13 June, 2008

Flanken ribs on the grill?

"Flanken ribs" are a cut of beef short rib from the chuck primal, usually sold as a slab rather than as individual short ribs, and containing meat from the first five ribs. They're considered a little less desirable than short ribs, and because they include the tough gristly areas around the rib they're normally sold for braising.

At the Stop & Shop supermarket in my town, though, they rarely sell flanken ribs in big thick slabs that would braise appealingly. Instead, they slice them less than half an inch thick and sell them without any type of cooking instructions at all, usually at prices starting at $4.99 a pound and up. They're not very big sellers.

Yesterday, when I walked past Stop & Shop's meat case, I noticed a bunch of one- to two-pound packages of flanken had been marked down. I checked out the packages carefully, and noticed that many of the cuts were beautifully marbled and had some potential to cook like a steak instead of by a long, slow braising. So I bought four packages and went home to light the grill.

A charcoal fire is hot and the meat was cut thin, so I kept a careful eye on the meat as it sizzled over the coals. There were a fair amount of flareups - like many rib cuts, there is a good amount of fat in flanken. Since I had a lot of pieces, I cooked them to a range of doneness, from blue (cool and purple inside, rarer than rare) to medium; I love my steak as rare as possible, but my wife likes hers warm and just pink in the middle.

I was pleasantly surprised with the results. The maximum tenderness was achieved by cooking the meat rare - blue was extremely tough, and medium was acceptable but a little on the dry side. Although they were admittedly too thin to result in a really stellar steak experience, for the price (about 99 cents a pound) they were great. And even though they weren't the most tender cuts in the meat case, they were loaded with delicious beefy flavor, very rich and satisfying.

I have seen suggestions on the web that flanken can be marinated before grilling to give a more tender and flavorful result, but I'm not sure I want to do that. There isn't anything a marinade can add to the tenderness of the cut when it's prepared correctly, and too many marinades simply overpower the natural flavor of meat rather than enhancing it.


Anonymous said...

Flaken ribs are a favorite in my home - one of the "chosen dinners" for a special occasion, as my family loves grilled meats. A must to marinate. Cannot give exact measurements - but for say 2-3 lbs of ribs would use about 1 c. soy (usually low sodium), 2-3 T either br. sugar or honey, 2 large cloves garlic chopped, maybe a shallot or two - or 1/2 onion sliced (later removed), some ginger (either fresh or dry), ~ 3 Tbs. rice vinegar, or dry wine, and 1 Tbs of Sesame oil. Mix together and place ribs and marinade in zip lock bag for at least 2 hours. Have marinated overnight, but think it turns out best between 2-6 hours. If you like spicy, can add some crushed red pepper! Remove ribs from marinade and grill. That's it, I do agree best to cook med rare to med over med hot coals - or if it's pouring rain, have cooked under the broiler!

Anonymous said...

I have a few packs of those small flanken rib I bought last night but I got caught in the rain so I plan on grilling them today.I have had some thick cut flanken ribs that turned out wonderful im not that good at cooking the thins ones but im going to take the advice on your blog & try it today I usually use a instant read themometer to tell how done my meats are but I can't use it on the thin ribs so I try to gauge it by eye

Pam p said...

I just discovered this wonderful cut of ribs. They were in a marked down package in the grocery store. I was intrigued bu the marbeling and cut. I had never cooked these before so I talked to the butcher. He suggested using a dry rub and the grilling over charcoal. I used Mario Batali's Prime Rib Porcini rub. Here's the recipe ~ 2 tablespoons sugar,
2 tablespoons Kosher salt,
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper,
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes,
¼ cup Porcini mushroom powder*,
5 garlic cloves (minced). I substituted 1 Tbs of Garlic powder for the minced and used 3 tbs of fine sugar instead of 2. Put this on both sides 2 hours prior to grilling. Grill about 4 minutes on each side. Do not leave the grill! the sugar caramalizes and gives a great thin crust. This is a favorite now. Much better than a big steak. Enjoy