How to Cook Flank Steak

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Bloody Mary Flank Steak Sliced” by Marinate Me Baby is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

If you’re wondering what that delicious sliced beef in your steak fajitas is, look no further than flank steak, which is one of the most popular types of steak to add to Mexican dishes, steak salads, and steak sandwiches. 

This thin steak may not look as enticing as others when left whole, but looks are sometimes overrated. When cooked properly, flank steak might just become one of your new favorite kinds of steak.

What is Flank Steak

Though often confused with flank steak, flank steak is its own cut of beef. These cuts do look similar, taste similar, and are even used in many of the same ways. However, flank steak tends to be heavier, wider, and thicker than flank steak. Therefore, it’s also usually a little more tender.

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Still, it’s tougher to chew than other steaks, so flank steak benefits from long, slow cooks on low heat to help tenderize it. 

What Cut of Beef is flank Steak

Flank steak comes from the flank section of a cow, which sits under the short loin and bottom sirloin. Because this area is exercised a lot as a cow moves, it’s muscle-filled, which contributes to its not-so-tender texture. 

6 Ways to Cook Flank Steak

Take your pick — you can cook flank steak on the grill, in the oven, or in a pan. Before you do, season your steak generously with salt on each side. Then, allow it to sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes before cooking.

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Here’s how to cook flank steak:

Grilling Flank Steak

  • Brush grill grates with oil. Preheat the grill to high heat.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the steak.
  • Place steak on the grill, and sear for 2-3 minutes. Flip with tongs and sear the other side for another 2-3 minutes.
  • If needed, continue cooking on a low-heat area of the grill for another minute or two until desired doneness level is reached.
  • Transfer to a plate and rest for five minutes before serving.

Grilling Flank Steak on Skewers

flank steak is great for grilled skewers because it’s thin and easily threadable. To make steak skewers, season your steak as desired. Then, cut it into thin strips along the grain. Thread each strip onto a skewer. Place the steak skewers on the grill, cooking for one minute before rotating the skewers a quarter turn. Continue until all sides are nicely seared. Rest for 2-3 minutes before serving.

Pan-Seared Flank Steak

  • Preheat a cast-iron skillet with one tablespoon of oil to medium-high heat.
  • Season flank steak as desired.
  • Place steak in the pan, searing for 2-3 minutes on each side. If you need a higher level of doneness, lower the heat, and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Transfer steaks to a plate tented with foil to rest for 5-10 minutes.

Cooking Flank Steak in the Oven

  • Preheat the broiler and line a baking tray with foil. Brush the foil with a thin layer of oil.
  • Season steaks as desired, and place them on the tray.
  • Transfer the pan to the oven directly underneath the broiler. Broil for three minutes. Flip with tongs and broil the other side for 3-5 minutes, depending on your desired doneness level.
  • Remove from the oven and transfer steaks to a plate. Tent steaks with foil, and rest for 5-10 minutes before enjoying.

Reverse Sear Method for Flank Steak

  • Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Line a baking tray with foil, and brush with oil.
  • Transfer steaks to the tray and season them as desired.
  • Bake on the middle oven rack for 20-25 minutes, until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 120 degrees for medium-rare. Cook a little longer for higher levels of doneness.
  • Preheat a cast-iron skillet to medium-high with one tablespoon of oil.
  • Transfer the steaks to the skillet, searing for 1-2 minutes on each side.
  • Move steaks to a clean plate. Tent it with foil, and rest for 5-10 minutes.

Flank Steak Sous Vide 

  • Heat a water bath or precision cooker to 130 degrees.
  • Place marinated flank steaks into a sealable bag with your choice of fresh herbs. Seal the bag, ensuring that you remove as much air as possible.
  • Add the bag to the water bath so that the steak is completely submerged.
  • Allow to cook for 1 ½-2 hours. 
  • Preheat a cast-iron skillet with a tablespoon of oil to medium-high heat. Sear on each side for 1-2 minutes.
  • Rest on a foil-tented plate for five minutes. Enjoy!

Seasoning Flank Steak

Use a light seasoning of salt and pepper on both sides of flank steak for simple flavor. If grilling, consider basting with your favorite barbecue sauce or adding a spice rub to both sides. Rubs can be especially helpful in incorporating unique flavors for specific dishes, like a Mexican-inspired spice rub for steak tacos or fajitas. 

Marinating Flank Steak

Flank steak is one cut of beef that benefits from a long period of marinating to help it become more tender. Try our sweet balsamic marinade recipe for flank steak, which gives it a little bit of tanginess blended with the right amount of sweetness. For best results, marinate in the refrigerator overnight before cooking. 

bloody mary flank steak sliced

Grilled Flank Steak

Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 2 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb flank steak
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • marinade of your choice OPTIONAL

Instructions
 

  • OPTIONAL: Marinate steak for at least two hours in the refrigerator
  • Season steak with salt on both sides. Sit at room temperature on a clean plate for 45 minutes
  • Brush olive oil on the grill grates. Preheat the grill to high heat (450-500 degrees)
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper on each side
  • Transfer steaks to the grill, and sear for 3-4 minutes on each side, flipping only once
  • Move steaks to a clean plate or cutting board. Tent with aluminum foil and rest for five minutes. Slice against the grain, if desired, to serve

Additional Information for Cooking Flank Steak

Now that you have the basics of cooking flank steak down, use the following tips to boost your knowledge:

Cooking Times

Flank steak is thin compared to many other cuts, so be watchful when cooking it. In many cases, it only needs to sear for a few minutes on each side to reach a medium-rare cook. However, if you like your steak a little more done in the center, you can cook on low heat for an extra minute or two. Set aside up to two hours for sous vide and about 30 minutes to reverse-sear your flank steak. Otherwise, you can usually have it fully cooked in about 20 minutes.

Measuring Doneness

The best way to ensure that your steak is cooked to the right internal temperature is to use a digital meat thermometer. Insert the probe into the thickest part of the steak. The temperature should remain at your desired temperature for several seconds. Remember that resting your steak raises its temperature slightly, so it’s a good idea to pull steak from the heat when it’s 3-5 degrees below your desired temperature.

Conclusion: Learn to Cook Flank Steak at Home

Whether you’re cooking tacos or fajitas, or you want to try a steak you normally wouldn’t get at your favorite steakhouse, flank steak could be an option to add to your list. This cut is easy to prepare and can take on a lot of different flavors by experimenting with spice rubs and marinades. Learn more about flank steak and how to use it in your own kitchen.