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I crave the rich, beefy flavor of flank steak. It only needs to be heated through, usually an hour or two, but you can cook it for up to 24 hours to really tenderize it into something exquisite.
Flank steak is one of my favorite cuts of meat since it is full of beefy flavor and has a nice bite to it. Because I like the bite of flank steak I usually only cook it enough to heat it through, about 2 to 3 hours, but if you let it go for 10 to 12 hours it turns out really tender. I know some people who even let it go up to 24 hours.
People always ask me, how do you sous vide flank steak? It's a pretty easy process and similar to the majority of sous vide steaks you would want to cook.
You first season the steak. You can simply use just salt and pepper. In fact, I usually just use salt on a lot of mine because I always think you should salt before sous viding. But you can also put on a rub of some kind, if you want, or even use a favorite flank steak marinade that you might have.
Once you've seasoned it, put it into the sous vide bag in a single layer. If you're cooking multiple ones, you don't want too many in the pouch at one time, just want a single layer of flank steak in your bag. Once you have it in your sous vide bag, you seal it.
Set your sous vide circulator for the temperature that you want. But I usually recommend 131°F to 135°F (55°C to 57.2°C) for a medium-rare steak, 135°F to 140°F (57.2°C to 60°C) for medium and 140°F (60°C) or above for getting into the medium-well to well-done range.
I usually just do a steak-like temperature for flank steak, which is in that range. If you do want a more braised-like result, you can go to 150°F (65.6°C) or even go above that to like 165°F (73.9°C), if you want it to be really falling apart and shredded beef.
Basically, once you set your temperature, then you're going to figure out how long you want to cook it for. With a flank steak, you really just have to heat it through to make it edible.
But I really do think there's a lot of benefit to cooking it longer to tenderize it. The main reason you would use sous vide for flank steak is to break it down, and you can break it down for as long as you want with the extreme end of the range about 48 hours.
I normally do somewhere between 12 and 24 hours, that's the sweet spot for me. It still retains some of the nice bite to it that I like in my flank steak. However, you can go longer if you really, really want to tenderize it.
Like I said, there's nothing wrong with just heating it through. But I mainly sous vide flank steak when I want to tenderize it a little bit.
Once it's been tenderized, pull it out of the sous vide machine and cool it off before searing. You don't always have to cool off steaks before searing but flank steaks are usually pretty thin.
So, I like to set it on the counter for about 5 to 10 minutes. Sometimes I'll even put it in an ice water bath after sous vide for another 5 to 10 minutes before I throw it on the grill or in a pan to really give it a good sear.
Once it's seared. You are ready to serve it and eat it. That's all there is to using sous vide to make a flank steak.
So why do you sous vide a flank steak? There are many reasons why I recommend sous viding a flank steak. And it's mainly because you can tenderize it over time. It is something that is really hard to do with traditional cooking.
There are a few different braises you can do for flank steak that will make it very tender, but in general, when you sear a flank steak, you have to cut it thinly across the grain so it's not chewy. That's what you have to do if you grill it or if you pan fry it.
With sous vide, you can cook it for an extended period of time to really break down some of those muscle fibers and tenderize it. What it means is you have a more tender, a more buttery flank steak which can be really, really unique and really, really tasty. So that's why I recommend using sous vide for flank when you do want to tenderize it.
If you do want more of a traditional preparation with a lot of bite to it, then the sous vide process really doesn't add too much. Most flank steaks are only a half inch to an inch thick. They're quite thin so doing a pan fry or a grill works pretty good with it.
I have sous vided to them for 1 or 2 hours just to heat it through. But in general, I recommend sous vide when you are doing these longer extended cooks.
The first thing is to determine what are you trying to accomplish? You have to decide that before you can figure out how long it takes.Three Main Things You can do with a Flank Steak:
Judging on a normal flank steak thickness, to heat it through it's going to usually take 2 to 3 hours for the steak.
If you want to make sure that it's 100% safe, maybe you're feeding it to someone who's immuno-compromised or someone who's pregnant, then you might want to pasteurize it.
Pasteurization takes a little bit longer. You can find those times on the sous vide pasteurization times by thickness charts.
But at those times you're going to kill all the bacteria in the flank steak that could make you sick. So it's a good way to ensure the safety of your meat, especially if it's been blade tenderized or you're serving it to someone that does have a weakened immune system.
The final goal is to tenderize it. If you want to break down the muscle fibers in your sous vide flank steak, then you're starting to not worry about the thickness as much. Because now we're talking about a cook time anywhere between 8 hours to 48 hours, depending on how tender you want it.
I usually go for about 12 to 24 hours, that's right in my sweet spot. Some people do like going up to 2 days, so the meat really breaks apart. I enjoy sous vide flank steak but I don't cook it too long because I like still having some of that bite. This allows me to still enjoy some of that more traditional flank steak texture.
So there are some options for figuring out how long you need to sous vide a flank steak.
Sealing a flank steak for sous vide is really easy. You can use any sort of vacuum sealer. I usually use my chamber vacuum sealer because it's what I have on hand. But you can simply use a Ziploc freezer bag with the water displacement method, and it will work perfectly fine as well.
Remember that when heating it through or pasteurizing it, it's all dependent on the thickness of the meat. So when you put your flank steak in the bag, make sure it's a single layer in the sous vide bag. Otherwise you're increasing that thickness, which in turn is going to increase the cook times exponentially.
