What is Beef Flank? A Guide to This Versatile and Flavorful Cut

Beef flank is an economical, tasty, and versatile cut of beef that comes from the belly muscles of a cow. Sometimes called flank steak, it has a distinct grain and intense beefy flavor when cooked. While flank steak may not be as tender as pricier cuts like ribeye or tenderloin, it can still be succulent and delicious when prepared properly.

Where Beef Flank Comes From on the Cow

  • Beef flank comes from the bottom abdominal area of a cow, below the loin and sirloin primal cuts.
  • It is located in the flank region, which runs along the cow’s abdomen between the 6th and 12th ribs.
  • Flank muscles support the cow’s digestive organs and do a lot of work, so flank meat is lean and tough.
  • When trimmed into steaks, it is called flank steak or London broil.

Key Characteristics of Flank Steak

  • Long, flat cut that is around 1 inch thick. Flank steaks can weigh 1-2 pounds each.
  • Distinct longitudinal grain that runs the length of the steak.
  • Lean with little marbling or fat content.
  • Tough meat texture due to lots of connective tissue. Requires special preparation.
  • Intense beefy flavor when cooked properly.
  • Inexpensive compared to premium steak cuts.

Other Names for Flank Steak

Flank steak is known by several other names:

  • London broil
  • Jiffy steak
  • Plank steak
  • Bavette (French name)

Flank Steak vs Skirt Steak

Flank steak is sometimes confused with skirt steak, which comes from the diaphragm muscles right next to the flank. While they share some similarities, there are a few key differences:

  • Flank steak – comes from the belly, is flat and long, grain runs lengthwise
  • Skirt steak – comes from the diaphragm, is thin and narrow, grain runs crosswise
  • Flank steak – leaner, with less fat marbling
  • Skirt steak – fattier, with more marbling
  • Flank steak – more affordable cut
  • Skirt steak – more expensive cut

Both flank and skirt steak benefit from marinating and being sliced against the grain when cooked.

How to Cook Flank Steak Perfectly

Flank steak needs special preparation due to its leanness and tough texture. Here are some tips for cooking delicious flank steak:

  • Marinate the steak: Marinades help tenderize and add flavor. Use an acidic ingredient like wine, vinegar, citrus, or yogurt.

  • Partial freeze: Freeze the steak for 30-60 minutes until firm but not solid. This makes it easier to slice thinly.

  • Sear over high heat: Use a hot grill, broiler or pan to quickly brown the exterior. Do not overcook.

  • Slice against the grain: Cutting against the grain shortens the muscle fibers for tenderness. Slice on a bias.

  • Cook quickly: Flank steak is best cooked medium-rare to medium doneness. Aim for 130-140°F internal temp.

  • Let it rest: Allow 5-10 minutes of rest time after cooking for juices to redistribute.

Best Cooking Methods for Flank Steak

  • Grilling – High dry heat of grill sears in flavor. Grill over direct high heat 2-5 minutes per side.

  • Broiling – Can mimic grilling when you don’t have access to one. Broil 3-4 inches from heat for 6-8 minutes total.

  • Pan searing – Quickly brown the steak in a very hot pan before finishing in the oven.

  • Braising – Low, slow cooking helps break down tough connective tissues. Braise for 1-2 hours until fork tender.

How to Use Flank Steak in Recipes

The thin shape and beefy flavor of flank steak make it a versatile ingredient in many dishes:

  • Stir fries – Quick cooking, slice thinly across the grain
  • Fajitas or tacos – Top with salsa, avocado, cheese
  • Steak sandwiches – Slice steak and pile on bread or bun
  • Hearty salads – Grilled, thinly sliced flank steak on top of greens
  • Kabobs or skewers – Alternate steak chunks with veggies
  • Rollups – Stuff flank steak with cheese, veggies, or other ingredients

What Flank Steak Taste Like?

When cooked properly, flank steak is flavorful and beefy:

  • Rich, meaty, beef flavor
  • Can taste smokey or charred from high-heat cooking
  • Juicy and moist if not overcooked
  • Tender texture if sliced against the grain
  • Takes on flavors from marinades and rubs

Just don’t expect flank steak to be as tender, buttery or fatty as higher marbled steaks like ribeye. The lack of fat means flank steak tastes lean yet still robust.

Where to Buy Flank Steak

Flank steak is available at most grocery stores and butcher shops. Look for it in the refrigerated meat section or at the butcher counter.

  • Sold individually or in pairs, around 1-2 pounds each
  • Choose steaks that are uniform in thickness
  • Can be ordered from your local butcher, if not on display
  • Often found pre-marinated for added flavor and tenderness

For maximum freshness, use flank steak within 2-3 days of purchasing. It also freezes well for 3-6 months when properly wrapped.

How to Store Flank Steak

  • Store fresh flank steak loosely wrapped or in packaging on a shelf in the fridge (not in door)
  • Use within 2-3 days for best quality and freshness
  • Can be frozen for 3-6 months; wrap tightly in freezer bags or plastic wrap
  • Thaw frozen flank steak overnight in the fridge before cooking
  • Do not refreeze previously frozen steak

Flank steak is an affordable, tasty cut that is worth getting to know. With the proper preparation, carving, and cooking techniques, it can be meltingly tender and full of robust beefy flavor. The next time you see flank steak at the store or butcher shop, bring one home and expand your steak repertoire.

The Complete Guide to Cooking the Perfect Steak


What is another name for beef flank steak?

Other names for flank steak include London broil and skirt steak, which is actually a different cut (more on that in a moment). This cut of steak comes from the abdominal muscles of the animal, right behind its chest. As you’d expect from that muscle-y area, the meat can be somewhat chewier than other steaks.

Is beef flank steak a good cut?

It’s a flavorful piece of meat, but is very lean, containing almost no fat. Despite its toughness, it can be a tasty and tender if you learn how to prepare it properly. Flank steak benefits from marinating, and is best enjoyed grilled over high heat or slow-braised.

Is flank beef tender?

Is a flank steak tough? Because flank steak is quite lean, it can be a bit tough if not prepared and sliced properly. Marinating with a little acid, like lemon juice or vinegar, will help tenderize this cut of beef. Cooking until medium-rare and slicing against the grain are key to a tender result.

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