How to Tenderize Flank Steak: 10 Proven Methods & Tips

Tenderize flank steak easily with these 10 methods: slice across the grain, marinate, dry brine, wet brine, mallet tenderize, enzyme tenderization, slow cook, sous vide, needle tenderization, and braise.

Flank Steak

If you’re looking for a money-saving alternative to expensive steak for grilling, you can’t go wrong with flank steak.

It’s built for the grill. It has a unique texture, is full of flavor, and has a consistent quality, and is great for lots of diverse meals and leftovers.

Flank steak is a (not always) budget-priced, tough cut, but there are 10 ways you can tenderize it. Unlike other tough cuts that need to cook for hours in simmering liquid, flank steak can be grilled just like tender meat. This is because of its muscle fibers.

The thick muscle fibers are long and thin. They run parallel to each other. Grilling and broiling don’t tenderize the meat.

But, don’t let that stop you from tenderizing the flank steak and enjoying its tender potential and flavor.

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10+ Ways to Tenderize Flank Steak  

If you’re wondering how do you tenderize flank steak, the following 10 tenderizing methods will give you a tender, tasty, and juicy flank steak.

1. Slice Across the Grain

This method doesn’t require any tenderizer, but slicing your flank steak correctly tenderizes the meat naturally.

Because the muscle fibers run alongside each other, thinly slicing the steak across the grain of the fiber, tenderizes the meat. This allows you to grill or broil a flank steak just like a high-priced steak.

Just make sure you’re buying a flank steak and not a round cut that looks like a flank. Flank steak will always give you tried and true results.

2. Marinating


You can make your own marinade with your favorite ingredients, or purchase ready-made marinade from the grocery store.

Once you combine your marinade ingredients, place the flank steak in a plastic bag that can seal tightly.

Turn your steak to ensure it’s coated evenly on both sides. Seal the bag and place it in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 6 hours. Turn the steak occasionally.

After marinating, take the flank steak out of the bag, and it’s ready to grill. Depending on the meat’s thickness and if you like it medium-rare or medium, it can take from 11 to 20 minutes.

3. Dry Brining

Tenderizing flank steak is simple with the dry brining method. Basically, you coat the steak with a layer of coarse salt. Then, all you do is let it sit.

If you’ve heard that salt draws out all the meat’s juices, don’t worry. This will happen at first, but as the flank steak sits, the juices and salt are pulled back into the meat. This alters the muscle structure, which makes the steak tender.

Brining also adds flavor to the meat. Make sure you use coarse salt because table salt (and many rubs) is too fine, and the steak will absorb too much. You’ll be incredibly surprised at how tender dry brining makes the flank steak.

4. Wet Brining

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To wet brine your flank steak, you let it soak in seasoned saltwater so that the seasoning soaks deep into the muscle. When selecting salt for your brining solution, Diamond Crystal kosher salt dissolves faster than other salts.

You can either use zip-lock plastic bags for individual steaks or any bowl or pot. Avoid using aluminum pots or cast iron pans because the salt is corrosive to these materials.

The basic ingredients in brine are about one-half cup of salt to one quart of water. Also, adding your favorite herbs and spices add more flavor to the steak. You can adjust these amounts to suit your taste.

It also takes about one-half hour of brining per pound of meat. This time is flexible.

Keep your flank steak in the refrigerator during brining time. Brining is most effective at 34F, so you can add ice cubes to the brine to lower the temperature. 

5. Mallet Tenderizing

KitchenAid Gourmet Meat Tenderizer, One Size, Black

Pounding your flank steak with a meat mallet breaks up the muscle tissue of the meat, which tenderizes it. Keep in mind that this method also flattens the meat, so it won’t take as much time to cook when grilling or broiling.

Place the flank steak on a hard surface and cover it with plastic wrap. Pound the meat with the mallet until you reach the desired thickness. 

