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Sara Hansen

Flank Steak Explained: What It Is, Best Way to Cook It, & More

If you are looking for a cut of beef that is easy to cook quickly (compared to other cuts), is a lean cut, is an economical choice, and is still large enough to feed a few people, flank steak checks all those boxes. This cut offers a big flavor that will make for a delicious option on your grill. 

In this article, we’ve broken down what you need to know about flank steak, including what exactly it is, how it’s different from another similar cut, the best way to cook it, and some tips on how to cook it perfectly. 


What is Flank Steak Exactly?

Chances are, you’ve probably eaten flank steak before, and you may not have even known that you did. So, if you are wondering, where does flank steak come from, you are definitely not alone.

Flank steak, sometimes also referred to as London broil or jiffy steak, is an abdominal cut that comes from the lower stomach part of the steer, directly below the loin. Because of its location, it contains a lot of strong muscle fibers and is a very lean cut compared to other steak cuts. If not prepared properly it can end up being a very tough piece of meat. But, when it’s cooked and sliced right, it can still be very tender and is an extremely flavorful cut exploding with delicious beefiness.


Flank Steak vs Skirt Steak: The Differences

flank steak | what is flank steak | flank steak vs skirt steak


One common misconception is that flank steak and skirt steak is the same thing. Yes, they are both flat, long cuts that come from the underside of the steer. And they are also often used interchangeably in recipes. But, they are two different cuts and have several differences that impact their proper preparation. These differences include:

  • The main difference between flank steak and skirt steak is exactly which part of the cow they come from. As we mentioned above, the flank comes from just below the loin, while the skirt steak comes from closer to the front in the diaphragm area of the cow.
  • The flank steak is a wider, thicker, and heavier cut compared to a skirt steak. In fact, the flank is often sold as one whole muscle and can weigh up to 2 lbs. This makes it a great option to feed a larger crowd.
  • Because it is a thicker cut, a flank steak does take a little bit longer to cook than a skirt steak does.
  • Flank steak has less fat marbling compared to a skirt steak, so it can’t be slow-cooked and braised like a skirt steak can.
  • Both cuts contain a good amount of tough muscle fibers. But the grain structure in a flank steak is more tightly woven compared to the skirt steak, which has a more fibrous but less dense grain structure.
  • Those coarser muscle fibers in the skirt steak do give it an even stronger, beefier flavor compared to a flank steak. Though the flank steak still has a richer flavor than other beef cuts.


Best Way to Cook Flank Steak on the Grill

Low and slow cooking with indirect heat is not recommended for cooking a flank steak on the grill. Because a flank steak is a leaner cut of meat with a tougher exterior and lots of muscle fibers, it is best cooked quickly over medium-high heat (400° to 450°F) on your grill. You can cook it directly on the grates to get some beautiful grill marks or it can be cooked and seared in a cast-iron skillet on the grill.

flank steak on grill | what is flank steak | best way to cook flank steak


A flank steak should only be cooked to medium-rare to prevent it from overcooking and becoming tough and dry. Make sure to keep a close eye on it as you’re cooking and have your digital meat thermometer on hand so you know when the internal temperature of the meat has reached 130°F. This is just below the temperature of medium-rare, which it will reach as it is resting.

When you are ready to serve the steak, it should also be sliced against the grain into pencil-thin strips to maximize tenderness.


Pro Tips on Cooking a Flank Steak Perfectly:

Yes, in general, grilling a flank steak is pretty straightforward. But, there are some pro tips you can follow to ensure you end up with a great result every time:

  • When you are ready to cook, take the cold steak straight from the refrigerator and put it on the hot grill. Doing this will help ensure that the inside of your steak stays medium-rare while the outside cooks faster.
  • A flank steak only needs to be grilled at high heat for about 5 minutes per side to reach medium-rare internal temperature. (Unless it is stuffed and rolled–see more on this below.)
  • Marinating can help tenderize the steak. For the best result with a flank steak, it should soak in a marinade for up to six hours but not longer than overnight. But if you are in a hurry, using a high acidic marinade for an hour or two can still make a good difference.
  • Once the steak is done cooking and you’ve removed it from the grill, let it rest for 5-10 minutes before you slice it. This allows for carryover cooking to get the steak up a couple more degrees to medium-rare (130°F). It also allows the internal juices to soak back into the meat, helping to make it juicy and tender.


Marinade for Flank Steak

flank steak | marinade for flank steak | flank steak on grill
Source: Weber Grills


Flank steak takes well to marinades because of its thinness. Acidic marinades can also help ensure you end up with a tender final result when the steak is done cooking. Of course, there are a variety of different flavors/ingredients that you could combine into a marinade to help enhance the flavor of your flank steak. But, if you are looking for a place to start, check out this flank steak marinade recipe from Weber Grills:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves minced or pushed through a press
  • 1½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Place the above marinade ingredients in a small bowl and whisk them together to mix thoroughly. Then simply place the steak in a large baking dish and pour the marinade over it, flipping the steak to thoroughly coat it. Then let it marinate for at least 1 hour, turning once or twice during that time. The flavors in this marinade pair very well with caramelized shallots topping the steak.


Try a Stuffed Flank Steak

Another great way to prepare/cook a flank steak on the grill is to stuff it and roll it. This method has been growing in popularity, with a huge variety of creative stuffing ideas that help accentuate the delicious beefy flavor of the meat.

Check out this recipe from Traeger grills which uses a delicious combination of prosciutto, rich goat cheese, and roasted red peppers stuffed into a perfectly seasoned flank steak.


You Can Cook a Great Flank Steak Today!

Flank steak is one of the lesser known and lesser used cuts compared to other steaks. But, if you haven’t tried it before, you are definitely missing out. This cut makes for a great lean and affordable option that is packed with delicious beefy flavor. Follow the tips we covered above and you can cook a great flank steak today!

Are you going to cook a flank steak for the first time? Or do you have experience with flank steaks and have a favorite recipe or marinade? Leave a comment below and tell us about it. We want to hear from you!


Are you ready to really elevate your backyard cooking skills? Join the BBQ Champs Academy Championship Backyard Cooking Classes today! These step-by-step classes, taught by Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters, will show you exactly how to cook 20 delicious smoked or grilled recipes!

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Also, if you want to stay on top of all the latest competition BBQ news and insider info, straight from the pros, make sure to subscribe to the BBQ Champs YouTube channel today!

Sara Hansen

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