Crusty Flank Steak
"Too much of a good thing can be wonderful." Mae West
My two favorite steaks: Expensive ribeyes and inexpensive flank steaks. Because I'm a cheap SOB, I cook flank steak a lot more than than I cook ribeye.
Ribeyes are expensive because they are very tender and because they are usually marbled with thin threads of fat which adds to the texture and flavor.
Flank steaks, sometimes called London Broil steaks, are cheaper because they have very little fat, and they can be chewy if you overcook them or cut them improperly. I should point out that flank steaks used to be even cheaper than they are today, but more and more folks are discovering how good they are if they are cooked properly.
Because they are thin, we're going to cook this baby hot and fast over direct heat, over charcoal or the sear zone of a gas grill, but we will still set up 2-zones so you have a safe zone in case the outside starts to get too dark before the center is finished. You also can use the safe zone for the thin part of the steak. This is a great cut for a board sauce.
Crusty Flank Steak Recipe
Yield. 8-12 servings
Preparation time. 10 minutes
Cooking time. 10-15 minutes
Serve with. A big red wine like a Syrah (a.k.a. Shiraz) or a dark Belgian ale
4 pounds of flank steak
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
Cook extra. Leftovers make great cold steak sandwiches, but I love to toss thin cold slices on top of a fresh green salad with leftover grilled asparagus, zucchini, and peppers (at right). Top it with croutons and blue cheese dressing.
1) An hour or two before cooking, salt the meat and place it in the fridge. This technique is called a dry brine and it does a great job of amplifying flavor because the salt is sucked down deep into the meat. Click here to read more about how dry brines work and watch a short slow-mo video of it.
2) Start a 2-zone fire and get the hot zone as hot as possible. Flank steak is best over charcoal or the sear burner of a gas grill. If you are using charcoal, here's a trick: Raise the coals so they are about 2" below the cooking grate. On a Weber Kettle, put a couple of bricks under the charcoal grate as shown here. We want high heat so we can take the surface to dark brown and crusty, almost but not quite charred.
3) Flank steak is usually wedge shaped. One end is a lot thicker than the other. When you cook it hot and fast one side is either overcooked or undercooked. So here's how to outsmart the steak. If your steak is more than 1/4" thicker at one end than the other, cut it in half and start the thick half first. If the skinny section finishes too fast you can move it to the indirect zone. This is important: Make a mental note of which way the grain of the fibers is running.
4) Here's another trick: Coat the meat lightly with vegetable oil, and sprinkle with salt. The oil almost fries the surface, making it crispy. Don't use butter, it burns and breaks down at the high heat we will be using. No pepper. It just burns over high heat.
5) Put the thick half on first, about 2 minutes ahead of the thin half. Leave the lid off. Cook about 4 minutes on the first side or until it gets dark brown and from the side you can see the color has changed about 1/4" up the side. Cook on the other side about 3 minutes. The exact time will depend on your grill. I like mine rare to medium rare, at about 125°F, which is where it is when the juices start to come through the surface. Use an instant read meat thermometer to be sure you get it right. Wear an oven mit and push it most of the way through and slowly back it out and read the lowest temp. The second side may not be as dark as the first side, but that's OK.
6) The way you carve the meat is crucial to making it easy to chew. Flank steak tends to be tough, but if you cut it thin and across the grain, it is easier to chew. Click here to learn more about the proper way to carve flank steak. Place the meat on a cutting board. Hold a thin blade at a 45 degree angle and cut 1/8" slices across the grain.If you slice with the grain it will be much too chewy. On a flank steak, the first cut will be a little overcooked. Not to worry, the center cuts will be just fine.
7) Serve the meat laid out in a fan. I usually serve it nekkid, but occasionally I spoon a small amount of chimichurri sauce over the top. Not too much, it is strong, and we don't want to cover that great steak taste.
This page was revised 8/26/2013
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