6. Enzyme Tenderization

This is often an overlooked method for tenderizing flank steak. Enzymatic tenderization uses the enzymes in the fruit to break down the meat’s collagen. The result is a flank steak that’s tender and flavorful.

The best fruits to use for enzyme tenderization are kiwi, papaya, and pineapple. These fruits contain the enzymes that break down the meat’s connective tissue.

You can add a tablespoon of these fruits to your marinade to speed up the time it takes to tenderize your steak.

7. Slow Cook

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If you want fork-tender flank steak, slow cooking will give you melt-in-your-mouth meat. You can use a smoker, a grill, or a crockpot to slowly cook meat.

To prevent your steak from getting tough, you have to cook it slowly until the collagen breaks down into gelatin. When this happens, moisture surrounds the muscle fibers. This is when the meat is the most tender.

The slow cooking time varies depending on whether you’re smoking the flank steak, using a crockpot, or the grill. 

8. Sous Vide

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This tenderizing method boosts the enzymes in the flank steak by using a consistent and precise temperature. Sous vide breaks down the meat fibers and muscle tissue similar to other slow cooking methods.

To tenderize your flank steak with the sous vide method, you place the steak in a vacuum-sealed plastic pouch.

The pouch lets the heat travel from the heated sous vide water bath to the meat. It also stops the moisture and flavor in the meat from evaporating.

The key to tenderizing the steak and keeping it juicy is to maintain the water temperature at precisely 140F degrees. If you let the water temperature get too hot, your steak will be tough. Leave the plastic-sealed steak in the pot of water for one to three hours.

As it cooks, its muscle fiber shrinks and dissolves the collagen. This tenderizes the flank steak. Your sous vide flank steak will have a uniform color inside and out, unlike the usual pink on the inside and brown on the outside.

If you like your steak crusty, you can sear it quickly in a frying pan before you serve it.

9. Needle Tenderization

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You can tenderize your flank steak with a handheld needle tenderizer. Use the needle tenderizer right before you’re ready to cook the steak.

To use the needle tenderizer, gently press the device until it penetrates the steak several times. Do this on both sides.

Using this method results in the most tender flank steak you’ll ever eat.

The needles pierce the steak, cutting into the meat fibers and tissue. This increases tenderness. Needling steak is often called Jaccarding. Needling your steak reduces cooking time, as well.

You can find a Jaccard needle tenderizer online or at home goods stores.

10. Braising

To braise your flank steak, pan-sear both sides on high heat first. This holds in the juices and flavor. Then you simmer the steak in a liquid, such as meat stock, wine, beer, buttermilk, or coconut milk.

It has the same results as stewing meat, but it doesn’t need as much liquid. Simmer the meat until it becomes fork-tender.

Don’t let your simmering liquid go to waste. Make a gravy or meat sauce to pour over your flank steak, potatoes, and vegetables

FAQs on Ways to Tenderize Flank Steak  

Here are some of the most common questions asked about tenderizing flank steak:

How long does it take to tenderize flank steak?

If you use a tenderizer mallet or needle tenderizer, it only takes a few minutes to tenderize a flank steak. But, using the other tenderizing methods mentioned can take several hours.

Should you tenderize a flank steak?

You don’t have to tenderize flank steak if you cut it thinly across the grain. It’s naturally tender when sliced this way.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eIf you want it fork tender, using other methods like sous vide, slow cooking, and brining will result in a more tender flank steak. 

How do you cook flank steak, so it’s not tough? 

Grilling or broiling flank steak delivers the most flavor, but you have to make sure you slice it across the grain. If you don’t want to run the risk of a tough steak, marinate the flank steak first.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eMarinating not only results in a tender flank steak but sparks up the flavor.  

What is the quickest way to tenderize a steak?

There are two quick ways to tenderize a steak. These included using a mechanical tenderizer, such as a meat mallet or a needle tenderizing device.

Can you use baking soda to tenderize a flank steak?

