What Is Flank Steak And How Do You Cook It?

Flank steak is technically not steak at all, at least according to the Oxford English Dictionary definition of a steak as "high-quality beef taken from the hindquarters of the animal." Nor does flank steak actually come from a cow's flank, again via the OED: "the side of a person's or animal's body between the ribs and the hip." Instead, flank steak is actually a cut of meat that comes from the cow's belly. It is still muscle meat, and closely resembles other cuts of steak, except that it is lacking in fat and marbling. Usually, it is about a foot long and an inch thick, and is cooked whole rather than being sliced up into smaller individual cuts.

Flank steak, which is sometimes known as London broil, is generally on the less expensive side for a steak. It does have somewhat of a bad reputation for being tough, but once you show it a little love and kindness and maybe a splash of marinade, it can be quite tender. 

How to cook flank steak

Flank steak is best when grilled. Marinating the flank steak prior to grilling is recommended, as The Spruce Eats suggests something acidic, such as pineapple, orange juice, or wine. The Kansas City Steak Company adds that grilling time for flank steak should be kept to a minimum, suggesting this cut is best enjoyed rare or medium-rare — medium at most. Grilling instructions for both charcoal and gas grills involve searing the flank steak on high heat for a minute or two each side, then reducing the heat to medium and cooking 9 to 12 minutes for medium-rare (flipping steaks one minute before the halfway point).

If it's the dead of winter, you live in a high rise without a balcony, or grilling's just not your thing, no problem. Flank steak can also be broiled in the oven or pan-seared (whole or pre-sliced), and it also lends itself very well to slow braising — in fact, cooking flank steak "low and slow" in your Instant Pot will help to break down its dense connective tissue and allow it time to tenderize on its own without having to resort to violence. Still another way to enjoy flank steak is in a stir-fry, such as this recipe for beef and broccoli.

Any way you slice it (against the grain, please!), you're sure to enjoy flank steak's rich, beefy flavor, and, as an added bonus, it's even approved as heart-healthy by the American Heart Association! What's not to "heart" about that?