How to Cut a Flank Steak
Flank steak is a common favorite cut for grilling. It's an intensely flavorful cut despite being lean and boneless. Flank is one of our go-to proteins for a quick weekday meal that makes for excellent steak sandwiches or fajitas. Cutting flank steak correctly is essential to serving a tender, easily chewed meal. Learning to cut flank steak is an easy skill you'll have no trouble learning.
How to Pick a Good Flank Steak
Picking out a great piece of meat is the first thing you'll need to do to get the tender and flavorful results you want. We're here to help by telling you what you need to know to pick a good quality flank steak over a low quality cut.
Proper Color and Size
The color and texture of the meat should be the first thing you notice. You want to find flank steak that is vibrant and red. If the meat is dark or grey, it's best to pass on it. Look for cuts which you can easily see the grain of the meat. The dense and stringy muscle fibers run the length of the cut of meat. Look for thick cuts that are evenly tender.
Proper Cut and Trim
Most of the flank steak you're likely to find in the stores will be trimmed. A whole flank is typically around one foot long and is roughly rectangular in shape. A well-trimmed flank will have clean and straight edges and very little fat.
Trimming a Flank Steak
An untrimmed flank steak (though rare to come across) is easy to trim. Keep in mind you'll often lose a significant amount of the initial weight when trimming, so you might not save over a pre-trimmed flank. When you trim a flank, remove any fat down to about 1/4 of an inch. There is a silver skin membrane on one side. The easiest way to remove the membrane is to work loose an edge and grab it with your fingers. Gently pull and use the tip of your knife to free the membrane.
What to Avoid When Buying Flank Steak
Don't buy beef that is not cold to the touch. In order to prevent bacterial growth, beef must be kept below 40 degrees. Look for liquid in the tray and avoid those cuts. That liquid is not blood – it's called purge and it indicates that the meat has been improperly stored at the wrong temperature. Purge can also indicate old meat or previously frozen meat. Purge can harbor disease-causing bacteria.
Improperly trimmed and cut flank will be jagged and look beat up. You are more likely to end up with a tough, dry flank if you buy one that's been through the ringer. It's important to get a well-trimmed flank for tenderness.
Discolored beef can be a sign of improper storage temperature and may be a serious concern. Beef darkens as it ages and is exposed to air – that's why dry-aging your steaks in the refrigerator makes them darker. When you buy meat in the grocery store, dark coloring typically indicates that the meat sat at too high of a temperature for too long which can increase the chance of the meat spoiling or developing harmful bacteria.
The Best Way to Prepare Flank Steak
Flank is a very tough cut of meat that has little fat. You can improve the tenderness using a simple marinade. There are dozens of different ways to marinade flank steak, but the key is to use acids and citrus to break down some of the tough muscle fibers. We like to use red wine vinegar and lemon as the base for our marinade.
How Long to Marinade Flank Steak
You'll need to marinade the steak for at least two hours and up to 12 hours. The longer you let the meat marinade, the more tender and flavorful your results will be. The best way to marinade your beef is in a resealable bag in the refrigerator. Don't leave your flank steak on the counter to marinade because you risk it spoiling and growing bacteria.
Cooking Flank Steak
This is a fast-cooking steak. Put it on a hot grill and sear it about six or seven minutes per side. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature hits at least 145 degrees for a medium rare flank steak. Remove it from the grill and let it rest at least 15 minutes. Resting allows the meat to reabsorb juices and makes a more tender and tasty slice.
How to Cut Flank Steak So It's Tender Every Single Time
Now that your perfectly marinated and grilled flank steak has rested, you're ready to slice it. With the char from the grill, it might be difficult to see the strands of muscle fibers. The grain runs long-ways so cut across the shorter distance. You'll be cutting against the grain when you do it the right way. When you cut meat against the grain you are severing the tough muscle fibers to make each bite tender and juicy.
Cutting Across the Grain
Place your flank on a cutting board and use a straight-edge knife that is long enough to cut all the way through the meat. Make sure your knife is sharp because you want to make thin slices of flank. Thinner slices make the grain of the meat more tender. Thicker slices are more difficult to chew. Try to cut across the grain in one fluid motion to prevent making the slices ragged. This is where a good knife like the Victorinox knife we use comes in handy. A good knife makes slicing thin slices of flank steak an enjoyable exercise.
What to Do if You Slice it Wrong
All is not lost if you forget and cut the flank with the grain. Simply take your slices and cut against the grain, making smaller pieces. You can use these in burritos or fajita-style recipes. Once the meat is actually cut against the grain, it will be less tough and easier to chew and enjoy.
Tips for Ways to Use Flank Steak
Thinly sliced flank steak is a delicious protein when mixed with a spicy horseradish mustard and put on a toasted brioche bun. When you cut the beef right, you get a wonderfully tender bite perfectly at home in a delicate sandwich.
You can roll a flank steak and stuff it with cheese and vegetables to make an impressive and delicious meal. Don't forget to roll your flank so you can cut across the grain when it is cooked and create meat pinwheels of deliciousness.
Thinly slice and marinade flank for 24 hours or longer to make fantastic beef jerky. You can press a toothpick through each slice and hang them from the rack in your oven. Cook on a low temperature until the desired doneness. Flank makes for an excellent, low-fat jerky.
Grill onions and peppers with lime juice and toss in freshly sliced grilled flank to make an excellent fajitas dinner. If you like it hot, add jalapenos, pasilla chilies and our Hot blend. Milder peppers like bell or Italian peppers will give you the flavor without the heat.
The Key: Understanding the Grain
Learning to cut flank the right way is all about understanding how the grain in the meat runs. The same principles apply to every type of meat you'll slice. When you cut across the grain, you open up the tenderness of the meat and unlock the flavor. A well-made flank is simply delicious and because it can be made in a short time, it makes for a perfect mid-week dinner or easy weekend meal.