- Associated Press - Thursday, October 18, 2012

So you think you know steaks? Maybe you do.

The truth is, you probably really know only the particular cuts you buy over and over again. That’s good, but there is a world of great beef out there to explore. Many of those cuts — butchers are creating new ones all the time — are far more versatile than you think.

You could spend ages learning the cuts of beef and the various names for each, but I think it’s better to simply pick a cut you haven’t prepared often at home and start playing around with it. That was how I learned to love flank steak.

First, the basics. Flank steaks are lean cuts from the rear side of the cow and are characterized by rich, deep beefy flavor and a slightly chewy texture. London broils traditionally were made using flank steaks, though any of the leaner, less-tender cuts often are substituted today.

Flank steaks are easy to identify by sight because they are flat and have a long, horizontal grain that runs the length of the meat. These steaks are meant to be briefly grilled or broiled to rare or medium-rare, then sliced thinly across the grain. The result is deliciously beefy and substantial.

Flank steaks also love to be marinated. Because they have a heartier texture, they can handle more acidic marinades for longer periods, even overnight.

When shopping for flank steaks, note that some grocers will label them “London broil.” Just note that they also sometimes label other cuts as “London broil,” too. When you’re in doubt, it’s best to ask.

For the weeknight home cook, flank steaks are the perfect cut. They can be tossed with a marinade the night before and left in the refrigerator until dinner, and they cook in just minutes on the grill or under the broiler. As with all meat, flank steak should rest for 5 to 10 minutes after cooking before slicing to let the juices redistribute.

BALSAMIC-PEPPER FLANK STEAK WITH GRILLED PEARS AND BLUE CHEESE

For extra flavor, the marinade can be mixed with beef broth, then boiled and reduced until thick (while the steaks cook), then drizzled over the finished dish.

Start to finish: 30 minutes (plus marinating)

Servings: 4

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

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