There are some steaks that need nothing more than a little salt and pepper to bring out their beefy goodness.
Flank steak is not one of them.
This brawny cut, from the abdomen of the steer, craves the strong flavors of either a marinade or a rub. The spicier and more garlicky the better, as far as I'm concerned.
My favorite marinade- making method involves throwing a bunch of things into the blender, puréeing it until smooth and slathering it over the meat. It's so forgiving that as long as you don't overdo the salt, it's pretty hard to mess up.
I like to add about a teaspoon of coarse kosher salt per pound of meat, or a little less if I'm planning to include salty ingredients in the marinade, such as soy sauce, anchovies or capers.
Then I use something acidic for brightness (here, both lime juice and zest), something sweet to heighten the browning (brown sugar), something spicy (jalapeño and Sriracha for different types of heat), a handful of aromatics for flavor (garlic is nonnegotiable; ginger and scallions are vibrant) and oil to keep the meat from sticking to the grill. Spices, condiments, fresh and dried herbs, and various fruits and vegetables in immediate need of a home are nice, too, but not necessary.
Marinate the meat for as long as you have between now and dinner, even if that's just the 20 minutes you need to light the coals. Overnight is ideal. Leave the meat on the counter if you are marinating for an hour or less; otherwise pop it into the fridge.
If I don't have a lot of time to let the marinade really soak in, sometimes I'll save some to use as a sauce. This depends on how the marinade tastes raw. Dip your finger in and lick it clean. If you have the urge to dip again, save some to drizzle over the grilled meat. If you don't, assume (hope, pray ) that it's the kind of thing that needs to be cooked to be enjoyed.
Because flank steak is so dense, it should be sliced thinly against the grain and served juicy and rare, or at least medium-rare. Well-done flank steak is sad, dry and rubbery. (Fans of well-done meat will do better splurging on a more tender cut.) Finally, always cook more flank steak than you need for dinner that night. Leftovers piled into sandwiches, tossed into salads, rolled in tortillas, chopped into hash, and especially eaten straight out of the fridge are the best part.
Sweet and spicy grilled flank steak
Time: 30 minutes, plus marinating time
Serves 4 to 6
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped scallions
1 tablespoon peeled and finely chopped ginger
1 fresh jalapeño, seeded if desired, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Zest of 1/2 lime
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce (or to taste)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds flank steak
In a food processor, pulse together scallions, ginger, jalapeño, garlic, sugar, lime zest and juice, and Sriracha. With the motor running, pour in oil until smooth.
Season steak with salt. Place in a large bowl and pour marinade over meat. Turn to coat well with the mixture. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
When you are ready to cook the steak, heat the grill to medium-high heat. Transfer meat to the grill and cook, covered, until it reaches the desired doneness (about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare). Let rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes, then slice thinly.