Yes, you can use baking soda to tenderize flank steak. Just rub the baking soda on both sides of the steak. This is the same as the dry brine method of tenderizing. Leave the baking soda on your steak for about one hour or more while it’s in the refrigerator. Wash the baking soda off the steak before grilling.

How long can you marinate flank steak?

You can marinate your flank steak for up to two days in the refrigerator. Just remember that the longer you marinate it, the stronger the marinade flavor will penetrate the meat.

More FAQs

How can you tenderize flank steak?

To tenderize flank steak, you can marinate it with salt. The addition of salt not only enhances the taste of the steak but also aids in tenderizing it. While other ingredients can be included in the marinade, using just salt and a hint of pepper will still result in a delicious flavor.

Does baking soda tenderize flank steak?

Baking soda can tenderize flank steak effectively. By using less than a teaspoon of baking soda, you can achieve a juicy and tender steak, even with a quick marinade. Unlike recipes that require hours of marinating, this baking soda trick allows you to sear a flank steak or any tough cut of beef after just an hour.

What is the secret ingredient to tenderize meat?

The secret ingredient to tenderize meat is by quickly tossing chunks of beef or chicken in approximately ¾ tsp of baking soda for about 15 minutes before your next stir fry. Afterward, rinse and pat the meat dry before putting it in the pan, and this will velvet the meat, making it melt-in-your-mouth tender.

How do you tenderize a tough steak quickly?

To quickly tenderize a tough steak, one effective method is salting. Salting the steak up to an hour before cooking, particularly for tougher cuts, can greatly enhance its tenderness. Apart from adding flavor, salt also aids in protein breakdown, resulting in a more tender meat. It is recommended to generously salt the steaks at least an hour prior to cooking, and then continue with your chosen recipe.

What is the best method to cook flank steak?

The best method to cook flank steak is to start by bringing it to room temperature. Then, pat it dry and season it with salt. Next, sear the steak for approximately 7-8 minutes on one side, and then flip it and cook for an additional 4-6 minutes. Finally, allow the steak to rest before slicing it against the grain.

Do you tenderize flank steak before marinating?

Yes, marinating the flank steak for an excessive amount of time can result in a grainy mouthfeel and toughness. It is advised to limit the marinating time to a maximum of 12 hours, with a minimum of 2 hours.

What is a good tenderizer for steak?

A good tenderizer for steak is beer or wine, as they contain acids and tannins that naturally tenderize the meat. Additionally, beer or wine will enhance the flavor of your meat dishes. To use this method, simply soak the beef in beer or wine for at least an hour before cooking.

How do you tenderize meat in a hurry?

The quickest way to tenderize meat is by using a baking soda solution rather than a saltwater brine. All it takes is 15 to 20 minutes for the meat to sit in the baking soda solution, whereas a brine solution may require at least 30 minutes to begin its tenderizing process.

What are 3 ways to tenderize meat?

Three methods for tenderizing meat include slow cooking, marinating, and pounding. At home, you can use a meat mallet or rolling pin to tenderize meat. Additionally, some manufacturers opt for mechanical tenderization, which involves using sharp blades to break down the connective tissue in the meat.

How do you make flank steak less chewy?

To make flank steak less chewy, it is recommended to cook the steaks over high heat for a short duration to achieve the desired texture and flavor. You can either spray the pan with cooking spray or add olive oil and cook each side for approximately four minutes. It is important to aim for a medium rare temperature to prevent the meat from becoming overly tough.

How do you make a chewy steak soft?

To make a chewy steak soft, you can use various methods. One way is to pound the steak using a meat mallet or kitchen mallet, which helps to tenderize the meat. Another technique is to salt the steak up to an hour before cooking, particularly for tougher cuts, as it enhances tenderness. Marinating the steak can also contribute to softening it. Another method called velveting can be employed, and slow cooking is another effective way to achieve a soft texture. Additionally, applying enzymes or scoring the steak can help break down the tough fibers and make it more tender.

