You can basically prepare flank steak in 2 ways on the barbecue. You can grill it directly at a high temperature. This is easy to do with thinner pieces of meat or at a lower temperature with slightly thicker parts.
We are going to show you how to smoke a thick flank steak low and slow for the maximum amount of flavor.
What is flank steak
Flank steak is a long piece of meat from the cow’s flank. That’s the part between the buttocks and the breast of the cow. In England, they call it a London Broil. In Australia, they call it a Jiffie steak. In France and the rest of Europe, it’s called bavette. Flank steak is generally sold somewhere between 35 and 45 cm (13 to 18 inches). But a whole flank steak can be as long as 1 meter (3 feet) long.
Flank steak is stiff and coarse meat with great taste. It is very lean meat that doesn’t benefit the tenderness. If the meat is cut correctly, you will hardly notice it.
Do you like beef but not the fat in a ribeye or prime rib. Then this is the meat for you. An excellent alternative to flank steak is skirt steak that has the same structure but is slightly fatter.
If you buy flank steak from the butcher, ask for meat from grain-fed beef. Meat from grass-fed cows is delicious. And the taste is more complex and a real treat for the beef lover. But grain-fed beef has a more consistent quality due to the controlled diet.
Grain-fed meat also often contains more intramuscular fat. Those are the thin white lines that run through the flesh. This fat provides juiciness and tender mouthfeel. Flank steak is not very fat in itself, so it can use that little bit extra.
For these reasons, we recommend grain-fed meat for bavette. Otherwise, it might be disappointing, and you blame flank steak. We like to give this beautiful meat a fair chance.
How to prepare your flank steak on the barbecue
You can basically prepare bavette in 2 ways on the barbecue. You can grill it directly at a high temperature. This is easy to do with thinner pieces of meat or at a lower temperature with slightly thicker parts.
We like to use a reversed sear. This way, you first let the meat gently indirectly heat up to 45-48°C (113 to 118F), after which you grill it to a perfect 55°C (130F). In our opinion, this is the best way, especially with the somewhat thicker parts of the flank steak. During the first low-temperature cooking, the connective tissue is given time to break down, making it more tender.
We like to add a block of smoke wood during heating for a subtle smoke flavor. At that time, you are really barbecuing, according to American standards.
The meat is best from rare to medium-rare. Preferably no further, because then the meat quickly becomes a lot tougher. Still tasty, but then you really have to work.
Season the flank steak
The meat has a very coarse structure, which makes it ideal for marinating. The marinate really reaches deep. If you use a marinade with a little acid, it ensures that the connective tissue in the meat is broken down. This makes the meat more tender.
An excellent marinade for bavette is chimichurri. The acid provides extra tenderness, and the flavors perfectly match the type of meat. Make sure you pat the surface of the meat dry with some kitchen paper before the meat goes on the barbecue. You can also serve chimichurri at the table with the flank steak.
If you want to pay more attention to a beautiful exterior, you can use a lovely dry rub as we are going to do now. You apply the herbs and spices 45 minutes in advance. You see that the meat starts to “sweat” after which the salt in the dry rub is absorbed by the meat. The rest of the herbs then stick better to the surface and will soon provide a so-called bark.
Smoking flank steak
We are going to prepare the meat in 2 phases. First, we are going to smoke at a temperature between 110 and 130°C. We do it on a kamado, but it is also effortless on a Mastertouch or, of course, on a real smoker.
If you have a gas grill with several burners, you turn one of the burners on, and the other you leave off. Wait until the grill is about 110°C (230F). The flank steak then goes on the cooler side of the barbecue to a core temperature of 55°C (130F), after which you grill it over the hot burner.
In our case, we use oak as smoke wood. This ensures a strong smoke flavor, but this type of meat can have that. We place 2 blocks of about 3 cm (1 inch). On a gas barbecue, you use wood chips and a smoke tube.
Ensure the barbecue is at a stable temperature before you place the smoked wood and throw the meat on the grid. Insert a thermometer into the meat and close the lid. In the first phase, the bavette should be cooked to about 48°C (118F). This can take from half an hour to 45 minutes.
Then you take the bavette off the barbecue and heat it up a lot. Toss some extra charcoal into the kettle. Open all gas burners or take the plate setter out of the kamado like we do and open all slides.
If you also have such a colossal flank steak as we do, you first cut it into smaller pieces. That is more convenient while grilling and turning.
The meat can be put back on the grill for the last phase if the barbecue and the grid are nice and hot. Now keep a close eye on everything. It can quickly go wrong. You will not get the so-called flare-ups because there is hardly any fat in the meat. But it would be a shame if the outside burned.
A few lovely grill marks are allowed, and that looks very nice, but do not exaggerate. Burned meat is not tasty and also unhealthy. Turn the meat regularly to see how it goes. The bavette is ready with a core temperature of max 55°C (130F). Now you can let the bavette rest for 10 minutes to redistribute the juices.
When the flank steak is ready
You let the steak rest and then comes the most critical step. The meat will become tender if you cut the meat at the right angle to the muscles. What does that mean? Meat consists of long strands of muscles. With a flank steak, you can see these strands very well because the muscles are thick. They don’t call it working meat for nothing.
You will have to bite these muscles through with your teeth if you cut with the direction of the muscle. If you cut across the muscles, you will cut them shorter. So you bite between them. As a result, the meat got more tender.
If you started with a smaller flank steak that you have prepared in its entirety on the barbecue, it is useful to first cut the meat in half so that you get parts of about 10 to 12 centimeters (4 inches). Then cut the beef into half-centimeter (1/4 inch) slices. Serve the steak with a tasty chimichurri, and you are done.
And that’s it. Easy enough. Preparing a flank steak on the barbecue is not tricky. The biggest trick is to take the meat off the grid precisely on time and cut it perpendicular to the wire.