When you buy steak, you want it to taste delicious, because, let’s face it, even the cheap cuts cost a chunk of change. One of the affordable steaks that gets you the most bang for your buck is the flank steak. It’s versatile, low in fat and cooks quickly. In other words, flank steak is a weeknight superhero. But even if you cook it perfectly, cutting flank steak the wrong way can result in meat that’s gamey, tough and chewy. Cut it correctly, and it tastes like the most expensive cut on the menu. We talked to the experts — including chef and 2022 winner of Food Network’s Chopped Brian Jupiter — to learn how to cut flank steak, as well as everything you should know about prepping and cooking this easy-to-love meat.
What is flank steak?
“Flank steak is an inexpensive cut of meat from the cow’s abdominal area,” explains Chef Jupiter, who not only won the 2022 season of Chopped but also runs Chicago restaurants Frontier and Ina Mae Tavern. “It is a long cut with an extremely defined muscle striation structure, leading cooks to often cut it wrong or overcook it.” Another, more familiar word for “muscle striation” is grain — those are the visible lines running up and down a cut of meat — and they’re especially present in flank steak due to its low fat content. And while this leanness makes it a nutritious option, it’s also prone to drying out.
How to cook flank steak
To avoid drying out flank steak, fast, high-heat methods like grilling or searing in a ripping-hot cast iron skillet are preferable, says Chef Jupiter. Since flank steak is typically thin, cooking it quickly helps it retain its juices without becoming tough.
And while other cuts of steak are delicious at most levels of doneness, food blogger Grace Vallo says that flank steak is “best served at medium-rare to medium, as cooking it well-done can make it tough and dry.”
How to cut flank steak
Why does it matter how you cut your steak if you’re just going to eat it? According to the professionals, cutting flank steak the correct way makes it tender and delicious, while cutting it incorrectly can ruin the texture. It makes such a difference, in fact, that many restaurants will serve flank steaks pre-sliced to ensure for the highest quality dining experience, says chef Ashley Lonsdale. Keep reading to see how to prep and cut flank steak so it tastes gourmet.
Step 1: Let it rest
The first step to cutting flank steak correctly? Not cutting it at all. Allowing your cooked flank steak to rest before cutting it is crucial to a juicy outcome. “When a piece of meat rests, it has time to come to temperature and reabsorb all the precious juices,” says Chef Jupiter. And don’t just let it sit on the cutting board, he warns. “It is crucial to let your meat rest on a wire rack so air can circulate around the entire steak and cool it down consistently. If you were to let it rest on a cutting board, the heat trapped between the teak and the board would overcook the teak.”
As for how long to let it rest, it depends. “Always let your meat rest for a minimum of half the cooking time,” says Chef Jupiter. “For example, if you cook a steak for ten minutes, let it rest on a wire rack set over a sheet pan for at least five minutes.”
Step 2: Pick the right knife
Not all knives are good for cutting flank steaks. Chef Jupiter recommends finding the sharpest knife possible. This is for multiple reasons. For one, dull knives are more dangerous than sharp knives because they require more pressure to cut, so they’re more prone to slipping and causing potential injury. And because they need more pressure, the back-and-forth sawing motions could ruin the texture of the meat. “For the home cook, a Victorinox chef’s knife (Buy from Amazon, $36.75) will do just the trick,” says Chef Jupiter. “The knife should easily cut through the flank steak with a little forward pressure.”
Step 3: Cut against the grain
“To cut a flank steak, begin by looking for the ways in which the muscle strands run. You will see a clear direction,” says Chef Jupiter. See the photo below for a raw flank steak with clear muscle strands, also called “the grain.”
“Turn the steak so that you are cutting against that striation and angle your knife so that the tip is facing slightly toward your body. Crossing on an angle and against the grain breaks up the muscle fibers in a way that increases tenderness while still maintaining a beef chew.” In other words, don’t cut with the grain; cut perpendicular to it. Cutting it into thin, uniform slices — about ¼ to ½ inch thick — optimizes tenderness, adds Vallo.
Try these delicious flank steak recipes
Flank steak is delicious on its own — grilled about 3-5 minutes on each side. But why not take your flank steak to the next level? Check out these delicious and easy flank steak recipes that will make mealtime your favorite time of day. (And click through to see how to reheat your steak for lunch the next day… if you end up with any leftovers, that is!)
Flank Steak Heroes
Cream-style horseradish sauce and peppery arugula add zing to these hearty sandwiches.
Servings: 6 | Active time: 45 minutes | Total time: 2 hours, 45 minutes + grill prep time
- ¼ cup + 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 ½ lbs. flank steak
- ⅔ cup sour cream
- 2 Tbs. cream-style horseradish
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. pepper
- 1 large onion, cut into ⅓”-thick slices
- 1 ½ (12 oz.) long loaves French bread
- 1 ½ cups baby arugula
- 3 tomatoes, sliced
- In large plastic food storage bag, combine ¼ cup oil, vinegar, Worcestershire, garlic and oregano; add steak. Seal bag. Chill 2 hours, turning bag several times to evenly distribute marinade. Combine sour cream and horseradish; cover and reserve.
- Prepare grill for medium-high direct-and indirect-heat cooking. Let steak stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling. Remove steak from marinade; discard remaining marinade. Using paper towels, pat steak dry; sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
- Grill steaks over direct heat, turning once, 4-5 minutes per side for medium rare or until desired doneness. Transfer to cutting board; let rest 10 minutes before slicing.
- Brush both sides of onion slices with remaining oil. Place over indirect heat; grill, covered, turning once, until tender; 4-5 minutes per side. Halve bread length-wise; cut crosswise into 6 portions. Dividing evenly, fill bread with arugula, tomatoes, steak and onions. Drizzle reserved sour cream mixture.
Chili-Lime Marinated Flank Steak
Our Tex-Mex marinade adds plenty of zest to tender, easy-grilling flank steak — if you like, wrap slices of beef and veggies in tortillas.
Servings: 6 | Active time: 30 minutes | Total time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
- ½ cup oil
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbs. chili powder
- 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 flank steak (about 1 ½ lbs.)
- 3 medium green, red and/or yellow peppers, quartered
- 1 red onion, peeled, cut into 6 wedges, root ends intact
- 1 avocado, pitted peeled, sliced
- Cilantro, sour cream and lime wedges (optional)
- In large bowl, whisk together oil, lime juice, garlic, chili powder and Worcestershire. Add steak, peppers and onion. Turn to coat in mixture. Cover; chill, turning steak occasionally, for at least 2 hours.
- Prepare grill for medium high direct-heat cooking. Grill peppers and onion, flipping once, until tender, 4-5 minutes per side. Grill steak, flipping once, 4-5 minutes per side for medium-rare or until desired doneness. Let steak stand 5 minutes before slicing.
- Cut peppers into ½”-thick strips. Arrange steak, peppers, onion and avocado on platter; garnish with cilantro. Serve with sour cream and lime wedges.
Want more tips and recipes for cooking beef? Check out some of our favorites below:
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