Flank steak (aka skirt or ranchera steak) is a (not always) affordable cut of beef with a long, fibrous grain that, when prepared correctly, lends itself well to a number of grilled and stir-fried, and even soup recipes.
Meals that flank steak is good for include options as diverse as fajitas to London broil to Vietnamese pho. However, flank steak also requires proper preparation and cooking in order to avoid tough, chewy meat and dry, flavorless meals.
Meal Considerations: Are Flank Steaks Tender?
Flank steaks have a lot to bring to the proverbial table. They’re flavorful and inexpensive and versatile, being a popular ingredient for a number of dishes and recipe styles. However, one thing flank steaks are not is naturally tender.
This piece of steak gets taken from the cow’s abdomen or lower chest (same as brisket). Because of this position, the muscles in this area of the animal get used a lot.
The grain on it is thick. It’s a low-in-fat cut of meat as well, making it a good choice for people who want a little less fat in their diets.
Additionally, LiveStrong.com recommends that home cooks marinate the meat in the fridge for about four hours. If you marinate it too long, it denatures the meat and will wreak havoc with the steak’s texture.
This four-hour marinating process helps to break down some of the connective tissue that’s prevalent in this cut of meat, making it easier to eat.
How Do I Find Flank Steak in the Store?
In terms of being kind to the budget, flank steak is an excellent resource for money-minded home cooks. If you’re looking for some flank steak at the grocery store or in the butcher’s shop, do be aware that this cut of meat goes by a number of names.
Aside from being called flank steak, it’s also known as bavette (from the French), jiffy steak, or London broil.
4+ Meals That Flank Steak Is Good For
1. London Broil
Mashed.com gives away one of the little-known secrets of London broil. London broil isn’t a cut of meat in the way that a filet mignon or ribeye steak is. Instead, London broil refers to a method of cooking tough meats.
Additionally, while London broil is associated with flank steaks, that’s not the only cut of meat that people use to make London broil. Top round steak also counts as a popular option for this dish.
However, flank steak represents a good choice of meat for this dish. Being a tough cut of meat counts among the flank steak’s drawbacks. Being flavorful and delicious counts as one of its biggest strengths.
You can get around this steak’s toughness by marinating it in an acidic mixture of vinegar or lemon juice and spices. Some clever cooks will use clear Italian salad dressing because it has all the necessary ingredients to tenderize the steak and gives it an excellent flavor, too.
London broil is often broiled for a number of hours in the oven, making it a more “set it and forget it” type of dish. All Recipes recommends cooking it at 350 degrees for between two-and-a-half and three hours.
London broil came into vogue in the 1950s and 1960s in the US, though it dates all the way back to the early 1930s. During the 50s and 60s, more acidic flavors were popular on American dinner tables.
Over the course of time, London broil has turned into an inexpensive dinner option for those who’d like beef for dinner but who don’t want to pay for a steak like a ribeye.
This dish’s original appeal was that it was made from cheap cuts of meat, according to Mashed.com. Basically, any meat recipe that requires some sort of marinade before you can eat is probably going to be tough and cheap.
2. Fajitas Made With Flank Steak
Most traditionally, fajitas have been made with skirt steak. The original recipe came about as an experiment of sorts. Mexican ranch workers received part of their salary in cuts of meat, including skirt steak.
Because of the toughness of the meat, they experimented with different ways to make it tender, as well as delicious. The fajita, as we know it today, was born.
As fajitas got more popular, restaurant chefs, as well as home cooks, began experimenting with different kinds of meat to use in the dish, including flank steak.
According to the Master Class website, the similarities between these two types of meat make them ideal substitutes for one another in recipes.
Both types of meat run on the lean and tough side. If you have a preferred way of making skirt steak tender, then chances are, your favorite method will work on flank steak, too.
Additionally, both work well for recipes, like fajitas, which require high-heat cooking methods. And now, both meats are used almost interchangeably in fajita recipes.
3. Vietnamese Pho
Pronounced “phu,” Vietnamese pho is made with pho rice noodles, a bone broth made of beef, and thinly sliced steak or beef. A plethora of fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and other Asian flavors complete the dish.
According to Spooniversity, pho originated in Vietnam in the late 1800s in Hanoi and Nam Dinh. After World War II, the recipe moved south, carried along by people migrating from North Vietnam to South Vietnam.
Nowadays, it’s a popular street food because of its convenience factor. Social media fans love to share this dish with their followers, due to its colorful content and delicious flavor.
Pho has a some-assembly-required element to it with all of the side ingredients, like the vegetables, making it a dish that is unique to each eater. In some settings, the meat in pho isn’t cooked into the soup, but rather, exists as one of the side elements of the soup, along with the vegetables.
This side of beef is sometimes even raw and then presumably, gets cooked by the hot soup once it’s added to the dish.
A number of spices and flavorings are popular with pho eaters. These include Siracha, chili paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, and hoisin sauce.
4. Stir Fry
Stir fry is one of those dishes that allows you to use up a lot of the ingredients in your fridge, and it’s a dish that’s probably never completely the same twice.
Flank steak is a good addition to stir fry because the meat’s natural flavor is enhanced by the marinade of the stir fry.
Additionally, an oil like olive oil or sesame oil in your wok (if the dish is Asian) gives the stir-fried steak a bit more fat content. (This basically adds in what nature left out.)
As far as Asian recipes go, if you’re making an Asian dish like stir fry, try making a marinade of soy sauce, citrus juice, ginger, garlic, and other Asian spices.
Aside from that, almost anything goes. Slice up your favorite vegetables, add in some tofu, and a few mushrooms, and serve it over some steamed rice.
It’s an easy meal that you can put together in the space of half an hour or so and still eat pretty healthily.
If you’re looking for a list of good vegetables to try in your flank steak stir fry, try these:
- Asian cabbage
- Red, green, or yellow bell peppers
- Onions – green, white, yellow, or even red for some coloring
- Sugar snap peas
- Water chestnuts
- Fresh green beans
Flank Steak FAQ
How should flank steak be cooked?
Flank steak should be cooked according to recipe specifications. That said, it’s important to note that most flank steak recipes take into account the toughness of the meat. These recipes take steps to tenderize the meat somehow, whether that be through manually tenderizing it or allowing it to soak in a marinade for a while.
Additionally, when not used in soups, this steak tends to taste best if it’s marinated and then, cooked quickly on high heat. If a soup recipe is involved, then the meat needs to cook for quite some time before it’s tender enough to be soup ready.
Is flank steak good well done?
Due to the tough nature of flank steaks, they don’t really make an appealing, well-done steak. They tend to get dry and tough when cooked this way.
What’s better flank or skirt steak?
The short answer to this question is, it really depends on what you want and what the recipe calls for. Flank steak is the leaner of the two types of steak. It makes a good all-around cut of beef for a variety of recipes. If you’re concerned about having too much fat in your diet, then you may want to go for a good flank steak.
On the other hand, skirt steak has quite a bit of marbling, giving it a richer, juicier taste. This meat must be sliced thin, going against the meat’s grain for the best results. Otherwise, the meat will be too tough for you to swallow comfortably.