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Recipes Recipe: Flank steak is a great grilling option for beginners and experts alike

Flank should be cut against the grain and into thin slices.

Danielle Matar/The Globe and Mail

There are certain recipes and cooking skills that you need to get through life unscathed, including being able to make a decent cup of coffee and knowing how to scramble eggs.

Being able to grill a steak definitely ranks up there, so I, Emma, took it upon myself to teach my teenage son how to barbecue. He needed to make a meal for a school project, and I wanted to impart some ideas about marinades and flavour – basically, to show him how to make a steak he'll enjoy when he's no longer a 16-year-old ready to inhale anything in front of him.

The challenge this week was to create a recipe for a steak that could feed a family or a crowd – one with enough flavour to have some wow factor but that doesn't break the bank. It had to be easy enough for a beginner but also worthy of a barbecue expert.

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The answer is a flank steak. Flank steaks are easy to grill, and their flavour can be boosted with a quick marinade or rub. This marinade can be made ahead and will keep in the fridge for weeks. (Science has proved that marinades don't actually tenderize the meat, but they do increase the savoury taste.) Flanks freeze well, and if you add some of your marinade before you put them in the freezer, you will have a ready-to-go meal for another night. Just remember to thinly slice flank steaks against the grain.

Flank steak is very versatile. It can be served with roasted vegetables, rolled up in a tortilla with some salsa or picked up in an Asian lettuce wrap. And on the off chance you have leftovers, it can be gently warmed with some Worcestershire sauce and plunked into a steak sandwich.

My son's meal worked out perfectly, and I think we definitely deserve an A this term.

Basics for barbecue success:

  • Have a spray bottle of water on hand to douse flames.
  • Have a mister filled with oil for the grill.
  • Use long-handled tongs.
  • Use a quick-read thermometer to ensure success.
  • Heat the grill to high for steaks, but lower for chicken; for larger pieces of meat, turn the middle burner off.

Editor's note

An earlier version of this recipe incorrectly called for 11 ½ lb or 750 g of flank steak. In fact, it is 1.5 lb.

Servings: 4

Cottage Country Grilled Flank Steak

1 1.5-lb (750 g) flank steak

Marinade

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp chopped garlic

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp fresh herbs of choice (I like tarragon)

3 tbsp olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Spicy Mustard Butter

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 tbsp grainy mustard

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp cracked black pepper

Pinch chili flakes

Salt to taste

1/4 tsp grated lime zest

Alternative Serving 1: Fajitas

Tortillas, either corn or flour

Thinly sliced steak

Avocado salsa – 1 chopped avocado, 1 chopped tomato, jalapeno to taste, 2 green onions, cilantro, lime juice and zest to taste, salt

Or purchased salsa and sliced avocados

Lime crema (1/2 cup sour cream, 2 tbsp lime juice and 2 tbsp chopped cilantro)

Alternative Serving 2: Lettuce wraps

Iceberg or Boston lettuce

Thinly sliced steak

Thin rice noodles or rice

Slivered green onion

Slivered cucumber

1/4 cup hoisin sauce mixed with 1 tsp sriracha sauce

Alternative salty, spicy, sweet sauce:

1/2 cup fish sauce

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp lime juice

1 tsp grated ginger

Chopped chilies or sriracha to taste

Method

Beat the butter with the mustards, black pepper, chili flakes, salt and lime zest. Spoon onto plastic wrap and roll tightly into a log. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap to seal the log. Refrigerate until solid – about 30 minutes.

Score one side of the flank steak. Whisk together the mustard, garlic, vinegar, herbs and olive oil. Pour all over the steak and marinate for two hours at room temperature or overnight if refrigerated.

Preheat the grill to high. Season the steak with salt and pepper. Grill it for 4 to 5 minutes on the first side and 3 minutes on the second side for rare – 125 F on a quick-read thermometer. Let the steak rest on a carving board for 5 minutes.

Slice the steak thinly and against the grain and serve with rounds of the spicy mustard butter. Leftover butter can be frozen.

Alternatively, you can serve with grilled vegetables of your choice.

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