Why Is Flank Steak So Tough And Chewy?

You have likely tasted a good, juicy, and tender steak before and wonder why the flank steak you have prepared or ordered from a restaurant is so tough and chewy. There are reasons behind this and, thankfully, solutions. Flank steak is an excellent cut of meat to choose for part of any meal, as it is inexpensive and relatively easy to handle and cook. 

The primary cause for flank steak becoming tough and chewy is if it is overcooked or cooked for too long. You want to cook it until medium-rare; anything more than this, and you will experience those undesired effects. Other causes include the age of the meat cut and the cooking temperature.

why is flank steak so tough and chewy

Thankfully, there are identifiable reasons why your flank steak is tough and chewy. If cooking it yourself, there are ways to help you avoid this situation altogether. However, if you are at a restaurant, be emphatic about how well you want it to be cooked. 

Keep reading to learn more about why your flank steak is coming out tough and chewing and what to do about it.

The Duration That You Cook The Steak May Lead To Chewiness

The most likely culprit for your flank steak turning out tough, chewy, and perhaps even dry is that it has been cooked for too long. These steaks should be cooked at a moderately high temperature, but not too hot as you are then left with a crisp outside and raw interior. 

What you want to happen is for the fats in the meat, which there are not too many of in flank steaks to distribute evenly throughout the steak, thus causing it to become tender and juicy. 

If you cook the steak for extended periods, then what will occur is that the fats will evaporate and what is left is a tough and chewy piece of meat that no one will desire to eat. 

Temperature You Cook Flank Steak At Affects Texture

The temperature at which you cook your steak significantly affects the overall texture and juiciness. As mentioned, if you cook steak at incredibly high temperatures, you are left with an overcooked exterior while the inside is still raw.

People prefer their steaks to be done to different degrees, but with flank steaks, you want to aim for that medium-rare point; otherwise, the meat is too chewy.

So it is recommended that you cook your steak at a reasonably high temperature but for as short a time as needed. The connective tissue and fats will begin to break down, and if timed correctly, you will have a tender flank steak.

However, you do not want to put your flank steak in extreme temperatures for too brief a period, as this will cause all the lovely juices to ooze out of the meat. 

Once again, you will be left with a dry and tough textured meat that leaves you chewing away and not enjoying what could be part of a lovely meal.

How You Decide To Cook Your Steak Affects Its Texture

How you cook your steak also greatly impacts the overall texture and toughness. As mentioned, the fats inside the meat will break down when exposed to heat. 

Cooking it for too long or too short at moderate to high temperatures could mean having tough steak at the end.

There are plenty of ways to prepare flank steak, from frying to baking, grilling, etc. But, without a doubt, most would agree that if you can master the art of grilling flank steaks will yield the best results. 

One of the main reasons is that grilling tends to lead to even cooking and, if done correctly, will ensure that the juices and a smokey flavor are left once done.

Not Allowing Your Flank Steak To Rest After Cooking Affects The Texture

Often you will find that people are overly eager to tuck into their steaks as soon as it comes off the grill, but not allowing the steak to rest after being over the coals or otherwise will cause it to become chewy if you cut into it too soon. 

Regardless of how you opt to cook your flank steak, allow it to rest for a few minutes.

This is because the steaks will continue to cook as they begin to cool down, and the juices will also seep into all the areas of the meat. 

It will ensure that your steaks are tender and juicy once you finally bite into them. If you cut the steak too soon before the juices distribute evenly, the juices will leak out, and you will lose out on what could make your steak lovely and moist.

Having Fresh Flank Steak Will Aid In It Not Being Chewy

When you visit a restaurant, you would expect that the meals they serve you consist of fresh goods; however, this is not always the case. Often, they will buy their steaks and other meat in bulk, store them in the freezer, and only remove them once you order your meal. 

It usually happens that they are not appropriately defrosted and are also not fresh.

Steaks and other meat can be stored for between 6 and 12 months in a freezer and still be acceptable for consumption. However, the overall quality may be lacking. If it has been sitting in a freezer for an extended period, it can lose its original texture and taste. Now, this may also be true for your home-cooked flank steaks.

Therefore be aware that the fresher the steak is, the more tender it will be and less likely to dry out or become tough and chewy. So if you purchase flank steaks, cook them sooner rather than later, as the time they spend in the freezer can have an effect.

Will Marinating Flank Steak Make It Less Tough And Chewy?

One common way of curbing your flank steak from drying out and turning tough and chewy is to marinate it. However, there is a snag to this trick. Simply basting the steak in a marinade before cooking it will not be sufficient to curb the issues we have discussed. 

Before cooking, you must allow the meat to sit in the marinade overnight.

This takes additional time and effort, but if you allow your flank steak to sit in a marinade in the refrigerator for the whole night before cooking, it will aid in tenderizing the meat. Dependent on the type of marinade you use, it may also add flavor to the meat, as some will become really infused with the steak.

Should You Use A Meat Tenderizer For Flank Steak?

Another way to get your flank steak not to become tough and chewy is to take a meat tenderizer to it. An ideal way is to place the steak in a food-storage plastic bag and press out any excess air. 

Seal the bag and place the steak on a sturdy countertop with a cutting board underneath it. Tenderize the meat evenly, and then you can move on to marinating it.

Final Word

As we have seen, how you cook the flank steak and the time and temperature that it is cooked have the most significant roles to play in whether your flank steak is tough and chewy or tender and juicy. 

Additionally, there is the age of the meat, and thankfully, with a few tips such as marinating it and tenderizing it, you can help avert these problems.

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