Paul is a barbecue enthusiast. He is currently grilling and smoking on a Komodo Kamado Ultimate 23.
The Challenge of Flank Steak: It's a Lean Cut
Flank steak is a long, thin, lean cut of beef. It presents challenges to grillers everywhere for three reasons. First, it lacks marbling (less fat), which provides taste. Second, it's a chewier cut of beef, which many people find tough. Third, its thin nature causes it to cook quickly so that most people severely overcook it. I've seen this happen a dozen times. The cook seasons and slaps it on the grill. They overcook it, and when it's served it's tough as nails, dried out, and has no taste.
Keys to Perfectly Grilled Flank Steak
- It must be tenderized either by the butcher or at home by scoring.
- It must be cooked to perfection (ideally medium rare). Refer to the grill time and temperature chart below.
If you're new to barbecuing steaks, cuts of meat that are lean like flank and brisket are much more challenging than cuts with a high degree of marbling like rib eyes and filet mignon.
Flank Steak Grill Times for Perfect Internal Temperature (Grill at 500°F)
Pink all the way through (120°F)
Pink center (125–133°F)
Tinge of pink (134–140°F)
No pink (145°F)
Step 1: Tenderize the Meat
There are two ways to tenderize a flank steak before marinating.
- At the store: The first method can be done at the grocery store by asking the butcher to run the flank steak through the tenderizer. The tenderizer will put in dozens of small cuts, which will help the meat absorb the marinade. Also, the machine will shape the flank steak into a more consistent thickness, which helps it cook more evenly on the grill.
- At home: The second method is to score the meat yourself at home. Using a sharp knife, make cuts up to 1/4 of an inch thick across the meat. Then make the same cuts from the opposite direction, creating little squares (as shown in the photo above). Do this to both sides of the meat.
Why Should I Tenderize the Meat?
Besides helping the meat absorb the marinade and helping it cook more evenly, scoring the steak will also help prevent it from curling up at the edges while it's on the grill. So even if you decided to forego a marinade, having the butcher tenderize it—or scoring it yourself—is a good idea.
Step 2: Marinate the Meat
The next step is to marinate the flank steak. You can do this very simply, as in the recipe shown here, or you can get fancy. I've included a slightly more complex marinade recipe at the bottom of this article, but the following recipe also produces reliably tasty results.
Simple (but Delicious) Flank Steak Marinade
- Flank steak
- Olive oil, for brushing
- Salt and pepper, taste
- In a food-safe dish, brush the flank steak with olive oil.
- Salt and pepper the meat to taste. Cover the dish and let it marinate in the refrigerator.
- Two hours before grilling, take the steak out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
- Grill following the bbq instructions below.
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Step 3: Sear Over Direct Heat
Flank steak barbecues extremely quickly over direct, high heat.
- Once the meat is properly seasoned, spray the grill with oil.
- Make sure the grill temperature is approaching 500°F. Place the flank steak on the grill and close the lid.
- Barbecue for 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium to medium-rare steak.
- Open the lid only once to flip the steak. Resist the urge to peek in between!
Keys to Juicy and Tender Flank Steak
- Handle the steak as little as possible. In some ways, grilling a flank steak is like barbecuing a hamburger. They should only be flipped once on the grill and handled as little as possible
- Never cut open on the grill to check for doneness. With flank steak, you can't afford to release the juices until it's served.
Step 4: Let It Rest
We pulled our flank steak from the grill after nearly five minutes per side so we would have some of the thinner parts more medium, while the thicker bits were medium rare. The thick portion was reading at 125°F on the grill.
Flank steak should rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
While the steak rests, the meat continues to cook and the temperature will rise. So, don't be afraid if the meat looks a little undercooked on the grill. After 10 minutes of resting, the meat will be ready to slice and eat.
Step 5: Slice and Serve
Flank steak is typically served in thin strips, similar to how a beef brisket is served.
- After the meat has rested for 10 minutes, transfer it to a cutting board (preferably one with a gutter to catch the juices).
- Using a sharp knife, slice 1/4-inch thick slices across the grain. Tip: If you're slicing up several flank steaks, use an electric knife to help cut the meat more quickly.
- As soon as the meat is sliced, serve it!
Bonus Flank Steak Marinade Recipe
This recipe was modified from How to Grill by Steven Raichlen for a flank steak salad.
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled
- 4 serrano chilis (habanero chilis for extra spicy), seeds removed
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup lime juice
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 3 green onions, chopped
- Salt and pepper the flank steak to taste. Place the meat in a food-safe dish.
- In a high-powered blender or food processor, add the rest of the ingredients (optionally leave the green onions out until the other ingredients have been pureed). Puree the ingredients.
- Pour the marinade over the flank steak. Cover the dish and let it sit in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.
- Remove from the refrigerator and place on the counter for 2 hours before grilling.
More BBQ Beef Recipes
- Smoked Memphis-Style Beef Ribs Recipe
This recipe is for delicious smoked Memphis-style beef ribs using a dry rub and mop sauce.
- How to Barbecue Perfect Medium Rare Filet Mignon
Barbecuing filet mignon is a science. Here is how to grill perfectly cooked steak every time that tastes and looks fantastic.