Mama Kay's Famous Flank Steak

Mama Kay's Famous Flank Steak

Do you have that one recipe from your childhood that you just can't get enough of? That friends and neighbors constantly request when they come over for dinner?  Well, this flank steak recipe was my all-time favorite grilled dish that my mom made for us, but only on special occasions.  It's one of the very few meals we had where my dad was equally as involved in the process.  Mom was the marinade queen and dad was the grill master. They seemed to have it down to a science, and it turned out amazing EVERY SINGLE TIME!

Flank Steak | Pops Q Tool BBQ Grilling Multi-Tool

For years I was never able to make it as good as she could (maybe because it was cooked with a pinch of special motherly love!). But over the years, and with a little a lot of practice, I think I might stand a chance now.  I'll save you some trial and error by sharing some of my top mistakes that have made this just your average dinner. It's super simple and, as I found out, getting the meat tenderized from the butcher first is the key to making it mouth-watering tender.  Mistake #1 - Skip Tenderizing Step. I'm not sure if it's laziness or I just didn't want to ask the butcher for help, but I have made this mistake far too many times. Seriously though, you really need to ask the butcher to tenderize it before leaving the store. It will make the difference of a ho-hum flank steak, to a DANG! that's-the-best-darn-steak-I've-ever-had! 

As much as I try to keep this true to my mom's original recipe I still find a few modifications are needed for my diet.  That's the beauty of it though -- you can make small tweaks with the ingredients in the marinade and the flavor rolls with it.   You can't go wrong with a nice piece of tenderized (have I said this already?!?) beef and a delicious marinade. There's is a little bit of planning involved here because you're going to want to let it marinade for 24 hours before grilling. Then, when it's ready, just make sure your grill master doesn't over cook it - Mistake #2. 

So let's get this flank steak grilling party started:

Step 1: Pick a nice piece of flank steak.  Since flank steak is a bit expensive I try to save this meal for special occasions.  Plus, my guests have been known to eat seconds, thirds, and fourths so I buy more than I usually would for other meals, and I rarely have left overs. That adds up pretty quickly.  I prefer organic beef but that is sometimes hard to find depending on where you live.  Now, take that piece of steak up to the butcher counter and ask them to run it through the tenderizer ONCE! Mistake #3 - It's Too Tender! I insisted that it needed to go through twice and the butcher (although he looked at me like I was an idiot) ran it through twice. This will pulverize the meat and all you're left with is ground beef spread ALL over the butcher shop. Once is enough!  If you're short on time, go finish your shopping and then come back to the counter to pick up your beautifully tenderized steak.  But, mistake #4 - Forgetfulness. Don't forget to go pick it up!

Step 2: Check which ingredients you have on hand and pick up those needed while getting the steak. Mistake #5 - Multiple Trips to the Grocery Store. Don't judge, we've all done it. The full recipe is below, but here's your grocery list.

Flank steak ingredientsFor my mom's originally recipe you'll need:

  • Onion
  • Garlic cloves
  • Salad oil (I use whatever I have on hand - olive, safflower, sunflower)
  • Wine vinegar (I prefer red but you could use white if you have that on hand)
  • Dry mustard
  • Brown sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Pepper
  • Bay leaf
  • Soy sauce (I prefer a GF soy sauce or amino acids for dietary reasons, but have noticed they taste more salty. I use a little less.)
  • Red wine (I leave out, I'm sadly allergic)
My additions/modifications along with those listed above are:
  • Liquid smoke
  • Worchestershire sauce
  • Ginger

To make the marinade mix all the following ingredients in a bowl (except the onions).

Flank Steak Marinade recipeStep 3: You'll need a large flat dish to marinate the steak in. A 9x11 pan works well. I use the traditional Tupperware marinade container, you know, the one that has the same top and bottom that hook together so you can easily flip the container without opening it. I use this because it's what my mom used and it just doesn't seem right to use anything else. Add a layer of onions to the bottom of the dish/container, then add the meat. Add another layer of onions on top and pour the marinade over top. Make sure all the meat gets coated in marinade.  Ideally the meat will soak for 24 hours - flipping over half way through. You can marinate for shorter, but I wouldn't recommend less than 8 hours.  Mistake #6 - Not Planning Ahead! I've thought that I can make this with no pre-planning and just let it sit for an hour. Trust me, don't do this. It's bland.  You really want the flavor to soak into the meat. Plus it will help tenderize it even more. 

Step 4: It's grill time. It's best to take the meat out of the fridge 1 hour before you want to grill it. Let it sit on the counter in the marinade and come to room temperature. Prep the grill. We use a charcoal grill, but it works great on gas as well. You'll want a medium to medium-high heat. Then, throw it on the grill. Cook about 3-5 minutes per side. It's best when it gets a nice char on the outside but is medium-rare and juicy on the inside. As I mentioned in Mistake #2 - Don't Over Cook It. It gets tough and chewy. Medium-rare is best. In the past I had a habit to cook things waaay too long. Just let it sit on the grill, flip it once using the mega-tongs on your BBQ tool, and then pull it off, cover with tinfoil and let it sit for atleast 10 minutes.  Mistake #7 - Being To Anxious! Don't cut into the steak right after pulling it off the grill. You'll lose at that juiciness that you just worked to acheive. Patience. 

Step 5: While the steak is cooking pour the remaining marinade in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let it cook until dinner is ready to be served. This was a modification that my husband requested years ago because it seemed like such a waste to be pouring out all that delicious marinade, when instead, we could serve it with the steak. 

Step 6: Once the steak has rested and dinner is ready to be served, cut the steak against the grain into 1/2" wide strips. Pour marinade into a gravy boat. Serve and devour. 

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do. It has been a family favorite for many generations. 

RECIPE: makes 1 flank steak


1 Onion - sliced
3 Garlic Clove - minced
4 Tbsp. Salad Oil
4 Tbsp. Wine Vinegar
1 tsp. Dry Mustard 
4 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
4 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 1/2 tsp. Ground Pepper
1-3 Bay Leaves - broken
2/3 cup Soy Sauce
2/3 cup Red Wine

1/8 tsp. Liquid Smoke
2 tsp. Worchestershire Sauce 
2 tsp. Fresh Ginger (or 1 tsp. ground)


  • Tenderize flank steak at butcher shop. 
  • Mix all ingredients except onion together.
  • Place a row of sliced onions in shallow dish or container and put steak on top. Layer with remaining sliced onions and pour marinade over. 
  • Cover and marinate for 24 hours. Flip steak half way through.
  • Prep grill and cook steak on medium to medium-high heat. 3-5 minutes per side. Let sit, tented with tinfoil for 10 minutes.
  • Pour remaining marinade into saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer till ready to serve. 
  • After steak has rested, slice into 1/2" strips against the grain.
  • Serve and enjoy!