When I shop at our beloved local butcher (Sepulveda Meat & Provisions in San Diego), I often get a little sticker shock by how much high-quality meats cost. So I'll often go for one of the cheaper cuts and eat it over a few days.
This particular cheaper cut is called flap steak. You might not have heard of flap meat, and it certainly doesn't sound upscale. But this is a hidden gem you definitely want to discover.
I'll admit that I'm not always the biggest fan of marinating a steak. The reason is that you buy an expensive high-quality steak to be able to taste that wonderful beef flavor. And aside from flavor, it shouldn't need to be tenderized. However, certain cuts (e.g., flap, flank, hanger, tri tip) are perfect candidates for taking on a flavorful marinade.
What Is Flap Steak and Is It Tender?
Flap meat comes from the "short sirloin" section in the belly of the cow. Flap is usually a long, narrow cut, with excellent marbling. It's cheap. It cooks quickly. It has a lot of flavor and has so many uses. Flap steak gets even better the next day after cooking.
It's not a particularly tender cut of meat, with long muscle fibers. But that makes it the perfect cut to marinate, and use in lots of dishes that don't require premium steak.
Making a Tough Cut Tender
Just because a cut of meat is tough doesn't mean every bite can't be deliciously tender. There are a few ways to help make it tender.
- An acidic marinade.
- Meat tenderizer (either an enzyme powder or a mallet or other spiky tool).
- Cooking it hot and fast.
- Slicing properly (against the grain). I highly recommend a granton blade slicing knife (affiliate) that will slice meat like butter.
For this recipe, we're basically doing everything except the tenderizer, although olive oil is slightly acidic and will help tenderize very slightly.
The Shallot, Garlic and Rosemary Marinade
The marinade is the secret weapon for this steak recipe. It tenderizes and adds a flavor that complements the beef. This particular recipe makes a paste, rather than a liquid. Every experienced chef seems to have a go-to marinade. So feel free experiment and to add whatever marinade ingredients you like, or remove what you don't.
Simply combine the shallots, garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. You can use a food processor to make a puree, but I used a hand immersion blender (affiliate) so it wasn't quite as smooth, which is totally fine. Just know that the rosemary doesn't get as chopped and the flavor will be more subtle, which isn't a bad thing.
How Long to Marinate Steak?
The general rule is: The longer you marinate, the stronger the flavors will be. Since this is a strongly flavored marinade, you can marinate the steak for as little as an hour, but I really prefer to let it sit on the meat overnight. This allows the marinade to penetrate and tenderize the flap steak. You can also tenderize the meat with a spiky tenderizing tool (affiliate) to aid the marinade and tenderize the steak even more.
Top Tips for Grilling Flap Steak
- Flap steak is definitely best grilled, but can be seared in a heavy cast-iron skillet.
- Study the grain before cooking so you know which direction you need to slice against.
- I usually wipe off the excess marinade before grilling as it can burn.
- Gill for about 4 to 6 minutes per side over high direct heat, or until the internal temp reaches 130° F for medium-rare.
- Medium-rare is the sweet spot. Rare is not enough for this cut and it can be chewy. Too cooked and it can get tough as well.
- Don't be afraid of a little char on the grilled meat. Just not on the whole steak; it gives it another flavor element and smokiness.
- Rest it uncovered for 10-15 minutes, then slice against the grain. Slicing against the grain cuts those long muscle fibers for a better texture when served.
Meal Inspiration from This 3-Pound Flap Steak
One steak. Six delicious meals.
- Steak and potatoes with grilled veggies.
- Steak tacos with avocado, fresh salsa and pickled red onions.
- Fajitas: Sautée up some onions and bell peppers in some oil with a dash of cumin and a pinch of chili powder.
- Steak quesadillas with tortillas, cheddar, Monterey Jack, avocado and pico de gallo.
- Steak and eggs for breakfast (or dinner).
- Steak salad with a fresh heirloom tomato salad or arugula with a lemon vinaigrette.
- 2 to 3 pound flap steak
- 2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium shallot
- 4 garlic cloves
- 3 Tbsp. rosemary
- ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Make the marinade by blending all ingredients in food processor, blender or hand immersion blender.
- Season the steak with plenty of Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Coat the steak on all sides with the marinade and let sit for at least one hour, but preferably 12 hours before grilling.
- Prepare the grill for high-heat cooking.
- Wipe excess marinade from the meat (if preferred), then place the flap steak over direct heat and grill for about 4 to 6 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 130° F for medium-rare or 140° F for medium.
- Remove from the grill and rest on a cutting board for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing against the grain to serve.
- You can substitute flank steak or skirt steak and use the same marinade.
Special Tools & Equipment Used
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