All About Flank Steak + Tips for How to Cook Flank Steak to Perfection

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grilled flank steak


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We’ve finally made it to the official grilling season, but when you love steak as much as we do, grilling season is all year-round. Thanks to some delicious steak cuts from Chicago Steak Company, you can enjoy the taste of summer whenever you want by grilling up your favorites. One type of steak that gets little attention for the grill is flank steak. This incredibly under-recognized cut is not only great for grilling for numerous types of meals, but it’s also one of the most versatile steaks out there. If you haven’t tried it yet, you may want to start.

What is Flank Steak?

Other names for flank steak include London broil and skirt steak, which is actually a different cut (more on that in a moment). This cut of steak comes from the abdominal muscles of the animal, right behind its chest. As you’d expect from that muscle-y area, the meat can be somewhat chewier than other steaks. But, when cooked correctly, it’s not tough. It remains tender. And, because the area from which it’s cut gets a lot of blood flow, you get some amazing beef flavor that’s incomparable to other cuts.

Skirt Steak vs Flank Steak

Although it’s commonly referred to as skirt steak, beef flank steak is not the same. Skirt steak can be substituted in place of flank steak, and vice versa, though. Skirt steak is shaped much the same, but tends to have a beefier flavor. But, this cut comes from the diaphragm muscles of the animal, making it a tougher piece of meat. It can become very chewy quickly, especially if it’s not cooked correctly. You can, however, cook both types of meat with generally the same methods. They love marinade and high-heat, quick cooking.

Cost

Flank steak is generally one of the least expensive cuts to purchase. Again, this is probably because it’s so thin that people tend to overlook it as a quality steak. But, that can be a good thing to keep prices down. Once people realize just how much they can do to cook this cut – and even reuse leftover flank steak! – it may not be as underutilized. Compared to skirt steak, flanks are usually a bit more expensive because they’re usually the go-to cut for restaurants to use for fajitas. The top cost of this steak is usually no more than $11 per pound.

Cooking Methods

One of the best things about flanks is that it can be cooked in so many ways. It’s by far one of the most versatile pieces of steak you can buy, and it tastes great no matter which way you choose.

One of the most common uses for the cut is flank steak fajitas. The thin cut is the perfect size for fajita steak and its chewier texture couldn’t be more perfect. Similarly, flanks make an awesome beef taco. Place some strips in a taco shell instead of the usual ground beef for a steak taco. Or, if you’ve never tried a salad with steak, try a flank steak salad. Some thin slices of the meat mixed with your favorite salad toppings is a perfectly healthy way to enjoy it.

So, just how can you cook this incredible piece of beef to create these yummy dishes? We’re glad you asked. Most people who cook using flanks prefer to marinate them first, regardless of the cooking method. The salt and acidity of a marinade can help tenderize the meat in addition to providing extra flavor. It’s not a necessity, but we do recommend it. If you want to add a flank steak marinade, do so for only a couple of hours, as an overnight marinade may begin to scorch the thin cuts.

No matter which flank steak cooking method you choose, pay attention to temperature. The internal flank steak temperature should be about 125-130 degrees when you remove it from heat, allowing it to rise to 135 degrees for medium-rare as it rests.

Grilled Flank Steak

Marinating is definitely suggested if you plan to grill your steaks. This helps ensure that they don’t become tough and rubbery on the hot flames of the grill. Since flanks are very thin, it can only take mere seconds to cook them beyond the point of no return. Marinate it in your favorite flank steak marinade, teriyaki, barbecue, or other perfect grilling sauce for two hours. Then, place the meat directly over medium flames for about three minutes. Flip to the other side for another three minutes, and your steaks should be ready to go.

Slow Cooking

Slow cooking is a great way to cook your flanks for several dishes, like slow cooker flank steak tacos, steaks in gravy, Mongolian beef, and more. Slow cooking makes the beef much more tender than other methods. Usually, you need a solid six to eight hours of cook time on low heat for your steaks to reach a melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Cooking Flank Steak on the Stove

If you want to cook flank steaks on the stove, you should opt for a cast-iron skillet to do the job, since it can handle higher temperatures. These steaks do best when cooking over high heat for a short period of time to give them the perfect texture and taste. Spray the pan with some cooking spray or add olive oil and cook on each side for about four minutes each. The optimal temperature is, again, a medium rare so your meat doesn’t end up too chewy.

Oven Cooked Flank Steak

If you’re wondering what’s the best way to cook flank steak in the oven, you’ll be happy to know that there’s one tried and true method that literally takes only a few minutes of your time to churn out great-tasting meat. Before you place the steaks in the oven, coat them with a mixture of olive oil and your desired spices (lime juice, lemon juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, etc.) to keep them from drying out in the oven. Then, it’s as simple as placing the steaks on a pan, cooking them on high heat (about 450 degrees) on one side for about five minutes, and then on the other side for three to four minutes or until medium rare. Allow resting for about 10 minutes before serving.

Is Broiling an Option?

Yes! In fact, some people prefer broiling flank steak over other methods. Broiling helps cook the steaks much like grilling would, which helps create crispiness around the edges without overcooking it. The trick is to only cook for about 5 minutes on each side to medium rare. Any further and you’ll risk overdoing it, turning your beloved flanks into hockey pucks. Allow resting for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

How to Tenderize Flank Steak

Flank steak is a lean cut, so it doesn’t have the fat content that other steaks have. Fat breaks down during the cooking process to naturally tenderize the steak. When your beef lacks fat, you’ll need to do a bit of manual tenderizing.

For flank steak, two methods work really well. The quickest method is to use a meat tenderizer. To do this, place the steak in a plastic food storage back. Seal it tightly, removing all air from the bag first. Place the bag on a cutting board so that the steak lies flat. Use the meat tenderizer to pound the steak, ensuring that you work the tool evenly across the meat.

Your second option is to make a marinade. This takes longer, as you should allow the meat to marinate for at least a few hours, and preferably overnight. To make a marinade, you’ll need salt, oil, an acid (usually lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, or Worcestershire sauce work well), brown sugar, and your favorite mix of steak spices. Black pepper, garlic, and thyme are popular choices.

Mix the ingredients well, place them in a food storage bag with the steak, and allow it to marinate for several hours before cooking.

Flank Steak Recipes

Grilling and broiling flank steak are two of the most popular methods for cooking this delicious cut of beef. Here are two simple recipes and cooking instructions for each. 

Grilled Flank Steak

Grilled flank steak is one of the best ways to enjoy this cut. It’s quick and easy to make on just about any grill. If you prefer, you can marinate the steak for several hours before popping them on the grill.

grilled flank steak

Grilled Flank Steak

Grilled flank steak is one of the best ways to enjoy this cut. It's quick and easy to make on just about any grill. If you prefer, you can marinate the steak for several hours before popping them on the grill.
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Course Main Course
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs flank steak
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh, dried thyme, chopped
  • ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Pat flank steak dry with paper towels. Season liberally with salt on all sides. Rest steak at room temperature for 40-45 minutes.
  • Brush oil onto grill grates. Preheat the grill to high heat.
  • Brush steak with olive oil. Then, season with garlic, thyme, and black pepper.
  • Place steaks on the grill, cooking for 4-5 minutes on each side.
  • Remove steaks from the grill when they've reached about 135 degrees. Place on a cutting board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

Broiled Flank Steak

Broiling flank steak results in a tender, juicy, and flavorful meal — and you can cook it in just a few minutes. Try this recipe for a super quick family meal.
Prep Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Main Course
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs flank steak
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp rosemary, chopped
  • ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Pat flank steak dry with paper towels. Season liberally with salt on all sides. Rest steak at room temperature for 40-45 minutes.
  • Move an oven rack as close to the broiler as you can. Preheat the broiler.
  • Brush steak with olive oil, and season with salt, garlic, rosemary, and black pepper.
  • Place steaks on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Add the baking sheet to the oven rack.
  • Broil for 3-4 minutes, but watch closely. It's time to flip the steaks when you notice a golden brown crust form on the top. Broil the other side for 3-4 minutes. Remove steaks when a meat thermometer reads 135 degrees for medium-rare.
  • Add steaks to a cutting board tented with aluminum foil, and let them rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Conclusion:  The Ins and Outs of Cooking with Flank Steak

We’ve explained how to cook flank steak, and it couldn’t be much simpler, right? Here at Steak University, we hope you start thinking of these steaks as a must for your menu. Not only are they a breeze to cook, but there are so many ways to prepare them. Start experimenting with new grill, oven, pan, and slow cooker recipes to see what you can come up with for these incredible cuts!