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Flank steak comes from the cow’s lower chest where the muscles are well-developed, and therefore, can become tough if prepared incorrectly or rushed through the cooking process. The muscle grain runs in one direction, making this cut of beef perfect for grilling to achieve a tender, juicy meal. Marinating the beef not only adds flavor, but also helps tenderize the meat.
How to Tenderize Flank Steak?
Flank steak that is properly tenderized, marinated, cooked, and cut against the grain is flavorful and melts in your mouth. Whether you are new to grilling or have been firing up the pit for years, anyone can grill a delicious flank steak and that’s tender, juicy, and have everyone begging for more. Below are the five necessary steps for grilling flank steak.
1. Tenderize the Flank Steak
Tenderizing meat makes it softer and easier to cut and chew. With just a little effort and a few minutes of your time, you can prepare a tender, juicy piece of meat. For tender flank steak that is bursting with flavor and melts in your melt, follow these easy tips.
2. Use a meat tenderizer
This is one of the easiest, no-fail ways to tenderize flank steak. Simply put the meat between plastic wrap or wax paper on a cutting board and pound using a weighted mallet that can be purchased at any multi-purpose store or grocery store. If you do not have a weighted mallet, a rolling pin or anything with some weight like a skillet works great as well. Pounding the meat softens it by flattening the muscle and helping blend the muscle, collagen and fat prior to grilling.
3. Salt adds more than flavor
While salt adds flavor, it also helps break down the proteins in tougher cuts of meat like flank steak. Only salt is able to fully penetrate tough cuts of meat. About an hour prior to putting on the grill, coat the meat in salt and let sit. Immediately before putting on the grill, rinse the flank steak under running cool water and pat dry. It is important to rinse the salt from the meat to prevent it from being overly salty and not absorbing the desired flavors from the marinade or seasoning.
4. Marinade in acidic flavors
Acidic flavors like citrus juice and fruits, vinegar, wine, dark soda, or dairy help loosen the muscle fibers and tenderize the meat. Some good options for dairy ingredients include yogurt and buttermilk that fully coat the meat. Citrus fruits like papaya, pineapple and kiwi are good options for citrus fruit. Kiwi is a particularly good choice because it lacks a strong a flavor, and when combined with the meat, the flavor is neutralized so that it achieves the goal of tenderizing the meat while not adding too much fruit flavor. When the cut of meat is thin, it should marinade in acidic flavors for only two hours to avoid the muscle fibers and collagen from breaking down too much and becoming mushy.
5. Score the meat
Before cooking, make shallow cuts in the meat in one direction and against the grain and then repeat in the opposite direction, still staying against the grain. By cutting some of the muscle fibers prior to cooking, the meat will have a more tender texture that melts in your mouth and is not chewy.
How to Marinate Flank Steak?
Flank steak is naturally a tougher piece of meat. It is important to marinate flank steak prior to cooking to add flavor as well as help tenderize the meat. The key ingredients to a great marinade that helps with tenderization include the following:
- Sugar and Salt: The combination of this sweet and salty mixture results in a tender, juicy steak.
- Acidity: Flavors with a bit of acidity add a bit of tanginess to bring out the natural flavor of the meat.
- Oil: The texture and composition of the oil helps the other ingredients and seasonings cling to the meat and helps it absorb the marinade to take in the flavors
- Seasonings: Spices influence the overall flavor of the meat, whether it be spicy, smokey, or with a hint of citrus flavor. Your choice of seasoning will likely depend upon side dishes being served with your flank steak.
Flank steak should be marinated for about two hours; however, the meat can marinate in a mixture with a good balance of flavors, such as a balsamic vinaigrette with some added spices, for up to 24 hours. Simply mix your marinade and place it in a bag or container with a lid. Make sure the flank steak is fully submerged in the marinade mixture and refrigerate until the time to grill. Do not freeze your flank steak in the marinade mixture as the ingredients will not absorb into the meat to achieve a tender texture.
How to Grill Flank Steak?
Now that your meat is properly tenderized, marinated and prepared, it is time to throw it on the grill. Flank steak is thin and will cook to a desired doneness level in about eight to 10 minutes. If you took the time to pound your flank steak with a meat tenderizer or mallet, the cut of beef will be even thinner, thus cooking even more quickly.
Be sure to pay attention while cooking and do not leave or meat unattended or you may accidentally overcook it in very little time. Follow these easy steps for a great grilled piece of meat:
The ideal grill temperature for marinated flank steak is at least 450 degrees. The flank steak gas grill temperature should be the same as a coal grill. This high heat level will allow the outer layer of the meat to achieve a crispy sear as soon as it is placed on the grill. This sear helps seal in the flavors and can add a nice caramelized texture and flavor to your steak.
Grill the flank steak on one side for four to five minutes and then flip and cook for another four to five minutes on the other side. Avoid flipping the meat over and over so as not to cook it unevenly or overcook it.
The most important part of grilling is the internal temperature for the desired level of doneness. If you touch the meat and it is squishy, this is a rare steak. If the steak feels similar to touching the tip of your nose, it is cooked well done. While some prefer a rare cut of meat and others like a well-done steak, the ideal state for flank steak that is tender and juicy is between medium rare and medium. An easier way to test the doneness of your flank steak rather than rely on touching it is by using a ThermoPro meat thermometer. The temperature indicates the doneness level and can help determine if your flank steak is cooked to your desired taste based. Refer to the following grilled flank steak cooking temp for doneness level:
- Rare: 125 degrees Fahrenheit
- Medium Rare: 135 degrees Fahrenheit
- Medium: 145 degrees Fahrenheit
- Medium Well: 155 degrees Fahrenheit
- Well Done: 165 degrees Fahrenheit
Remove the cooked flank steak from the grill and allow it to rest. You have likely heard this term before and may have wondered what it means. This simply means to put the meat on a cutting board, cover in aluminum foil, and leave it be for 10 to 15 minutes. This allows the meat’s juices to redistribute and further marinate the meat.
If you immediately cut the meat, the juices will flow away and not absorb into the meat. This will result in a tough cut of meat with little flavor.
Allowing the flank steak to rest also allows the meat to slowly cool while the residual heat slowly cooks the steak a tad bit more after removing from the high heat. This slow cook helps the meat become more tender and take in more flavor from the seasonings and natural juices.
Cut the steak across the grain. Using a serrated knife, cut the meat diagonally in wide slices across the grain to break the muscle fibers. Incorrectly cutting the meat will result in a tough, chewy piece of meat so be sure to pay attention to the direction of the muscle fibers.
Flank steak is an inexpensive piece of meat that can be cooked to tender, juicy perfection. With just a little preparation before throwing on the grill and the ThermoPro meat thermometer to test your grilled flank steak temp and time, you will be a grilling pro.
This piece of meat is perfect in fajitas, shredded for tacos, chopped in stew, or simply with a nice baked potato on its side. Whether a skilled griller or newbie, anyone can cook a beautiful flank steak.