Keep it in mind if you do want to sous vide something like a rolled flank steak or a beef roulade you're increasing the thickness and those cook times will go up dramatically to heat it through or pasteurize it.
These techniques are delicious when sous vided, it's just a matter of adjusting the length of time to leave the rolled-up flank in the bath water for a long enough time.
So, remember, with a single layer you should be good to go with the majority of times presented by a reliable source on the internet.
What's the best way to sear a sous vided flank steak after you're done sous viding it? There are a few different things that you can do. For me to get the best sear on a flank steak, I do try to chill it at least a little bit or at least let it cool off after the sous vide process.
For some thicker cuts you don't have to cool them as much because you're not going to increase the core temperature at all.
But with a flank steak, it's already on the pretty thin side. So if you just take it out of the water bath when perfectly cooked at say 131°F (55°C) and throw it directly into a hot pan or on a hot grill to sear it, you're going to increase the temperature and the sous vide flank steak is going to become overcooked a little bit.
It should still be really good if you're quick about it, but when you sear sous vided food it will raise the core temperature some.
So I like to leave it on the counter in the bag for probably 10 minutes to cool off a little bit, and sometimes I'll even throw it in cold tap water, or chill it in an ice bath for another 5 to 10 minutes to bring the temperature down even more.
Then I can dry it off, throw it on the hot pan or put it on the grill to give it a little bit deeper seared crust on it. That flavorful crusty outside is something that I like for the majority of my sous vided steaks and meats.
Where can you get high quality flank steak? I always recommend going to your local butcher that could be at your grocery store, it could be a standalone butcher, or maybe you have local ranches.
I always highly recommend trying to support your local community as much as you can, especially these days. It's a lot more important than maybe it was before the pandemic to keep these small businesses going.
But, if you don't have any good butchers or farms around you, there are some really good online places where you can get flank steak. My favorites are Snake River Farms, Allen Brothers, and Porter Road.
I've had relationships with all 3 of them, they've either supported the ISVA Sous Vide Conferences or they've had me do work for them. So, I am predisposed to like them, but their products are amazing.
I really liked the flavor and texture of meats from all 3 companies. Since they have very different price points, depending on what you're trying to accomplish you can turn to the different ones. They should be able to hook you up with the type of meat and the quality of meat you're looking for.
Can you sous vide the frozen flank steak? The answer is yes! I cook from frozen all the time as part of my sous vide meal prep.
You can use my Sous Vide Cooking Times by Thickness charts that have a cook from frozen column included.
Normally sous viding frozen flank steak adds about 50% cook time for your heating through or pasteurizing. If you're cooking it long-term to really tenderize it, then it probably only adds an hour or so since you are already at a 12, 24, or 48 hours cook time. With that long of a sous vide time, it doesn't make too much of a difference.
I was recently asked, "How can you use sous vide flank steak in your meal prep?" and I thought it was a great question. I love flank steak. It's a very flavorful piece of meat that works really well with food prep.
To use my flank steak, I'll prepare it like normal. In other words, I'll season it, put it in a sous vide pouch and cook it usually at 131°F (55°C) for 12 to 24 hours. If you're still unsure about the span of hours given, check out my Why the Range? Sous Vide Times Explained article.
Once the flank steak is sous vided, then I chill it down in the bag, and put it in the refrigerator. At this point it'll last in the fridge for several weeks, which is great because it has been pasteurized.
Then when I want to use it, it's already been cooked long enough to be tenderized so I can either just throw it on the grill or throw it in a hot pan and sear it back to temperature.
Another option is to reheat it in the sous vide machine at any temperature below what I cooked it at originally. If I'm going to sear it on a hot pan, I'll usually throw it in the sous vide machine at like 100°F (37.8°C) just to bring it up and heat it. Once warmed up, then I can dry it off and sear it those last 30 degrees or so to really put a good crust on it.
That's how I like to handle a sous vide flank steak and it works very smoothly. It is a great part of my weekly sous vide meal prep when I do use it. You get all that beefy, wonderful flavor from a long-cooked piece of meat. But you can reheat it very quickly on a busy weeknight when you might want to just get dinner on the table right away.
"Can you marinate a flank steak before you cook it sous vide?", this is a question I get all the time. A lot of people marinate flank steaks because this meat is a traditionally tough cut. The acids and enzymes found in many marinades break down the tough portions in the meat, making it more tender. Since flank steaks are thin, marinades work even better with them.
Many people also ask, "Can I apply the marinade while I'm sous viding the flank steak?" The answer is, if you treat your meat like you normally do, then it works completely fine with sous vide.
Take the flank steak and throw it in your marinade for as long as you normally would. Then remove it from the marinade like you normally would before cooking it. Now place the meat in a sous vide bag and sous vide it. You should be good to go.
You don't have to worry as much about the tenderization aspects of a marinate, because with sous vide you can cook it longer if needed to break down the flank steak a little bit more.
Remember, you should remove the meat from the marinade before sous viding. Most of the marinades work with raw meat. They don't work as well with cooked meat or at high temperatures.
So if you take your flank steak, put it in a sous vide bag, pour in the marinade, seal it and throw it in the machine right away, the marinade is really not going to affect it in the same way that it normally does.
So feel free to use your marinade. Just remove the flank steak from it before you start sous viding it and you'll be in for a delicious meal.
My Can You Marinate Food While It Is Sous Viding? article provides a deeper look at types of marinades and sous viding.
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