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How to Cook a Flank Steak in 5 Easy Steps

on November 17, 2015
Flank steak is often categorized as a вАШbudgetвАЩ beef, as it comes from a less favorable part of the cow. ItвАЩs easy to understand why, once you examine the cowвАЩs physique. More tender and praised cuts, such as rib eye or sirloin steaks, are located in the upper body, along the spine and ribcage. Flank, however comes from the lower abdominal area, full of working muscles. If the cow has been actively using these muscles, then the cuts will be firmer and tougher than their tender counterparts. ThatвАЩs the main reason why these steaks are less favored by the beef enthusiasts.     But, at the same time the flankвАЩs tough composition makes it a meat of choice in Asian cuisine. It works very well in stir frys and stews. If youвАЩve ever visited a Mexican restaurant, the chances are your ordered fajitas were prepared using a flank steak as well.   Even though this meat is exceptionally tough when compared with other chops, a skilled chef can easily tenderize it with the right marinade. We are covering this topic in more detail below. As flank steak is a thin cut, it absorbs the marinade very well, therefore softening the fibers and ensuring a mouthwatering finish.    

1. Choosing a Flank Steak

  You will find that the cuts are normally much longer than the beef chops you are used to. The reason is that youвАЩre looking at the entire muscle of a big animal. These steaks are similar in shape to a skirt вАУ if you have ever come across one. They are easier to come by than flanks.   But, what should you look for when buying a steak? The main element to focus on is the color. Always pick the cut with a bright red shade. The longer the meat has been exposed to oxygen, the darker it becomes, turning cherry-red вАУ some people like to refer to it as вАЬbloomingвАЭ. If you are buying a vacuum sealed pack, note that the steak can have a little purple hue вАУ which is still considered normal.     Flank steaks are quite long and thin, at about 5-6 inches wide and 1 inch thick. Make sure to pick the ones with a consistent width вАУ and avoid chops that are wider at one end but thinner at the other. They wonвАЩt be grilling at equal speed.   You will be pleasantly surprised to learn that these steaks tend to be much cheaper than other beef cuts such as: T-bone, Ribeye or soft loin. Moreover, a half-pound strip can comfortably feed up to six diners вАУ pretty impressive, right? If you are not planning a feast, you can always cut the meat at home and freeze some of it for later. Pack it tightly in a food bag or thick aluminum foil and store in your freezer for up to 6 months.   When shopping in the supermarket, make sure to check the expiration date as well as the use by date on a packet. DonвАЩt risk buying meat that is near or post that date. Also inspect the packet itself вАУ is it securely sealed so that damaging oxygen cannot infiltrate?   Note that flank steak is often misleadingly branded as a skirt, which is a different part of beef. They tend to look very similar, as they both come from an abdominal muscle. But the skirt is shorter on average than the flank and has a different fiber structure.    

2. Power of Marinating

  This part is very important for a few reasons. One, as we already mentioned, is the fact that flank steaks tend to be very tough, therefore marinade can penetrate the structure softening it slightly. Another factor to consider is that a pickle will add moisture to an otherwise dry cut.   But donвАЩt use just any ready-made marinade. What you need is an infusion of an olive oil and acid based liquid, such as: lemon juice, vinegar or ginger. Complement it all with the spices of your choice. Our favorite marinade includes the following ingredients: Dry: peppercorns +coriander & fennel seeds + dry chilies + bay leaf Liquids: olive oil + Worcestershire sauce +red wine vinegar + garlic + rosemary   In order to prepare it, first you need to toast the dry ingredients in a small frying pan on a high heat, stirring continuously for 2-3 minutes. Transfer them next to a ceramic spice grinder and crush lightly. Move all to a flat baking dish, adding liquids together with crushed garlic and rosemary. Mix it all and place your flank steak in the marinade, turning it couple of times to make sure you coat the meat completely from both sides. Cover the dish with kitchen foil and leave in a fridge to soak for few hours or overnight, if time allows.    

3. Time to Grill!

  Your steak has been marinating for some time now, absorbing all the goodness and flavors. Now itвАЩs time to cook it. First things first, allow your meat to warm up after taking it out of the fridge. It should sit in room temperature for a good hour. Use this time to set up the grill - clean and oil the surface. Flank steak is naturally thin so it doesnвАЩt require two different temperature settings during preparation, like other much thicker cuts. The heat will penetrate the meat fairly quickly, allowing you to achieve the result you need. We should note that this steak is best medium rare вАУ no need to cook it for a long time.   Once the grill gets to the desired maximum temperature, itвАЩs time to roll! Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture вАУ donвАЩt skip this step! Meat should be dry; otherwise it will steam in contact with a high temperature. Use tongs (not a fork) to transfer a steak onto the grill. Can you hear that sizzling noise? Just savor the moment, donвАЩt pretend you are not carnivoreвА¶ But, donвАЩt forget yourself; you are in control of this steak! It only needs about 3 minutes on each side. Close the grill if you have a lid to prevent the heat from escaping. When 3 minutes have passed, grab a steak by the edge with the tongs, and turn it swiftly onto the other side. Now, give it another few minutes and your flank is ready to serve!    

