What is flank steak and how do you prepare it on the grill?

Flank steak is a highly prized cut of beef often found in gourmet cuisine. This type of cut, which tastes best if it is veal, can be prepared in different styles, but most commonly it is grilled or broiled. 

What is flank steak?

Flank steak, which is known in some countries as entraña, is a cut of beef that is characterised by being long, flat and having a very strong, intense flavour. However, because of the part of the cow from which it is extracted, its texture is not very tender. This said, it is possible to tenderise the meat as long as it is cooked properly. 

Flank steak consists of a cut that is made on the flank itself so that it is smaller in size and can be grilled or broiled. Two different types of flank steak are available on the market: inside and outside. Both cuts are boneless and are obtained from the diaphragm of the animal, which is attached to ribs 6 to 12. All flank cuts are distinguished by the fact that they are covered with a gelatinous membrane that must be removed before cooking.

Be cautious when buying flank steak at the butcher's or supermarket, as the cut can be confused with the flank. The flank, unlike the brisket, is removed from the back of the animal.

How to prepare your flank steak

Flank steak can be prepared in many different ways. It is a very popular cut in Latin American countries. In Argentina it is known as entraña and is the most commonly used in the country's traditional parrilladas, known as churrasco. In Mexico it is commonly used to make fajitas and arrachera, a style that, if you are lucky enough to try it, you will simply love. 

This cut is also ideal for making Cornish pasties, very popular in the UK yet also often found in Spanish cuisine. 

Tips for making flank steak

If you are going to prepare flank steak, you should follow this series of recommendations in order for meat to be truly exquisite. The first thing to do is to clean the cut very carefully, removing the membrane that covers the flank. You can do this yourself with the help of a knife and pulling the membrane off with your fingers. You might also ask the butcher to do the cleaning for you. As it is a chunky cut, you should fillet it with the help of a sharp knife.

To reduce the toughness of the meat and enhance the flavour, you must marinate the meat for a long time before cooking. Flank steaks can be marinated in short cycles, as long as the cooking is on low heat, or they can be marinated for several hours and cooked on high heat - it all depends on the recipe you decide to follow!

Grilled flank steak recipe

Flank steak doesn't require undue preparation as it can simply be eaten grilled. If you want to make a more elaborate recipe then you could choose to prepare a Mexican arrachera or make a delicious chimichurri sauce that will delight your guests.

But for a simple yet delicious meal, just grill the meat.

Ingredients

  • One kilo of flank steak fillets.
  • Coarse salt.
  • Freshly ground black pepper.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.
  • Lemon or soy sauce. You can also use Worcestershire sauce.
  • Herbs: basil, parsley, rosemary, etc. These are optional, albeit advisable.
  • Cooking or grill spray.

Preparation

  • First clean the meat and cut it into steaks. Use a knife to make a cut over the membrane of the brisket and pull it with your fingers. It should come off easily. 
  • Cut the brisket into fillets of the same size.
  • These first two steps can obviously be omitted if you asked the butcher to do the cleaning and cutting for you.
  • Marinate the meat. It is advisable, if you are not going to make a stew, to marinate the meat the night before cooking or very early in the morning. This way, the meat will be more tender and will have soaked up the flavours of the marinade.
  • Be careful, the marinade should be performed once the meat has been cut into steaks.
  • Place some olive oil in a deep bowl. Depending on the number of steaks, you will need to add more or less tablespoons of oil.
  • Add the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or the juice of half a lemon or lime. 
  • Add the salt and freshly ground black pepper, as well as the herbs of your choice.
  • Place the steaks in the pan and use your hands to stir the meat so that it soaks up the rub nicely.
  • Cover the container with clingfilm and place in the fridge.
  • Two hours before cooking, remove the meat from the fridge to allow the steak to come to room temperature. This is very important, as the meat will not be cold inside after cooking. 
  • Preheat the grill with the grill lid on.
  • Spray the grill with cooking oil.
  • Place the flank steaks on the grill and season with salt and pepper.
  • At this point, you can grill the meat on a high heat, but it is best to grill on a medium-low heat. The texture of the meat will be much better and it will not be mushy or tough.
  • Pour a little seasoning over the meat.
  • Cover the grill with the lid and leave to cook.
  • Depending on the thickness and how well done you like the meat, the steaks will take correspondingly less or more time.
  • An average steak will however take five to six minutes on each side.
  • Turn with the help of tongs.

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