Top Of The Food Chain: Flank Steak


Illustration by Laura Williams

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

Photograph: NAMP Meat Buyer's Guide


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.

Flank Steak

Photograph by brent_buford

Basic Preparation

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
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • 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.

Additional Recipes

Special thanks to Bob del Grosso, Chef and Charcutiere of Hendricks Farms and Dairy in Telford, Pennsylvania, for consulting on this post.

Ryan Adams

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Comment Feed

  1. "breaking animals down piece by piece...Styrofoam containers..."

    This sentence is totally DISGUSTING!
    Maybe the next "Top of the Food Chain" article can be on tofu. Which is full of protein & totally sustainable.

  2. AlbertsinPhilly

    Wouldn't that be a different column, something like "Bottom of the food chain"? Isn't that how the food chain works?

  3. Moira

    I'm not exactly the target audience for this column, either, but I appreciate the detail and advice that it provides.

    Reasonable minds may disagree on whether animals should be killed for food, but surely we can all agree that since people will eat meat, it is much better if it is handled properly and cooked well. What is the point of killing an animal, only to cook it so poorly that it is inedible?

    I sort of like the idea of a "Bottom of the Food Chain" column, though. It would make vegetarians and health nuts happy, and as for the carnivores - well, they need something to go with that steak!

  4. Great article! The flank steak is a very under appreciated cut in my opinion. I like to ghetto sous vide my flank steak. I salt/pepper it heavily, throw it in a ziplock bag and suck the air out of it with a straw.

    I half fill my slow cooker with boiling water and set it to 'warm'. I then add cold water slowly until it hits about 125 F. I usually wrap the ziplock bag in a small kitchen towel and put it in the water and chuck a plate on top to weight it down.

    After about an hour at this temperature ( check every 10 mins or so that it hasn't risen too high above 125 it should be perfectly rare, but leave it for longer if in a rush.

    Then just need to sear it quickly on a cast iron skillet and eat.

  5. NowI'mHungry

    To Go Green:
    The concept that was conveyed is the same as staring at a fridge case of tofu varieties attempting to choose the correct one for the application you have in mind. (Been there.) No different. Must you barbarianize (yeah. I mighta made that up) all aspects of a carnivorous lifestyle?

    To Ryan: Followed links from to here somehow. It's like finding the proverbial pot o' gold at the end of the interweb rainbow. I'm adding this and "shut up, foodies" to my daily jaunts about the net.

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