4. Be a Carving King!

  Before you take your steak off the grill and onto the cutting board, know that beef needs to rest for about 10-15 minutes after roasting before itвАЩs served. This is a very important part. ThatвАЩs when the meat absorbs all the juices вАУ they are still flowing inside like crazy and the meat is actually still cooking even after youвАЩve removed it from the heat. If you cut through the steak right away, you will lose the moisture and end up with a mouth full of dry. So hold on for a moment. Cover the chops with aluminum foil to keep them warm.   Now itвАЩs the time to share your lovely steak with your diners. Before you grab a carving knife, take a closer look at the roasted chop. Can you see the fibers running through it? It is a muscle structure and that is precisely the reason why this part of the beef is so chewy. ThereвАЩs a method of carving that can eliminate that. Cut against the fibers! Not along them, but against. Additionally make sure the slices are quite thin. That way you will effectively mask the chewy bits and your guests will be able to enjoy and appreciate the tender succulent piece you have so lovingly and carefully prepared.    

5. Served to Impress

  There are generally two ways to serve up a flank steak. It can either be thinly chopped and wrapped up as fajitas or traditionally sliced with a helping of various vegetables. Both methods are great and can work at whichever social event you are hosting. Fajitas are a finger-food and are best for a young crowd and perhaps a casual gathering, while plated steak can be seen as a bit more refined for a classier crowd.   To escape the dreaded old fashioned potatoes & carrots side scenario, weвАЩve located a pretty stimulating recipe for a flank steak. ItвАЩs quite unusual as it seems to have a way of creating a sense that weвАЩre drifting away on the Mediterranean Sea. Yes, itвАЩs a Greek formula. In this example the flank steak is being served with your choice of roasted vegetables (carrot, parsnip, onion, swede etc.) alongside a cucumber & yogurt sauce. How to prepare this condiment? ItвАЩs fairly easy. All you need is:
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • ¬љ tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, stir and serve to your diners! The combination of a hot steak dipped in a zesty cold yogurt sauce is overwhelming and delivers a refreshing take on this meaty dish.   My personal favorite companions to a grilled steak include chunky chips & horseradish sauce pairing up with tacos adding cr√®me fraiche and a wedge of lime. Scrumptious!    

Bonus: Health Benefits

  The flank steak, being a muscle, is the leanest of all of the beef cuts. It doesnвАЩt come with excess fat around the edge, which you frequently see when buying a T-bone or a rib eye steak. That also means fewer calories, while delivering equally similar nutritional values as other chops. A small serving of this steak, at 3 ounces, provides 22 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat and only 192 calories. ThatвАЩs substantially less than any of the prime value cuts. Flank doesnвАЩt have the praised marbling running along its fibers (which are ultimately strands of fat so often found in the more costly chops), which effectively reduce calories!   A flank steak provides a pure goldmine of quality fat without stuffing us with fatty ingredients. Yes, a goldmine! We shouldnвАЩt avoid fat in the diet, our body needs it. There is such a thing as healthy fat. Sounds like an oxymoron, but itвАЩs not. Why? Fat supports a number of organs in our body, supplying a protective layer for our bones and muscles. Your bones are strong and not prone to breakage because of fat. ItвАЩs also nutrition for our brain and nerves. The reason why you donвАЩt feel chronically cold is because of fat which gives you a protective layer right under the skin to keep you warm. Furthermore some of the vitamins we consume can only be absorbed by the organism using this element вАУ specifically vitamins A,D,E and K, which are soluble only in fat.   If you are on a diet, you should specifically focus on eating full-fat products (at reasonable quantities), as fat can successfully stop the cravings after a meal by controlling our digestive system. That in effect gives us a sensation of feeling fuller for longer вАУ precisely what we want when weвАЩre reducing our food portions.     Fat also gives us plenty of energy вАУ have you ever noticed how tired and sedated you become when youвАЩre hungry? You canвАЩt focus on your job or homework; you get easily irritated and generally feel very sluggish. ThatвАЩs a low level fat thatвАЩs shouting вАУ we need a refill!   Our skin, hair and nails are all made of fat вАУ in the form of proteins вАУ so depriving our bodies of this substance will affect our looks as a result. The secret is to pick a quality fat instead of chemically processed fatty acids. General rule is to stick to natural products like: organic virgin olive oil, seafood & oily fish, avocados, walnuts and lean meats. Avoid bakery goods- the irresistible kind - ready meals and take-aways as they tend to contain large amounts of processed trans fats. These are the bad boys in the fat universe, likely to trigger heart problems and bad cholesterol if eaten in excess.
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