Is Flank Steak Considered Lean or Fatty?

You have your hands on a chunk of flank steak, but you do not know much about it, and now you are wondering how best to prepare it. Since how you cook it will depend on its fat content, you are asking yourself if this is a fatty or lean type of meat. Fortunately, an online menu of professional advice is available from experienced cooks and dieticians.

The US Department of Agriculture classifies flank steak as a lean cut of meat. Therefore, flank steak falls within the nutritional definition limits for lean red meat, typically containing around 8.2 grams of fat, about 3.4 saturated grams of fat, and 79 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5-ounce serving.

is flank steak considered lean or fatty

The fattiness of meat is significant in determining how best to prepare it. If the meat is less fatty, like flank steak, you need to use specific cooking skills and methods to avoid finishing with chewy, dry meat. 

We have all the information you need to serve up a delicious, perfectly cooked flank steak.

Characteristics Of Flank Steak

Familiarizing yourself with flank steak will help identify it and examine how its properties influence how to treat it in the kitchen.

As per definition, lean beef servings have no more than 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 grams of total fat, and n more than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per each 3.5-ounce serving

Each serving of flank steak contains 8.23 grams of fat, 3.4 grams of which are saturated fats, and 79 milligrams of cholesterol. Thus, flank steak falls under the definition of lean meat.

Nutritional Facts of Flank Steak

Average nutritional information for a 3.5-ounce (100 gram) serving of flank steak according to the US Department of Agriculture (Agricultural Research Service):

Energy (Calories)192kcal
Protein27.7 grams
Fats (of which saturated)8.23 grams / 3.4 grams
Dietary Fiber0g

Flank steak also contains significant nutritional amounts of the following minerals and vitamins:

  • Iron (Fe) 
  • Phosphorus (P)
  • Zinc (Zn)
  • Selenium (Se)
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Visual Identification Of Flank Steak

Flank steaks come from the portion of the cow’s belly just in front of the hind legs. Butchers usually package lean flank steaks in rectangular chunks. 

Sometimes referred to in stores as beef flank, London Broil, or jiffy steak, you can visually identify flank steaks by noting both the lack of fat and the direction followed by the muscle fibers along the length of the steak.

How To Prepare Lean Flank Steaks For Cooking

Since flank steaks are lean, improperly prepared flank steaks will get dry and chewy. So, before cooking your flank steak, marinate, tenderize, and portion them correctly.

Tenderizing Flank Steaks Pre-Cook

Even if your steak looks tender and uniform, flank steaks lack the fat found in most other meat cuts that would help to keep them tender and flavorful.

Their toughness and distinct lack of fatty moisture require that flank steaks receive some softening. Pounding on flank steaks with a meat mallet will soften them enough to prevent them from becoming leathery during cooking.

Marinating Flank Steaks To Increase Flavor And Tenderness

Another method to tenderize your flank steak is to allow it to rest in a marinade before cooking. 

As flank steaks are leaner and tend to get dry, the added moisture and flavoring from marinades ensure that you will have succulent steak when you have finished cooking it. Immerse your steak in your marinade for a time of 2 hours up to a whole night beforehand.

Marinades typically consist of mixes of oil, acid, spices, and sweet or salty flavorings. Depending on your taste preference, you decide on an oil-to-acid ratio and then use spices and sweet or salty components to add flavor. 

Lemon juice, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce are popular acidic options that simultaneously embolden and soften your meat.

How To Slice Flank Steak Without It Getting Chewy

You may decide to cut your flank steak into pieces before, during, or after the cooking process, so you can divide it into portions, create strips for stir fry, or expose more meat to marinade. Whatever the purpose, you will want to ensure that the pieces do not end up tough or dry. 

As the muscle fibers in flank steaks run along the length of the meat and there is no fatty tissue to moisten the flesh, cutting along these ridges will create long, dry, and dense pieces, making them harder to chew. So, when you slice this cut of meat, cut thinner slices against the muscle fiber grain.

How To Cook Lean Flank Steaks Without Drying Them Out

Fattier cuts of meat are naturally tender and moist and can be cooked longer and to higher levels of how cooked they are. However, leaner flank steaks dry out quickly when exposed to heat sources, so they require deliberate efforts to keep them succulent and soft.

Most methods for cooking flank steak thus involve using high heat for only a short time, aiming for medium-rare to medium. Grilling, pan-searing, stir-frying, and broiling are popular culinary techniques for flank steaks that require constant supervision but less than 10 minutes of high heat exposure.

When portioning out your steaks after cooking them, it would also be wise to allow them time to rest before slicing into them. Residual heat within the meat cooks it for a short while after removing it from the heat source and cutting it before a thorough resting will waste moisture, and with no fat to soften them, your lean flank steaks will become dried out and tough.

Temperature Readings For Cooking Flank Steak

Meat reaches certain doneness levels (the level of how cooked the meat is) at observed associated temperatures, which you can gauge by sticking a meat thermometer into its thickest part:

Level of DonenessApproximate Temperature
Well Done165°

Due to residual cooking after removing the meat from the heat source, aim for a temperature reading just below your desired level to prevent overcooking.

While how long you cook your meat is up to personal taste, flank steaks tend to get dry and chewy if you take them past medium. However, you can cook fattier cuts up to well done, and they will remain tender since the fat helps preserve some moisture and flavors.

If you do not have a meat thermometer available, you can judge at what level of cooking your steak currently is by observing the side of your steak. Viewed from the side, the color of the steak will start changing from the outside, advancing towards the center. 

The best way to serve flank steaks is either medium-rare or medium, with browning on the outside and some redness or pinkness evident in the center.

Final Word

Flank steak is a lean, potentially tough cut of meat, but it is high in protein, essential minerals, and vitamins. Due to its lower fat percentage, it can become dry when one cooks it. 

Accordingly, it is necessary to adhere to cooking and slicing techniques that help soften the steaks and preserve moisture.

Tenderize and marinade your flank steaks and cook them to medium-rare or, at most, medium doneness. Properly cooked, flank steaks are browned on the outside but have pinkish or reddish centers. After cooking, leave them to rest for a handful of minutes and thinly slice them across the grain.

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