Because it's low in fat but high in flavor, flank steak is a natural choice for health-conscious cooks. The tasty, flat cut works especially well for broiling or grilling. However, there are times when you may not have access to flank steak, or you just want to switch things up. So, which flank steak alternative is best? That depends in part on what your butcher has on offer and the kind of flank steak recipes for which you need options.
1. Skirt Steak
Skirt steak comes from the "plate" of a cow, located near the abdomen. The cut is narrow, flat and boneless. This substitute for flank steak is ideal for grilling. It will also perform well under the broiler or cooked on high heat in a cast-iron skillet.
Although skirt steak differs from flank in that it is more marbled with fat, it still tends to get tough at high heat if not marinated beforehand. Even when marinating, skirt steak shouldn't be overcooked or sliced with the grain because either action will toughen it. When prepared properly, skirt steak remains tender enough to slice easily after grilling, making skirt steak the cut of choice when making fajitas, stir fries or cold steak salads.
2. Top Round
Both top round and flank steaks are sometimes called London broil steak, so it's no surprise that top round is considered a flank steak alternative. This thick cut comes from the top of the rear leg. As with the other steaks in this category, marinating before broiling or grilling top round steak promotes tenderness.
What if you dislike the taste of marinade but still worry about toughness? To create a classic London broil, Bon Appetit suggests rubbing the steak with garlic cloves, pepper and salt and letting the meat sit at room temperature for an hour. Grill the steak on medium high for seven to eight minutes on each side. Rotate the steak once after about four minutes in for each side.
3. Hanger Steak
Budget-friendly hanger steak serves as both a substitute for flank steak and a substitute for skirt steak. Also located on the underside of a cow, hanger steak is cut from the area near the loin. Hanger steak is similar to both flank and skirt steaks in that it benefits from marinating and also takes well to grilling.
Although some butchers include hanger cuts in ground beef mixes, the texture and intense flavor of hanger steak make it ideal as an entree, or use it for flank steak recipes that call for slicing the steak and mixing it with veggies and grains.
4. Tri-Tip Steak
Also known as triangle steak, this flank steak alternative comes from the top of the sirloin area. Tri-tip steak is characterized by the fat surrounding the meat along the edges. Trimming that fat is an obvious way to keep this flank steak alternative healthier.
Whether you're serving tri-tip steak whole or slicing it to use in flank steak recipes, it's best not to trim the fat until after cooking. That way, you'll encourage tenderness and juiciness in a cut that might otherwise become tough and dry.
5. Nonbeef Flank Steak Alternative Options
If you're looking for a classic flat steak entree, it's best to stick with skirt, hanger or another flank steak alternative. However, for recipes like mock steak, fajitas or stir fry, alternatives to red meat are plentiful. Among the best substitutes for flank steak are:
- Chicken breast. Marinate chicken breasts before cooking. Stir fry or saute sliced chicken with vegetables in a variety of recipes.
- Mushrooms. Choose "meaty" types like portobello or shiitake when you're looking for meatless Monday substitutions for your flank steak recipes.
- Vegetable "steaks." Thick slices of vegetables such as cauliflower or butternut squash can become convincingly steak-like when browned in a skillet or carefully cooked on the grill.
- Tofu. This soy product has become a bit of a cliche over the years, yet its denseness and sturdy shape make it a natural for grilling. Marinate each tofu slice first for optimum flavor or brush it with olive oil and seasoning prior to placing it on the grill.
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