Chef’s secret on getting rich flavor from a cheap cut

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Chef Matt Eversman makes his grilled flank steak over a bed of charcoal coals on his porch. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times Media

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Ever been at the grocery store or butcher to buy beef and had that moment when you say to yourself, “Gee, this cut is too expensive. Until there’s a special occasion, I gotta go with a cheaper cut”?

Well, maybe I can get you past the disappointment you may feel when going this route.

The good news is preparing lesser cuts the right way can greatly enhance the way they taste. And you don’t need to be a pro to do so.

Lesser cuts generally have something about them that make them less desirable to begin with, such as lower amounts of flavorful fat and gristle.

A good example is brisket. While grilling may work for some cuts of meat, brisket requires a different technique, such as braising.

To braise, you quickly sear or brown the meat in fat, then simmer in liquid (beef stock or broth) on low heat in a covered pot.

Braising may take a few extra steps and a little more time than slapping it on the grill, but it drives a lot of extra flavor into the meat and makes it nice and tender, too.

Flank steak is another popular lesser cut, especially during the summer. A lot of people marinate flank steak to tenderize it before grilling. The most important thing to remember when cooking this cut is to use a high heat source.

No matter if you’re searing in a pan or grilling it on the barbie, make sure the heat is very, very intense. Cooked over high heat, the meat will quickly pick up char on the outside without overcooking the inside.

If you were to cook over low heat, you would eventually get that char but the interior would be overcooked, lose juiciness and become stringy and tough.

Char is basically caramelization. A nicely charred flank steak that is medium-rare inside gives you everything you want from eating steak — great texture and juiciness.

How you slice flank steak can be just as important. Cut the meat thinly and across the grain so that the muscle fibers are short. Cutting with the grain will result in chewy, tough meat.

This recipe for flank steak is simple and fun to make. Try it, and then come by to try mine. I’d enjoy comparing notes about execution. Who knows? Yours may taste better.

Matt Eversman is the chef and partner at OON Chicago, 802 W. Randolph, opening this month.