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What Is Skirt Steak?
Skirt steak is a cut of beef that comes from the plate primal, found below the rib. It can be divided into the inside and outside skirt, the latter of which is a little thicker, more tender, and more uniformly shaped than the former. Unfortunately, the outside skirt typically ends up in commercial kitchens, so what you’ll find at the grocery store is usually the tougher and smaller inside skirt.
When cooked over high heat and sliced thinly against the grain, this inexpensive cut can be incredibly rewarding. Because it’s so thin, it’s easy to know when skirt steak is perfectly done: once it’s nicely browned on the outside, the inside should be a perfect medium rare.
What's the Difference Between Skirt Steak and Flank Steak?
Skirt steak and flank steak often get mixed up because they both come from the bottom part of the cow and they look pretty similar. But they’re from different primal cuts: Skirt steak comes from the plate, located below the rib toward the front of the cow, and flank steak comes from the flank, below the loin, towards the back of the cow. Flank steak is thicker and wider than skirt steak, so it won’t cook as quickly. You can use the same cooking methods for skirt and flank steak, so they’re pretty much interchangeable in most recipes, though they require different cooking times.
How to Cook Skirt Steak
Skirt steak benefits from fast, hot cooking, and will be tough if overcooked. It’s ideal for grilling, broiling, or quickly pan-searing in a cast-iron skillet. Or, try cooking directly on hot coals. If your cooking surface is hot enough, it should only take 2 to 3 minutes per side for skirt steak to develop a deep brown crust, at which point the inside should be medium-rare. Like most steaks, skirt steak should rest before serving.
Since it’s a tougher cut, it’s especially important to slice skirt steak thinly, against the grain, because you’ll be chewing with the grain, increasing the apparent tenderness of a naturally tough—but flavorful!—cut. If using skirt steak in a stir-fry, slice the raw steak into thin strips or cubes against the grain, before cooking.
3 Marinades for Skirt Steak
Skirt steak is a good choice for soaking up a marinade due to its loose structure. Marinating meat will add flavor, but it won’t make a tough cut more tender. Salt skirt steak at least 15 minutes before cooking, and if you want to add additional flavors, marinate for at least 30 minutes. The combinations are endless, and skirt steak’s coarse texture will absorb flavors like a sponge.
How to Serve Skirt Steak
Once you’ve grilled your perfect skirt steak, try serving with:
- Fried eggs, for classic steak and eggs.
- Flour tortillas, grilled onions, and bell peppers, for steak fajitas.
- Corn tortillas, lime, cilantro, and salsa verde, for carne asada tacos.
- Chimichurri sauce, the Argentine sauce of finely chopped fresh parsley, oregano, garlic, and chillies suspended in olive oil. (Find our easy chimichurri sauce recipe here.)
- Charred vegetables such as scallions or halved romaine lettuce.
Perfect Grilled Skirt Steak RecipeEMAIL RECIPE
- 2 pounds skirt steak
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil, or other vegetable oil, to taste
- Pat the steak dry with paper towels. Season generously with salt and pepper. Let rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. Rub steak with a light coat of oil.
- Prepare a grill by lightly oiling grates or spraying with nonstick cooking spray. For a gas grill, preheat to medium-high heat. Cook steak until a deep brown crust forms, about 2–3 minutes per side.
- Let the steak rest 10 minutes and slice into thin strips against the grain on a cutting board.