WHY IT WORKS
Butterflying the flank steak allows you to stuff it more easily. Butterflying with the grain ensures that the steak will be sliced against the grain into serving portions.
Securing the rolled flank steak with a combination of butcher’s twine and wooden skewers helps the stuffing and steak hold together as they cook on the grill.
Building a crust on the pinwheels over a hot fire before transferring them to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking prevents the cheesy filling from leaking out.
Flank steak is one of those cuts of meat that’s custom-built for the grill. When cooked right, it has a mild, beefy flavor and lean texture, with just the right amount of chew when you slice it thinly across the grain. Butterfly that flank steak and stuff it with flavor-packed ingredients like Italian cold cuts, cheeses, and punchy condiments, and you’re really in business. A nice flank steak pinwheel is one of the fastest-cooking and most impressive-looking pieces of meat you can throw on the grill, the kind of thing to pull out when you want to impress the neighbors.
Stuffing and grilling a flank steak is not all that difficult, but it does take a bit of know-how to ensure that you butterfly it cleanly and in the right direction (open it up the wrong way and rather than tender slices cut against the grain, you’ll end up with a steak so stringy and tough you’d be better off using it as a doorstop).
Flank steak has long since moved from being an inexpensive economy cut to being one of the most desirable pieces of meat for the grill, costing almost as much as any of the four high-end steaks you should know.
When shopping for flank steak, look for an even, deep red color with a fair amount of fine fat running along the length of the muscles. Poorly butchered flank steak will either have a thin membrane still attached to parts of it, or will have had that membrane removed so aggressively that its surface has been shredded. Look for smoothly textured pieces without nicks or gouges.
A standard whole flank steak can weigh anywhere between two and four pounds. Plan on cooking a pound of flank steak for every three diners, a pound and a half if your friends are as hungry as mine.
Step 1: Trim Your Steak
Trim off any large bits of excess fat and silverskin using a sharp boning knife. Smaller swaths are totally fine. Since we’re going to be rolling the steak into a clean cylinder, square off the edges using your boning knife. The scraps can be saved for another use (like breakfast steak and eggs!).
Arrange the steak so that the grain runs parallel to the front edge of your cutting board.
Step 2: Start Butterflying
Holding your free hand flat against the top of the steak, insert the knife along the trimmed edge of the steak and start slicing horizontally through the middle. The goal is to work the knife through, cutting with the grain, from one side to the other, leaving the back edge intact like the spine of a book.
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