooked and tender.
Since flank steak is a thin cut of beef, it doesn’t need more than a few minutes per side on the grill. In our Cocoa Crusted Grilled Flank Steak recipe, we recommend grilling your flank steaks 3 to 5 minutes per side at 500 degrees Fahrenheit or until internal temperature reaches 135 degrees.
Flank steak should always be cut against the grain at a 45-degree angle. Thankfully, there isn’t a lot of guesswork involved in finding the grain on flank steak. The grain is apparent by looking at it from above. After your flank steak rests, find the lines running parallel across the flank, and cut at an offset angle. This will maximize the tenderness in your mouth and keep you from feeling like you’re chewing on the same piece of steak for too long.
Flank steak isn’t as naturally flavorful as the cuts of beef taken from the back of the animal. It can take on a lot of different flavors for different meals. From straight-forward grilled steak to a stuffed flank steak, here are a few of our favorite ways to cook the cut.
Our Smoke 'N Grill Flank Steak recipe is an easy flank steak recipe. If you’re new to grilling flank steak, try this recipe first.
Step 1: Make the marinade
Combine your red wine, vegetable oil, pepper, salt, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and lime juice in a bowl and mix well.
Step 2: Marinate your flank steak
Pour your marinade mixture into a large resealable bag with your flank steak. Squeeze to remove as much air as possible and make sure the marinade is well distributed across the flank steak. Let it marinate for eight hours, turning occasionally.
Step 3: Smoking your flank steak
Let your Traeger preheat to 225 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes with the lid closed. Once your grill has preheated, smoke your flank steak for three hours. After three hours, pull your steak from the grill, wrap it in aluminum foil, and let it sit for 15 minutes.
Step 4: Make your sauce
You can make your sauce either while your flank steak is smoking or while it’s resting after grilling. Combine your cilantro, remaining garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, lime juice from your third lime, red onion, pepper, and salt in a blender and pulse until combined.
Step 5: Searing your flank steak
While your flank steak is resting, preheat your Traeger to 450 degrees. Once the grill is ready, unwrap the steak from the foil and transfer your flank steak back to the grill. Grill for about three minutes per side. Try to get a nice sear and some clear grill marks.
Step 6: Cut and sauce
Let your flank steak rest for 10 minutes. Then cut it in pencil-thin slices against the grain. Serve with your chimichurri sauce and choice of sides.
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