Try flank steak for Father's Day | Chef Dez

By Gordon Desormeaux | Jun 15, 2016
Source: Try Chef Dez's Cajun Blackening Spice Rub on your next flank steak.

Flank steak is one of my favorite cuts of beef for the barbecue because it offers big beefy flavor and is extremely tender when cut and prepared properly.

Due to the fact that there are many people who don't know much about this specific cut, it tends to be a very underrated steak in comparison to more popular cuts, such as strip loin, sirloin, rib-eye, etc.

There is also a lot of misinformation in the media about flank steak, and I hope to clear up some of this confusion for you.

Beef flank steak is a long and flat cut of meat from the abdominal muscles of the cow. It is significantly tougher than other cuts of meat, as it comes from a strong well-exercised part of the cow.

The direction of the grain of the meat and connective tissue is prominently visible, especially in the raw form.

Moist heat techniques, such as braising, will be successful in making the meat tender, but it can also be simply grilled to a rare/medium-rare/medium doneness and then sliced thinly across the grain and still be very tender.

I have witnessed many chefs on TV state that one must marinate a flank steak before grilling in order for it to be tender. This is not true.

Although marinating is fine to do with a flank steak, it is an optional step, not a requirement. The acid in a marinade will break down the connective tissue over time, but I have barbecued so many flank steaks that have been "melt in your mouth" tender, with no marinating whatsoever.

The secret is to make sure you don't overcook the steak and then slice it thinly in the opposite direction of how the grain of the meat is running (across the grain).

For optimal flavor, my preferred way of preparing flank steak is to first coat it with a spice rub, grill it to the desired doneness, let it rest for a few minutes, slice it very thinly across the grain, and then drizzle it with garlic butter.

When slicing it thinly, I also make sure I slice it on an angle, about 45 degrees. Flank steak is a very thin cut of meat and slicing it on a 45-degree angle will make more elongated slices and provide better plate or sandwich coverage.

Letting it rest after cooking will help the steak to retain more of its juices. All meat, from a small steak to large roasts or turkeys, should have a resting time for this reason. The bigger the size of the meat, the longer it should rest. I let a flank steak rest for at least five minutes.

I have also seen chefs on TV take a knife and "score" the flank steak before going into their marinade – in my opinion, this is incorrect as well.

Although at first it may seem to make sense to put cuts into the surface of the meat to aid in the penetration of the marinade into the inside of the steak, this goes against one of the golden rules of grilling meats: Never pierce your meat.

The goal of cooking meat is to have the end result as a juicy, flavorful product. If you pierce your meat (by jabbing a fork into it for flipping, or cutting into it), then valuable juices will be lost.

Meat that has been scored prior to cooking will suffer the same damaging situation. And always use tongs to flip your steak, not a fork.

Many pre-made spice rubs for meat can be purchased at your local grocery store, but I find it more satisfying to create different ones myself with ingredients I have on hand already.

Here is a basic Cajun blackening spice rub recipe for you to experiment with. It’s a perfect way to add tons of flavor. If available in stores, try replacing the paprika (or at least a portion of it) with a sweet smoked paprika for more flavor. Happy cooking!

Cajun Blackening Spice Rub

1/4 cup paprika

2 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp salt

1 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper, or more if you like it hotter

Mix all ingredients together. Use it to liberally coat beef, pork, poultry or fish before grilling or pan-frying. Finish cooked product with a drizzle of garlic butter. Makes just over 1/4 cup of spice. Store in an air-tight container for 3-6 months.

Gordon Desormeaux aka Chef Dez is a food columnist, culinary travel host and cookbook author. Write to him at or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, BC V2T 6R4. Visit him at

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