How to Pan Sear Flank Steak

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Photo by Timothy Vollmer licensed under CC BY 2.0

Flank steak comes from meat that’s part of a cow’s abdominal muscle. That may not sound very appetizing for your palate, but the truth is that this cut yields lots of flavor, especially considering how budget-friendly it is compared to some of the most popular steak cuts. You can also use it in lots of ways, including for steak sandwiches, steak salads, or steak fajitas, tacos, or tostadas.

The downside to flank steak is that it can become overcooked and chewy quickly because it’s so lean and muscled. Cooking using a quick cooking method like pan searing is one of the best ways to bring out its flavor without overdoing the cook. 


Prepare flank steak for pan searing by first salting it on both sides and letting it rest for 30-45 minutes at room temperature. When this time is almost over, preheat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat with a drizzle of oil. Just before adding the steak to the pan, sprinkle it with ground black pepper and your other choice of seasonings.

Cooking Time

Flank steak usually cooks in 10 minutes or less using the pan-searing method. Sear the steak on each side for 2-3 minutes, and continue cooking on low until the steak reaches the temperature range for your desired doneness level.

Flank Steak Pan Searing Tips

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you sear flank steak.

Slicing Flank Steak

Flank steak is traditionally sliced after cooking, partially because slicing it thinly makes it easier to chew. After letting the steak rest for five minutes, use a steak knife to slice it against the grain, or the opposite direction of the way the fibers run. This method cuts through those fibers, resulting in an easier chew.  

Consider the Doneness Level

We usually recommend not cooking steak past medium-rare or medium, at the most. However, it’s even more important to stick to this advice with flank steak. 

Flank steak is lean, so there’s not as much fat to help keep it tender during the cooking process as there is with other steaks, like ribeye. Cooking past medium can quickly turn flank steak chewy and not as pleasant to eat. If you like your steak cooked past medium, we suggest marinating flank steak overnight to break up some of the fibers and allow it to tenderize.

Check the Temperature

Flank steak cooks quicker than other cuts, but you should still use a thermometer to check that it’s the proper temperature. The following are the final temperature ranges flank steak should reach after cooking and resting:

  • Medium-rare: 130°F-135°F
  • Medium: 140°F-145°F
  • Medium-well: 150°F-155°F
  • Well-done: 160°F-165°F

Choosing the Right Cut of Flank Steak

To find the best flank steak for searing, first start by avoiding budget cuts of flank steak. You may need to spend a little more for quality, but doing so can help you achieve better cooking results. We recommend looking for USDA Prime or Wagyu cuts of flank steak. These high-quality cuts are identified as the best of the best for flavor and texture. Also, choose cuts that are either wet-aged or dry-aged. Aging takes several weeks, enhancing the flavor and quality of the steaks throughout the process. 

Flank Steak Pan Searing Instructions

We’ve detailed how to pan sear flank steak in this simple step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Preparation

Sprinkle a generous amount of salt on both sides of the steak, and let it rest on a clean plate or cutting board at room temperature for 30-45 minutes. Preheat your skillet with about one tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat toward the end of the resting process.

Step 2: Searing

Sprinkle steaks with black pepper and other seasonings, if you’d like. Add them to the preheated pan, searing for 2-3 minutes on each side. If your steak needs a little more time to cook, turn the heat down to low and cook for another 3-8 minutes. Use a thermometer to determine when the flank steak reaches about five degrees below its final temperature range for your preferred doneness level according to the temperature guide above.

Step 3: Finishing Up

Transfer the steaks to a clean plate or cutting board tented with foil to rest for five minutes before enjoying or slicing. 

Flank Steak Pan Searing FAQs

How long does it take to sear flank steak?

Flank steak typically takes less than ten minutes to pan-sear from start to finish. Be sure to allow for 30-45 minutes of resting time before cooking and another five minutes of resting time after searing.

How can I keep pan-seared flank steak from getting tough?

Flank steak sears quickly, so it usually only needs a couple of minutes on each side to reach the desired sear. After that, turn the heat to low to finish cooking to your desired doneness level.

Is it better to broil or pan sear flank steak?

Both methods are perfectly acceptable for flank steak, but many cooks prefer pan-searing it because it cooks so quickly. When it’s on top of the stove, you can watch it carefully and monitor its temperature to ensure that it doesn’t overcook.

How do you tenderize flank steak before pan searing?

Many people use a marinade for flank steak to help it become more tender before searing it. If you choose to marinate, leave the steak completely submerged in the marinade for several hours for best results. After cooking it, slice the meat against the grain to also help improve its texture.

Summing Up: How to Pan Sear Flank Steak

Flank steak is a simple cut to sear because it’s quick to cook and relatively easy to get a thorough cook on the inside. And, you don’t need to pop it in the oven to finish cooking, as it usually comes to temperature after a few minutes of low-heat cooking.If you’re interested in searing up some other cuts of steak, too, you can shop our selection of hand-cut and aged steaks, ready to order online and ship to your home.