Top Of The Food Chain: Flank Steak
Welcome to Top Of The Food Chain, a column from Eat Me Daily's meatiest columnist, Ryan Adams. Every week we'll attempt to demystify the options available in your supermarket, breaking animals down piece by piece so that the next time you find yourself staring at endless Styrofoam containers, you'll be able to make an informed purchase. This week: Flank Steak.
Every time I waltz through any supermarket, I stop by the meat section to check on the availability of two things: interesting offal and flank steaks. While my love for offal is a matter of record, it may not be known that a nicely cooked flank steak can make me cry tears of joy. Big flavor and versatility make the flank steak one of my all time favorite beef cuts.
Cut: Flank Steak
Flank steaks are found in the eponymous flank primal, which is found at the cod or udder part of the bovine. The muscle itself is rather fibrous and the grain runs its entire length. This means that flank steaks can be a little tough if not tenderized by either mechanical means or more popularly, marination. Since the flank is so thin and porous, marinades can easily penetrate all parts of the muscle, imparting extra flavor and softening the meat without destroying the texture. After the steak is marinated, common preparations include stuffing, grilling, roasting and broiling.
Flank steak is one of the few cuts without variations. It is a boneless cut of meat consisting of the rectus abdominis muscle. Butchering begins at the thick end closest to the round, pulling the muscle out as the margins are revealed amongst the connective tissue. Most of the fat and membrane should be removed, but I've found that some supermarkets will leave that chore up to you.
What to look for when buying
Look for a short, thick piece, with some fat left on it. The longer, leaner options are usually less desirable and will be tougher while lacking flavor. The meat itself should have a bright, cherry-red color with fat speckled throughout the muscle. Check that the muscle is firm to the touch, and that the container doesn't contain excess liquid. Plan on four to eight ounces per person.
You can keep flank steaks in the refrigerator for up to three days, four days if you're marinating. Beef can be frozen in its original packaging for up to two weeks. If you're going for longer storage, you'll want to prevent freezer burn by re-wrapping the flank steak in freezer paper, plastic freezer bags or heavy-duty aluminum foil. Try to remove as much air from the packaging as possible before sealing.
A classic preparation for flank steak is called a London Broil, so much so that 'flank steak' and 'London Broil' were synonymous back in the day. This cooking method calls for marinating, broiling, and slicing the muscle thinly on its bias. (Recipe from Jack Ubaldi's Meat Book: A Butcher's Guide to Buying, Cutting, and Cooking Meat by Jack Ubaldi, out of print.)
- 1 flank steak, 2 to 2 1/2 pounds
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme or rosemary or marjoram (optional)
- olive oil
Place the piece of steak in a deep dish and season it with paprika, salt, and pepper. Pour the lemon juice over the steak and sprinkle on the garlic, parsley, and herb of choice. Drizzle the olive oil over the flank steak, making sure to cover both sides evenly. Place the dish in your fridge for 2 hours, or for better results overnight. The longer the steak marinates, the more intense the flavor.
Broil the steak on both sides until it is done to your tastes. Rare flank steak is quite tender, and can be achieved with only 6 minutes of broiling per side.
After resting the flank steak for 10 minutes, place it on your carving board and slice thinly on the bias. Serve with a mushroom gravy.
- Grilled Skirt Steak Salad at Food52
- Martha Stewart's Spinach-Stuffed Flank Steak
- Quick and Easy Pan-Fried Flank Steak at SimplyRecipes
- Grilled Flank Steak with Corn, Tomato and Asparagus Salad at Food & Wine
- Marinated Grilled Flank Steak with BLT Smashed Potatoes by Rachel Ray
- EMD's Paula Forbes' Grandma's Flank Steak Marinade: Mix 1 tablespoon each: dried minced onions, minced ginger, and minced garlic. Add 1/3 cup each bourbon, soy sauce and vegetable oil. Add salt and pepper. Marinate 4 hours or overnight. Grill, or broil as above. (The dried minced onions are key; don't substitute real onions.)
Special thanks to Bob del Grosso, Chef and Charcutiere of Hendricks Farms and Dairy in Telford, Pennsylvania, for consulting on this post.