So you think you know steaks? And maybe you do. But truth is, you probably only really know the particular cuts you buy over and over again. That's good, but there's a world of great beef out there to explore. And many of those cuts (and by the way, butchers are creating new ones all the time) are far more versatile than you think.
You could spend ages learning the different cuts of beef and the various names for each (there isn't nearly as much naming standardization as you would think). But I think it's better to simply pick a cut you haven't often prepared at home and start playing around with it. That's how I learned to love flank steak.
First, the basics. Flank steaks are lean cuts from the rear side of the cow and are characterized by rich, deep beefy flavor and a slightly chewy texture. Traditionally, London broils were made using flank steaks, though today any of the leaner, less tender cuts often are substituted.
Flank steaks are easy to identify by sight because they are flat and have a long, horizontal grain that runs the length of the meat. These steaks are meant to be briefly grilled or broiled to rare or medium-rare, then thinly sliced across the grain. The result is deliciously beefy and substantial.
Flank steaks also love to be marinated. And because they have a heartier texture, they can handle more acidic marinades for longer, even overnight.
When shopping for flank steaks, note that some grocers will label them "London broil." Just note that they also sometimes label other cuts as "London broil" too. So when in doubt, it's best to ask.
For the weeknight home cook, flank steaks are the perfect cut. They can be tossed with a marinade the night before and left in the refrigerator until dinner. And they cook in just minutes on the grill or under the broiler. As with all meat, flank steak should rest for 5 to 10 minutes after cooking before slicing to let the juices redistribute.