how to cook a flank steak

How to Cook a Flank Steak: A Comprehensive Guide

Flank steak is a cut of beef that comes from the abdominal muscles of the cow, and it is known for its distinctive flavor and tenderness when cooked properly. It is one of the most versatile cuts of beef that can be used to prepare a variety of dishes. However, flank steak is notorious for being tough and chewy if not cooked correctly.

In this article, we will guide you on how to cook a flank steak perfectly every time. We will cover everything you need to know, from choosing a good cut of meat to different cooking methods, to serving suggestions.

Choosing the Right Flank Steak

The first step in cooking a perfect flank steak is choosing the right cut of meat. Here are some things to look for in a good quality flank steak:

  • Marbling: Look for a flank steak with thin marbling lines and an even red color throughout the cut. Marbled meat indicates higher fat content, which enhances flavor and tenderness.
  • Freshness: Choose fresh flank steaks with no signs of discoloration or odor.
  • Thickness: Flank steaks should be about 1 inch thick.

When it comes to grass-fed versus grain-fed varieties, there are notable differences in taste and texture. Grass-fed beef tends to have more nutritional benefits, while grain-fed can have more marbling.

Once you’ve chosen your flank steak, avoid common mistakes such as buying pre-sliced or pre-seasoned meat.

Preparing the Flank Steak for Cooking

The preparation process is crucial in ensuring your flank steak cooks evenly and tastes delicious. Here are the key things you need to do:

Thawing and Seasoning

It’s best to thaw the meat in the refrigerator overnight. This ensures that it thaws gradually without losing moisture. Once defrosted, use paper towels to pat the steak dry. If there’s too much moisture, it may prevent proper browning and cause steaming instead.

For seasoning, we recommend using coarse salt or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper as a base. You can add additional spices like garlic powder or onion powder to taste.


Marinating your flank steak is entirely optional, but it’s highly recommended for adding flavor and tenderizing the meat. Here are some popular marinade recipes:

  • Teriyaki Marinade: Soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, garlic, sesame oil.
  • Mexican Spice Marinade: Lime juice, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, garlic.
  • Balsamic Vinegar Marinade: Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning.

The optimal marination time varies depending on the recipe you choose. Generally speaking, we recommend marinating for at least 2-3 hours up to 24 hours.

Beef Tenderization

Flank steak tends to be a lean cut of meat that benefits from tenderizing techniques. You can use the following methods:

  • Pounding: Use a meat mallet to pound the steak gently on each side.
  • Slicing: Make shallow cuts with a sharp knife at a 45-degree angle against the grain of the meat.
  • Marinating (as mentioned above) will help break down proteins in the meat.

Different Cooking Methods

There are several different ways you can cook a flank steak depending on your preferences. Here are some popular methods:


Grilling is one of the most popular ways to cook a flank steak. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Heat your grill to high (around 450°F).
  2. Pat the steak dry and season as desired.
  3. Place the steak on the grill and cook for about 4-6 minutes per side for medium-rare steak (135°F internal temperature) or up to 8 minutes for well-done steak (160°F internal temperature).
  4. Remove from heat and let it rest for at least five minutes before slicing.

Grilling adds a smoky flavor to the meat, and when done correctly, it provides a beautiful charred surface.


Broiling is similar to grilling but uses an oven instead of an outdoor grill. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Preheat your broiler on high heat.
  2. Season the steak with salt and pepper or any other spices of your choice. Place the steak on a broiler pan lined with foil.
  3. Make sure that the top rack in your oven is around 2-3 inches away from the heating element. Place the pan on that rack.
  4. Cook each side for about 6-8 minutes until it reaches 135°F (medium-rare) or up to 12 minutes for well-done (160°F internal temperature).
  5. Once cooked, remove from heat and let it rest for at least five minutes before slicing.

Broiling can be a great way to add crusty caramelization to your steak.


This method is ideal when you’re cooking for a small group or want an easy-to-clean-up option. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Place a cast-iron or non-stick skillet on the stovetop over medium-high heat and let it preheat.
  2. Season both sides of the flank steak with salt and pepper and any other desired spices before adding it to the pan.
  3. Cook each side for around 4-6 minutes until medium-rare (135°F internal temperature) or up to 8 minutes for well-done (160°F internal temperature).
  4. Once cooked, remove from heat and let it rest for at least five minutes before slicing.

Pan-sautéing/pan-frying is a quick way to cook steak, so keep an eye on it to avoid overcooking.

Checking Doneness & Serving the Flank Steak

It’s essential to know how to check when your flank steak is ready to serve.

Checking Doneness

You can use toothpick test or an instant-read meat thermometer to check your flesh’s doneness. The toothpick test involves poking a toothpick in the middle of your meat and submitting its resistance. If it feels like pushing through butter, that’s medium-rare. A well-done steak will have zero give.

Instant-read thermometers are more accurate than the toothpick test. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of your steak, away from bone fat. For medium-rare flesh, aim for an internal temperature of 135°F and 160°F for well-done.

Resting & Slicing Your Flank Steak

After taking your meat off the heat source, allow it to rest on a cutting board/plate/chopping block approx. five minutes before slicing it along or against grain.

Slicing along produces more tender bites generally identified as ‘melt-in-your-mouth.’ Conversely, cutting against the grain produces more rigid bites with excellent chewing texture.

Ensure your knife is sharp, and try to slice pieces at a steady thickness around 1/4 inch for good results.

Serving Suggestions

Flank steak pairs well with several side dishes, sauces, and wines. Here are some serving suggestions:

  • Grilled vegetables like asparagus or zucchini can serve as a refreshing side dish to flank steak.
  • Roasted potatoes or potato wedges are a staple accompaniment for steak.
  • If you want something light, serve up a simple green salad with a vinaigrette dressing.

Some excellent wine choices that complement flank steak are red wines like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. You can also pair it up with savory sauces like chimichurri or béarnaise.


Flank steak is an incredibly versatile and delicious cut of beef that can be cooked in various ways. The best way to ensure your meat’s perfection depends on your palate preferences, the options above will help you get started cooking any style of flank steak properly. Remember, it’s all about selecting high-quality meat, proper seasoning, and following the steps outlined in this guide. Let us know if our guide has helped improve your cooking skills!

How to Cook a Flank Steak FAQs

What is a flank steak?

A flank steak is a long, thin cut of beef that comes from the abdominal muscles of the cow. It is a lean and flavorful cut, usually around 1-2 pounds in weight.

How should I prepare the flank steak before cooking it?

First, pat the steak dry with paper towels. Then, season it generously with salt and pepper or your preferred seasoning blend. For additional flavor, you can marinade it in the fridge for 2-4 hours beforehand.

What is the best way to cook a flank steak?

The most popular methods are grilling and broiling. However, you can also cook it in a pan on high heat or under the broiler in your oven. Regardless, make sure to use high heat and cook it quickly to avoid overcooking.

What temperature should I cook the flank steak to?

The ideal internal temperature for a medium-rare flank steak is 135°F (57°C), which takes around 5-7 minutes per side on high heat. Use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness.

How do I rest and slice the flank steak?

To allow the juices to redistribute, let the cooked flank steak rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing against the grain into thin strips. This ensures tenderness and optimal flavor.

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