I had the opportunity to sample some flank steaks courtesy of California’s Hearst Ranch. Some background: Hearst Ranch is made up of thousands of acres of lush California grazing land surrounding San Simeon, the former outpost for the late media mogul William Randolph Hearst. He owned about 250,000 acres (that’s nearly 400 square miles!) of California shoreline at one time. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west, and the coastal mountain range on the east, this temperate climate is Hearst’s home – the largest single producer of all natural, grass fed, grass finished beef in the US.
Interesting sidebar – the other side of this mountain range backs up against the US Army installation, Camp Roberts – where GI’s during WW2 trained for invading Japan, lugging supplies on their backs, and with pack mules, up and down the mountains.
What is flank steak? It’s a cut of beef cut from the abdominal muscles of a cow. It is so lean that unless properly prepared, it can be a might tough, though still wonderfully flavorful. Here in the US, we have most often seen it used/sold/served for the popular Mexican cuisine inspired dish, “fajitas”, but also sliced and rolled to be served as a London Broil “steak.” It is also commonly used by Chinese style restaurants as their cut of choice for stir fry preparations.
The French are fond of flank steak, where it is called “bavette” and it is often served in cafes and bistros after being seared quickly with shallots in a hot skillet, and served rare.
The Hearst Ranch people were kind enough to furnish me with two @20 ounce portions of the steaks, they came individually sealed, frozen, and accompanied by a small block of dry ice. The retail cost for this package is $49, plus $19 for shipping. With approximately 44 pre-cooked ounces of meat in the package, that works out to $24 per pound, about what you would expect to pay in any high-end butcher shop.
Nearly all the recipes one can find for flank steak call for nearly the same preparations, a long marinade, followed by a short, high heat, cook.
I chose a fairly standard marinade. One could modify this easily to ‘fajita seasoning’, by adding herbs and spices as you prefer.
- 2 medium onions
- 1 T butter
- 2 T oil
- 1 t lemon juice
- 1 t salt
- ½ t black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic
Optional – a few drops of hot sauce
Melt the butter in a skillet, slice the onions very thinly, and sauté until they are clear. Whisk in the other ingredients, and pour over your cut of beef, and cover it. Marinades should be allowed to ‘act’ at least 4 hours, and overnight is even better.
In today’s test, I marinated for 10 hours. Here’s what the cut(s) looked like after marinating.
In the past, when making fajitas, or preparing carne asada, we have taken similar cuts of meat and seared them quickly on the grill, I decided to try three different means of cooking for this cut. I broiled some as I would for fajitas. I rolled it into a roast, and cooked a piece of it in that manner, and after I rolled it, but before cooking, I sliced off one end in a 1 ½ cut, and cooked it flat, under the broiler, as a “London broil” type steak.
The results among the three methods were not uneven. Spoiler alert, I have to say this is some of the most delicious home-cooked beef I can ever remember having. While my prep was more than adequate, I imagine a better cook could make this have a melt-in-your-mouth beef experience.
The “roast” was cooked at 350 for 30 minutes. The “carne cut”, under the broiler, 3 minutes per side. The “London broil” (looks like a prime filet, doesn’t it?), 5 minutes per side under the broiler. (2nd shelf position). Both the roast and carne cut were cooked to medium rare at these times and temps, the “London broil” was bleu rare. The alledged online “experts” who talk about the toughness of this cut have never sampled Hearst’s beef. There is no way anyone could describe this meat as “tough.”
All were fabulous.
And just look at how the “London Broil/Filet” turned out. You should have tasted it!