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Great Aunt Karen's Grilled Flank Steak

Updated: May 2

Like a lot of people, many of my recipes are handed down from family members. My grilled flank steak is an all-time family favorite, served up at family gatherings in the summer for as long as I can remember. My Grandma M. used to make it for summer cookouts and there was a running joke that she always kept the grill too hot, but somehow it came out perfect every time. There was a good char on the outside and cooked medium to medium rare on the inside. The taste of this steak brings me back to happy, bustling summers at both my grandparents' house and my house growing up.

The recipe is actually from my Great Aunt Karen, my Grandma M's younger sister. Every time I make this for someone for the first time, they ask for the recipe. If you ask anyone on that side of my family about flank steak, I think they start to drool a little bit.

A major benefit of this flank steak: It is perfect for a crowd. Is there anything worse than a summer cookout when you're sweating over a grill flipping burgers or hotdogs while everyone else is enjoying a cool cocktail and appetizers? This flank steak eliminates that problem and is far more impressive than a burger, but allows you to engage with your guests and not sit down to eat with hair plastered to your grill-induced sweaty face. Slicing it thin helps to stretch the cut of meat for more people.

It also makes incredible leftover steak sandwiches or tacos and the marinade makes enough for 2 large cuts of meat. The key is letting it marinade for at least 12 hours, though 24-36 is best.

The recipe below is written exactly as it was given to me from my mom who got it from her aunt. Trust the process and you will not be disappointed! I hope you love this as much as anyone who has ever tried it. Let me know what you think!

Edit: I wrote up this post a few months ago knowing this was one of the recipes I definitely wanted to share. I decided to finally post it the week before Memorial Day weekend because it is such a great cookout main. Great Aunt Karen just so happens to be swinging through Nashville within a week and I just thought that was perfect timing. I had no idea she'd be coming and I love that I'm sharing this homage to her on the heels of seeing her!

Great Aunt Karen's Grilled Flank Steak
(Makes ~ 5-6 servings)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Idle time: 12-24 hours
Cook time: 16-20 minutes
Great Aunt Karen's Flank Steak
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  • 2.5 lb. flank steak

  • 1 C. ketchup

  • 1 C. Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 C. brewed coffee (brew it strong!)

  • 1/4 C. butter

  • 1/4 C. lemon juice

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • 1 tsp. sugar

  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional or to taste)


  1. Add all the ingredients (except flank steak) to a saucepan and bring to a simmer or low to medium-low heat.

  2. Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for about 10 minutes.

  3. Pierce the steak several times all over with a fork then either in a large zip-top bag or in a deep pan (like a cake pan), pour marinade over steak.

  4. Allow to marinade in fridge for at least 12 hours. 24-36 hours is best. Rotate the steak periodically to ensure marinade gets all of the steak.

  5. Remove steak from refrigerator. Turn on grill and allow to preheat to 400-425°.

  6. Grill steak 8-10 minutes per side for medium rare (will depend on thickness of the steak). Make sure to close the lid while cooking. Allow to rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.

  7. Cut the steak against the grain into 1/8"-1/4" slices.

*Recipe notes + Variations*

This recipe is the perfect grilled food to serve to a crowd. The amount of marinade should be enough for two 2.5lb. flank steaks or one larger one. Depending on who you are feeding and what you are serving with it, a 2.5lb steak may feed as many as 8 people.

The cayenne pepper is totally optional. Add more, less or none at all to your preference.

Piercing the steak with a fork before adding the marinade may sound weird, and perhaps it is. But this is how my mom has always done it and how my Aunt Karen wrote the recipe. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Thinly slicing the meat is good for two things: it makes for a more tender bite and it helps stretch one cut of meat for more people.

Leftovers of this are excellent. Make steak sandwich sliders with some horseradish mayo and provolone cheese on King Hawaiian rolls. Or steak tacos with some pickled red onions and guac. Dice it up and make burrito bowls. There are so many delicious options!

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