What is Flank Steak? (And How to Prepare it)

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Have you come across recipes that include using flank steak but are not sure what it is exactly? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered!

In this TheGrillingDad.com article, you’ll discover:

  • What a flank steak is
  • Ways to prepare flank steak
  • And much more!
flank steak on a cutting board

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What is Flank Steak?

Flank steak is a cut of beef that is often used to make various dishes from fajitas to different stir fries. Most people refer to flank steak as one of the tastiest yet also one of the toughest cuts of beef.

Flank steak is a long cut that is typically thinner on one end than the other. It is also widely known that this cut of beef does not have bones to contend with, so it is much easier to work with.

Another feature of flank steak is that popular with many people is the fact that it is lean and has very little fat. This mostly has to do with the location it comes from which creates the amazingly versatile cut of meat.

Where Does Flank Steak Come From?

Many people wonder where the flank steak comes from on the cow in relation to the other cuts of meat that are more popular. While flank steak is found amongst the fattest cuts, it is very lean meat.

It is found in the abdominal area of the cow just below the sirloin, behind the plate cut, and just in front of the round cut. It is the place on cows that allows them to move and twist to make their way around.

Although this cut of meat is known to be thinner and leaner than other cuts, it is also much tougher as well. This is because it has quite a few muscle fibers that make it up.

grilled flank steak

What Are Some Other Names for Flank Steak?

Depending on where you purchase your flank steak, you may see that it has a different name listed on the package. This is due to either a more common name that it is referred to or that it is in a different language.

For example, flank steak is often referred to as London Broil in the grocery store and even at the butcher’s counter. This can be somewhat deceiving since the top round is also sometimes referred to as London Broil.

To be sure that you are getting flank steak and not top round, you need to observe the cut of meat and the texture. Since flank steak is known for its toughness and intense muscle fibers, it is easy to spot.

In other languages, flank steak also has a different name. For example, in French, you may find that it is called Bavette steak and in Spanish, Arrachera. In Brazil, flank steak is called either Fraldinha or Vazio.

Some less common names for flank steak include Jiffy Steak and Flank Steak Fillet. It is important to know what you are looking for before you purchase a steak especially if you are trying to get flank steak.

What Should You Look For When Buying Flank Steak?

Before you go out to purchase your flank steak, there are a few things you should know about what to look for. Knowing these specific features will help ensure that you get a top-of-the-line flank steak.

The first thing you should know about flank steak is that since it comes from the part of the cow that is known to do a lot of the movement, it should have quite a bit of muscle fibers throughout. This means that it should have very little fat deposits in the meat.

The coloring of flank steak should be a deep red and much more vibrant than other cuts of beef throughout the entire slab. It is easy to identify if you stay focused on the fact that it has cross-grain marks across the meat.

Another feature of flank steak is that it is less expensive than other cuts of beef since it contains much less fat. The lean cut of beef is one of the least expensive beef cuts out of all of them on the market.

Related >> The Best Mail Ordered Steaks

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Ways to Prepare Flank Steak

Flank steak is widely known for its versatility due to the numerous ways it can be prepared for meals. Many people choose flank steak when they make fajitas and various stir-fry dishes since it is less expensive and is a leaner meat.

This cut of beef can be prepared in many different ways depending on what you are attempting to accomplish. This means that you have the choice to cook it low and slow through a braising process, or fast and hot.

When you choose to braise your flank steak, the tough muscle fibers have a chance to break down to produce a more tender flavor. This can be done in a variety of ways through either cutting thinner slices or even pounding them to become thinner.

Once you have either cut or pounded the flank steak, you can then prepare them in a variety of ways and place them in a sauce you put together. In the sauce, the flank steak can cook for several hours and will absorb the flavor of the sauce to produce a robust flavor profile.

Those who choose to use flank steak for fajitas and stir-fry should remember that these methods are known to be fast and hot methods. This means that the meat will not be exposed to high heat for long periods but will cook relatively quickly.

When cutting flank steak it is essential to ensure that you are cutting across the grain and at an angle to ensure that you are getting the most out of your steak. Since it is rich in muscle fibers, cutting it needs to be precise and done carefully.

Keep in mind that before you cook your steak using a hot and fast method, it is advisable to marinade it for at least 12 hours or longer. Flank steak is known to absorb whatever marinade you use so it will have a robust flavor once it is cooked.

Related >> How To Cook Steak on a Griddle

However you choose to prepare your flank steak, you must have a plan before you go out and purchase the meat. This is because, like most meats, they cannot be left in the fridge for an extended period.

How to Store Flank Steak

Like most cuts of beef, flank steak should be used within a few days of when you purchased it in the store. Most stores will put the date that the meat was cut and packaged on the label so you can see how fresh it is.

If you want your steak to stay fresh, it is advisable to ensure that you cook it within 2-3 days of its purchase date. Once it gets past this date, it tends to start turning brown in spots and can put you at risk of food poisoning.

Related >> How Long Does Steak Last in the Fridge

The best way to store your flank steak, like other slabs of meat, should always be stored in the fridge if you plan to use it within a few days. Make sure that you keep it in its original packaging until you are ready to use it to keep it from being exposed to the air and bacteria that live there.

If you cannot use the flank steak within a few days, you should store it in your freezer until you are ready to use it. This will extend the shelf life of the meat and when you are ready, you can thaw it carefully to prepare it as you normally would.

Related >> How To Reheat Steak

Alternatives to Flank Steak

There may be times when you want to prepare a dish that calls for flank steak but when you go to purchase it, you cannot find it. If this is the case, there are alternatives that you can use that will give you a similar result.

Hangar Steak

This cut of beef looks very similar to flank steak except that between the muscle fibers you will find much more fat. The cut, however, has an oblong and thin shape that is commonly found in flank steak.

In most cases, this is commonly called the “Butcher’s Cut” since it is typically the only one of its kind on the cow. In the past, this was the cut that was taken by the butcher to keep for themselves, thus the name that stuck with it.

Skirt Steak

This is another cut that can be substituted for flank steak since it does have a longer, thinner shape. However, skirt steaks tend to be much longer and narrower than flank steaks overall.

This cut of beef comes from the diaphragm muscles of the cow and is a common staple in Mexican dishes. This is because skirt steak has a bit more fat on it and thus gives off a better flavor profile because of its juiciness. 

Hope Davis

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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