Cuts of beef vary significantly; each has different textures, different tastes and require different cooking methods. Flank steak and beef brisket cannot substitute for one another and understanding their respective characteristics will ensure any recipe in which you use them comes out tasty and healthy.
Flank steak is a sinewy cut low in fat that comes from the breast area closest to the cow's hind legs. The steak appears flat and provides strong flavour. Flank steak is long-grained. Slice the meat thinly and against the grain to prevent it from becoming overly chewy.
Flank steak is excellent for quick-cooking methods. Because of its strong flavour, flank steak needs minimal seasoning, such as salt, pepper and a brush of oil. Grill or broil whole, or stir-fry in bite-size pieces. Take care to avoid overcooking, as this yields tough meat. Cook to about medium (roughly 57 degrees) for a delicious steak.
Flank steak is the flattest cut from the breast and has no exact substitutes. London broil responds best to similar cooking methods, and works well in place of flank steak when cut thinly. A little tougher and less flavourful than flank steak, London broil is an acceptable substitute if flank steak is not available. Other good substitutions include skirt steak and hanger steak.
Beef brisket is a tough, highly marbled cut. It contains more fat than flank steak. Almost always sold boneless, you may purchase beef brisket fresh or canned. The cut comes from the meat just above the front legs and shank. Brisket's strong flavour makes it a favourite throughout many cultures throughout the world.
Beef brisket responds best to slow cooking on relatively low heat (from 120 degrees Celsius to 175 degrees Celsius). Before cooking the meat through, brown it in a skillet for enhanced flavour. Once browned, brisket cooks well on low to medium-low heat in a crock pot or in a Dutch oven in the oven or on the stove. Brisket is a favourite cut for stews, corned beef and smoked barbecue. Longer cooking times of several hours yields tender meat that you may easily pull apart.
Other cuts used for roasts and stews work as substitutes for beef brisket. Use any highly marbled cut to substitute in stews. The most common cut for corned beef is bottom round roast. Rump roast also works as a stand-in for brisket. Stick to slow, long cooking on low heat. For bone-in roasts, increase cooking time to ensure thorough cooking.