Why is my grilled flank steak tough?

Your grilled flank steak may be tough because it is a lean cut of beef that requires proper preparation and slicing. To tenderize this cut, consider marinating it with a small amount of acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar. Additionally, cooking the steak until it reaches medium-rare and slicing it against the grain will help achieve a tender result.

How do you soften flank steak for stir fry?

To soften flank steak for stir fry, you can achieve a shortcut to tenderizing beef at home. Simply incorporate 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 2 to 3 tablespoons of water per pound of beef, adjusting the amount based on the toughness of the cut. Thoroughly mix and massage this mixture into the meat before marinating. This method will effectively tenderize the flank steak.

Can you make chewy meat tender?

To make chewy meat tender, you can achieve this by cutting it across the grain. This involves cutting crosswise through the long muscle fibers in the meat, breaking them up and resulting in a more tender texture.

How do you fix tough chewy beef?

To fix tough chewy beef, you can physically tenderize the meat, marinate it, ensure proper seasoning with salt, allow it to reach room temperature, cook it slowly at a low temperature, reach the correct internal temperature, let it rest, and finally, slice it against the grain for optimal tenderness.

Does salting steak make it tender?

Salting steak enhances its tenderness by breaking down muscle fibers and connective tissue, resulting in a more enjoyable texture. Additionally, the coarse salt draws out and dissolves some of the meat’s juices, which are then reabsorbed, further tenderizing the steak and adding flavor.

Does soy sauce tenderize meat?

Soy sauce, along with salt, aids in tenderizing meat, retaining its moisture, and enhancing its flavor. Additionally, sugar contributes to the browning process, while oil assists in distributing fat-soluble aromatic compounds throughout the meat.

Does vinegar tenderize meat?

Vinegar does tenderize meat, but only to a certain extent. The collagen and muscle fibers, which are the tough connective tissues in meat, can be softened and broken down by vinegar. This process helps the meat retain its natural juices. Acidic ingredients such as vinegar, lemon juice, yogurt, and wine have the ability to weaken the collagen and protein in meat.

Why is my flank steak always tough?

Your flank steak is always tough because it contains numerous long thin fibers running through it, making it tougher compared to other cuts of beef. To tenderize the flank steak, it is commonly marinated and cooked using methods such as grilling, stir-frying, broiling, or smoking.

Does pounding flank steak tenderize it?

Pounding flank steak tenderizes it and ensures even cooking, so it is recommended to tenderize the steak before marinating by pounding it to an even, thin thickness.

How do you tenderize flank steak without a mallet?

To tenderize flank steak without a mallet, you can use alternative kitchen tools such as a heavy skillet, saucepan, or rolling pin. Place the steak between layers of plastic wrap or wax paper and use the chosen tool to gently pound the meat before cooking. This process helps to soften and tenderize the steak, making it more enjoyable to eat.

How do you soften overcooked flank steak?

To soften overcooked flank steak, one can utilize simmering in a small amount of liquid or broth as an effective method for tenderizing. Additionally, incorporating acidity into the liquid, such as a dash of vinegar and lemon juice, can assist in tenderizing the meat.

What is too long to marinate flank steak?

The ideal marinating time for flank steak should not exceed 48 hours as soaking it for longer will result in a soft and mushy surface. Although short marinating times may not significantly affect the texture, they can still enhance the flavor. To achieve a more tender flank steak, it is recommended to marinate the meat for at least 12 hours overnight before cooking.

Should you cut flank steak before marinating?

The recommended practice is to cut the flank steak into steaks before marinating. Experts suggest marinating the steak from the night before or early in the morning, allowing it to rest in the fridge while covering the marinade with clingfilm.

How long do you leave flank steak out before cooking?

The flank steak should be brought to room temperature for 30-60 minutes before cooking in order to allow the meat to absorb the salt and prevent it from seizing up in the pan. This will result in a juicier and more tender flank steak.

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