Food & Drink

Flank steak: lean, tasty and easy to grill. What's not to like?

Southwest marinated steak is perfectly matched with grilled peppers, which are brushed with the same marinade that seasons the steak.
Southwest marinated steak is perfectly matched with grilled peppers, which are brushed with the same marinade that seasons the steak.

With tailgating season here, it's time to jazz up your menus with flank steak.

Most people love flank steak, especially if it has been cooked properly. Flank steak is less costly than other steaks, but it's not a cheap cut of meat.

"There is only one problem: There are only two per steer," said Marti Congleton, co-owner of Congleton Freezer Beef in Versailles. "It is a great cut to buy. It's lean and easy to marinate and grill."

The flank steak is easy to identify by its flat oval shape and its long, clearly defined grain. The flank lies behind the plate on the underside of the animal. "Although it is a little chewy, flank steak is ideal for marinating and then grilling. It is a very tasty steak for the money," Jamie Purviance wrote in Steak & Sides, part of Weber's On the Grill series.

Flank steak is the cut most often used for London broil, which is not a cut but a preparation. London broil originally was a grilled, marinated flank steak, although the term is applied nowadays to other steaks too, John Torode wrote in Beef.

Although the best London broil is made with flank steak, most meat labeled "London broil" in supermarkets is round steak.

"This switch evolved in the post-World War II years, when millions of Americans took up the fashionable back-yard sport of barbecuing. London broil became one of the favorite specialties. Since each steer has only two flank steaks, its availability plummeted and the price soared," Howard Hillman wrote in The New Kitchen Science.

Enterprising butchers soon began merchandising the then-inexpensive and abundant round steak (usually the top round subcut) as London broil.

The substitute isn't as flavorful as the flank steak, and the grain in a round steak — in its position on a platter — runs vertically rather than horizontally. "If you slice a round steak as you should a flank steak (vertically relative to the surface of the platter), you will be cutting with the grain and will not be shortening the connective tissues. However, if you slice the round steak at a 45-degree angle, you will appreciably shorten the connective tissues," Hillman said.

The flank steak is at its best when marinated and grilled, and it takes well to the flavors of Asia, the Southwest, India or the Mediterranean.

Here's a simple way to prepare flank steak: Brush both sides of the steak with extra- virgin olive oil, and season evenly with kosher salt and ground black pepper. Allow the steak to stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before grilling.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader