How To Cook Flank Steak in the Oven

How To Cook Flank Steak in the Oven

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Emma Christensen
May 18, 2015
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Lately, I have been all about flank steak. This cut isn't quite as fancy — or typically as expensive — as premium steaks, like ribeye and filet mignon, but it cooks just as quickly and delivers big on flavor. I love it for more casual weeknight meals, like easy fajitas or alongside some roasted veggies. Plus, the leftovers make killer sandwiches for lunch the next day.

My favorite way to cook flank steak is under the broiler — plenty of crispy seared bits, zero guesswork. Here's how I do it, from marinating the steak to slicing it for dinner.

Flank steak fajitas
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

What Is Flank Steak?

This cut is called a flank steak because it literally comes from the flank of the cow — its side, below the ribs. It's a fairly wide and thin cut; it's only 1 to 1 1/2 inches at its thickest and it becomes even thinner toward one end. This means that flank cooks very quickly, and the wide, tapered shape also makes it a good choice when you're cooking for a crowd — there's enough meat to share and you can get both rare slices and well-done slices all from the same cut so everyone is happy.

Flank steak has a fantastic beefy flavor. It's great in fajitas and burritos, but it is also good on its own with just a nice sauce and a side salad.

To feed four to six adults, get 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of flank steak — you can stretch this amount to feed eight if you're serving appetizers or other side dishes. Flank steak can be used in most recipes that call for skirt steak.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

The Best Way to Cook Flank Steak

You can grill flank steak, cook it in a skillet on the stovetop, or even cut it up for a stir-fry, but my choice for everyday cooking is under the broiler. The broiler is basically an upside-down grill that blasts the steak with direct heat. You get lots of lovely crispy bits around the edge without drying out or overcooking the steak.

This is the time to pull out your broiler pan if you have one. If you don't, use a baking sheet with a wire rack set on top. Either way, line that bottom pan with aluminum foil to make cleanup easy.

A lot of recipes say to never cook flank steak beyond medium-rare. I do love a medium-rare steak, but I actually think flank does fine when cooked a little more thoroughly. If you marinate the steak and then slice it thinly across the grain after cooking, you don't need to fret that your steak will be chewy.

A Marinade Makes Flank Tender

This is a fairly tough and chewy cut, so a marinade does double duty here, both tenderizing and giving the meat some flavor. I give the proportions for a simple marinade in the recipe below, but any marinade will do. I like to marinate flank steak for at least an hour, or even up to 24 hours. Get the steak marinating in the fridge before going to bed or work, and all you have to do when you get home for dinner is turn on the broiler.

Slice Against the Grain

One last trick for complete flank steak happiness: slice it against the grain. Flank steak has very pronounced muscle fibers; you can clearly see them running down the length of the cut in big, wiry bundles. These fibers can make the steak very tough and chewy, even with a long marinade, so it's important to slice this cut very thinly and against the grain.

More on slicing meat against the grain: Here's How (and Why) to Slice Meat Against the Grain

When you're ready to slice the steak, make sure those long muscle fibers are running from left to right on your cutting board. Cut through them using a sharp knife, from top to bottom. Thin slices also help make the meat easier to chew and more enjoyable to eat.

Do you love flank steak? What are your favorite ways to make it for dinner?

How To Cook Flank Steak in the Oven

Makes 6 to 8 servings

What You Need

Ingredients
1 1/2 to 2 pounds flank steak

For the marinade:
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar, or other acid
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, optional, grated on a microplane or pressed in a garlic press
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 teaspoons spices, like chili powder, barbecue spices, curry, or other favorite spice blend

Replace this basic marinade with 1/4 to 1/3 cup any other favorite marinade

Equipment

Shallow pan, like an 9x13-inch baking pan
Broiler pan, or baking sheet with a wire rack inside
Aluminum foil
Cutting board
Chef's knife

Instructions

You can leave the flank steak whole, or you can cut it into one or two long strips (cut with the grain down the length of the steak). Slices from the whole steak are great for sandwiches or topping of salads; skinny strips are nicer for things like fajitas and burritos.

  1. Coat the flank steak with marinade: Place the steak in a shallow dish, like a 9x13-inch baking dish. Whisk together all the marinade ingredients and pour over the steak. Rub the marinade into the steak and flip the steak once or twice in the dish to coat.
  2. Marinate for 1 hour or up to 24 hours: Cover the dish and place the steak in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Flip the steak occasionally if you happen to think about it.
  3. Heat the broiler and prepare the pan: Set your broiler to its highest setting (or simply turn it on if it doesn't have settings). Place an oven rack a few inches below the broiler element. Line a broiler pan with aluminum foil, add the top, and spray the top with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Broil the steak 4 to 6 minutes per side: Remove the steak from the marinade, shake off any excess, and place it in the middle of the broiler pan. Slide it directly under the broil. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, flip it over, and broil for another 4 to 6 minutes (8 to 12 minutes total).
  5. Check the steak for doneness: The steak is done when the edges are charred and crispy, and you see some nicely dark searing on the top. Check the temperature in the thickest part with an instant-read thermometer: 115 to 120°F for rare steak, 120 to 125°F for medium-rare steak, 130 to 135°F for medium steak, and 140 to 145°F for medium-well steak. If additional cooking is needed, cook for another minute or two for every 10 degrees needed; transfer the steak to the oven if it's becoming too crisp on the edges.
  6. Rest for 5 minutes: Transfer the steak to a cutting board and rest for 5 minutes.
  7. Slice against the grain: Slice the steak into very thin slices using a sharp knife, cutting against the grain. This means the long fibers should all be running left to right on your cutting board, and you should be slicing through them, top to bottom.
  8. Transfer to a serving platter: Transfer the slices to a serving platter. Pour the juices from the pan and cutting board over the meat and toss to coat.
  9. Serve warm or room temperature: Serve the steak right away. Leftovers are great in sandwiches and on salads, or reheated in quesadillas, burritos, or other quick dinners.

Recipe Notes

  • Grilled Flank Steak: Instead of broiling, you can also grill flank steak over very high heat on a gas or charcoal grill. The cooking times are the same.
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