Skirt steak after briefly searing in a hot pan for a few seconds, this thin, quick-cooking cut is bursting with beefy flavor and remains tender and juicy. These simple instructions will teach you how to cook skirt steak with finesse.
When you’re at the market, it’s common to be drawn to a particularly large piece of ribeye or filet mignon. There are, however, other cuts of meat that are tender, flavorful, and more affordable that are often overlooked in favor of the more expensive cuts.
The next time you have a beef craving, try something different and exciting by grabbing a skirt steak, which is a lesser-known cut of beef.
Skirt steak can be prepared simply with seasoning or marinated for added flavor; it is frequently used in fajitas. It is best cooked at a high temperature for a short period of time in order to deliver juicy slices of meat to the dinner table as quickly as possible.
What Is Skirt Steak?
Skirt steak is a thin, long cut with a visible grain that is served rare. It is derived from the short plate or diaphragm area of the steer, which is located just below the rib section of the animal.
There are two types of skirt steak: the outside skirt steak and the inside skirt steak. Important to understand because the texture and tenderness of the meat will vary depending on the cut, especially since this cut tends to be lean and contains some tough muscle fibers.
1. The outside skirt is more desirable because it is softer and less coarse than the inside skirt. It will be approximately three to four inches wide, about half an inch to one inch thick, and noticeably longer than the inside cut, as shown in the illustration.
2. The inside skirt is wider, approximately five to seven inches in circumference, half as thick, and has a chewier texture. If you only have access to the inside skirt, tenderize it with a mallet to 1/4-inch thickness and marinate it in a sauce.
Due to the way beef is folded when it is packed, it can be difficult to tell whether a steak is an inside or an outside cut at first glance. Whenever possible, I recommend speaking with the butcher about the cut and where it is being served.
What’s the Difference Between Skirt Steak and Flank Steak?
In addition to being grilled, skirt steak and flank steak are frequently pan-seared on the stovetop or stir-fried in a stir-fry pan.
When it comes to flank steak, it is derived from its flank primal, which is the abdominal area located immediately adjacent to the short plate, which contains the skirt. If you compare it to the skirt, the fillet has a less intense beefy flavor and is noticeably thicker.
A good visual cue to distinguish skirt steak from flank steak is that the grain of the meat runs across the width of the meat, whereas the grain of the meat runs lengthwise. Both steaks should be cut across the grain in order to produce a tender slice of steak.
What Is the Best Way to Cook Skirt Steak?
Skirt steak is best prepared by searing it in a hot pan. My preferred cooking methods are a cast iron skillet or a hot grill. Another set of suggestions for cooking the best skirt steak can be found here.
1. Preparing the surface of the steak for a better crust is something I always do before seasoning or searing it. Every ounce of excess moisture will produce steam, which will reduce the likelihood of getting a nice crust on the steak.
2. Cooking quickly and thoroughly will result in a flavorful browned crust, and undercooking by a minute or two will alleviate the fear of overcooking. The best texture is achieved after only a few minutes of contact with the heated surface, when the meat is cooked to medium-rare doneness.
Given the thin and lean nature of skirt steak, overcooking it beyond medium-rare or medium-done will result in an extremely dry and chewy steak.
3. Cook it on a high heat! Fast cooking with high heat is preferred over low cooking with low heat for slow cooking. Skirt steak contains only a small amount of connective tissue. Fattier cuts of meat with a lot of connective tissue do better when cooked over low heat for an extended period of time.
This is because the low-and-slow method aids in the breakdown of connective tissue in the meat. When it comes to skirt steak, this is not an issue.
Cooking skirt steak quickly and thoroughly is the most effective method for producing a tender piece of meat. The short flash time (only a few minutes on each side) ensures a juicy result at the end of the process.
What’s the Best Way to Slice Skirt Steak?
Always cut the skirt steak into thin pieces that are about 1/4-inch thick, and always cut it across the grain of the meat. When I want to make a bias cut, I like to hold my knife at a 45-degree angle.
More surface area between the muscle fibers is created, resulting in the muscles not being stacked and making it easier to eat, which ensures additional tenderness.
Should You Marinate?
Adding interesting flavors and aromas to the steak by marinating it is a great way to make it more interesting.
Skirt steak has a distinct accordion-like structure made up of coarse muscle fibers that increases the surface area of the meat. This means that more flavor can be captured, resulting in a more flavorful cut of meat.
The marinating time should not be longer than 30 minutes in order to avoid the flavor of the marinade overpowering the beef. Instead, serve with some extra sauce on the side for dipping or sprinkling. After marinating the meat, make sure to dry it thoroughly (before cooking).
Need Some Flavor Ideas?
A hearty dry rub or marinade for skirt steak will not overpower the robust flavors of this cut of meat.
Try combining coarse salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, thyme, oregano, mustard, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and coriander to create a unique seasoning blend for your dish.
For an Asian twist, experiment with marinades that include citrus juice, finely chopped fresh herbs, garlic, red wine vinegar, and soy sauce, among other ingredients.
How Do You Serve?
Skirt steak can be served as a main dish along with roasted potatoes or grilled vegetables as an alternative.
My go-to sauce is a tangy avocado chimichurri, which I make on the side. It’s perfect for fajitas with peppers and onions that have been sautéed. Put it on a salad with greens such as romaine, spring mix, or arugula and a tangy vinaigrette to make a delicious meal. Make quesadillas or nachos out of it by chopping it up.
The next morning, if there are any leftovers, I look forward to them because they will go perfectly with over-easy eggs, sliced avocados, and sautéed spinach.