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Butcher’s Guide: What is a Flank Steak?


Whether you know it by its proper name or have seen it referred to as “London broil” at the grocery store or in certain restaurants, the lean flank steak delivers a strong beefy flavor and, when prepared and sliced properly, an unforgettable texture that sets it apart from other cuts. So, what exactly is a flank steak and how do you prepare it?

What is Flank Steak?

When you think of classic cuts of steak, you probably conjure images of filet mignons, NY strips, T-bones, and ribeyes, but flank steak rarely makes that list – and if it didn’t make yours, that’s about to change! Get ready to learn more about this flavorful, protein-packed steak, including how vital proper cutting and preparation is from the experts: Omaha Steaks master butchers. They share that this versatile cut gets its name from its location on the cow: the flank. It is taken from the cow’s abdominal muscles, which are located behind the plate and in front of the rear quarter.

A long, flat cut with a significant, thick grain (the direction in which the muscle fibers run within the piece of meat), flank steak comes from a very active part of the cow, creating a much leaner experience than that of a steak in a less active area. If you’re among the more health-conscious cornivores seeking less fat and more protein from your meals, this is absolutely the cut for you! When it comes to enjoying your beefy, lean flank steak, it’s the perfect choice for fajitas, grain bowls, stir-fries, tacos, sandwiches, salads, flatbreads, and so much more!    

Is London Broil the Same as Flank Steak?

While many people, restaurants, and grocery stores often refer to flank steak as London broil, they are not synonyms for the same cut of steak. In fact, London broil is not a cut of steak at all, it is actually a cooking method that can be applied to a variety of lean steaks by marinating and then grilling or broiling them to increase their tenderness.

Cutting a Flank Steak

Flank steak is a long and flat primal cut that requires significant butchering expertise to truly guarantee a flavorful and delicious end result. The beef flank is removed by starting the cut on the round primal near the cod area following the round muscle. It is closely cut to avoid cutting into the lean on the round near the stifle joint, which is located below the hip and hind leg, similar to a knee. The cut is then continued forward on a line parallel to the loin to a point two to three inches below the loin eye muscle at the 13th rib. The flank steak, the prominent muscle on the inside near the center of the flank, is then cut out of the beef flank by removing the connective membrane and the remaining lean and fat, which can be used for grinding.

diagram of where the flank steak is cut from the cow

How to Cook a Flank Steak

When it comes to preparing a mouthwatering, beefy flank steak that’s sure to delight, it all comes down to one word: heat. More specifically, high heat. Because of this lean cut’s low fat content, overcooking it will have you serving one tough bite. The hotter and faster it cooks, the more tender the result will be. Fortunately, it cooks well using a variety of methods, from grilling and pan-searing to broiling and even using an instant pot!

To increase its tenderness even more, you can season it very liberally with salt and pepper, marinate it in your favorite flavor, and butter baste it if your cooking method allows. Poking a few holes in your steak will also go a long way in helping your marinade or butter baste penetrate the meat more deeply.

Because flank steaks are tougher by nature, it’s vital that they’re cut and prepared properly to deliver the best experience possible. They’re at their most tender when cooked to medium-rare doneness, which can be achieved in as little as five minutes total. Use our Omaha Steaks mobile app with steak cooking timer to achieve your desired doneness. Check for doneness using a meat thermometer, these temperature guidelines, and our Steak Doneness Guide.

Rare 120-130° F
Medium rare 130-140° F
Medium 140-150° F
Well done 160-170° F

Let the steak rest for 5 minutes before serving.

How to Slice a Flank Steak

No matter how much consideration you put into selecting the ideal steak, cutting it carefully, and preparing and cooking it to your exact preference, in the end, true perfection comes down to how you slice it, which should always be against the grain. To “cut against the grain” may sound confusing and daunting, but it really only means cutting through the fibers to make them shorter, which will in turn make the meat more tender and easier to chew. This is especially vital for a lean cut with long muscle fibers like the flank steak.

In addition to cutting against the grain, you should also cut on a bias. To accomplish this, rather than holding your knife straight up and down, create wider, long, tapered slices by holding it at a 45-degree angle. This will increase the surface area of each slice, which will break down the muscle fibers to an even greater degree and increase tenderness.

More Butcher’s Guides:

Uncooked flank steak on Omaha Steaks butcher's paper next to knife

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