When looking for a quick-cooking, inexpensive, but tasty, cut of beef to get dinner on the table fast or to serve as a crowd-pleaser at your next get together, two choices typically come to mind: flank stank and skirt steak. However, deciding which to choose can be confusing, partially because both steaks look similar in appearance.
As it turns out, both cuts of beef are often used interchangeably in various recipes; however, they do have some marked differences that affect their preparation. Therefore, to help you better understand both cuts of meat, we provide a breakdown of each steak as well as their similarities, which will enable you to see why skirt steak is sometimes used as a flank steak alternative, as well as their differences, which will help you determine the best steak for you.
Step-By-Step Guide on the Differences and Similarities Between Skirt Steak and Flank Steak
About Skirt Steak
Skirt steak is a long, thin slab of meat probably most commonly known as the steak that is used to make fajitas.
This cut of beef originates from the diaphragm muscle of the cow, which means it is a lean cut with lots of sturdy fibers; however, it does contain some marbling, which gives it a nice richness when cooked. It also has a robust, beefy flavor.
Because it is such a thin cut of meat with tough fibers, skirt steak is best when cooked fast over high heat, such as on a grill or in a cast-iron skillet. However, it can also be braised or slow-cooked. It also best served medium rare or rare, as well as cut thinly against the grain, to promote tenderness.
Lime and Chili Skirt Steak Recipe
What you will need:
- 2 pounds skirt steak, trimmed
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of lime juice
- 1 teaspoon of chili powder
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced finely
- 1 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Prepare the marinade
Whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, chili powder, garlic, and salt. Place the steak in a shallow baking dish or pan. Pour the marinade over the steak until it is fully coated. cover or wrap the meat well, chill for up to 6 hours or 24 hours.
- Heat the grill to medium-high heat.
- Remove the steak from the marinade and season both sides with salt and pepper.
Place the meat on the grill and allow it to cook for 2 to 3 minutes until well seared on both sides. The skirt steak is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 130F to 135F.
- Remove the steak from the grill and allow it to rest for one to two minutes.
- Slice the steak with the grain into three sections. Turn each section against the grain and slice it into 1/4-inch pieces. Place the warm meat to a plate and serve.
This recipe is great for fajitas as a fun weeknight meal or as a casual dinner for your gathering.
About Flank Steak
Flank steak, which is also the official meat of the London broil, comes from the lower stomach part of the cow, so it is fairly lean. It also contains a lot of sturdy muscle fibers, so it can be a tough piece of meat if not prepared properly. It also has a pronounced beef flavor.
Because flank steak is a leaner meat with lots of tough muscle fibers, it benefits best from quick cooking over high heat, such as grilled or seared in a cast-iron skillet. However, it can also be rolled, stuffed, roasted, sautéed, and broiled.
It should also only be cooked to medium-rare to prevent it from becoming too tough and dry. When serving it, it should also be sliced very thin and against the grain for maximum tenderness.
For a basic flank steak recipe, try this recipe:
Soy and Honey Flank Steak Recipe
What you will need:
- 3 pounds flank steak
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup of honey
- 1 cup of soy or soy balsamic sauce
- 3 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar
- 2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon of salt
Prepare the marinade
Add the olive oil, vinegar, honey, balsamic soy sauce, chili powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk the ingredients together. Place the flank steak in a shallow dish. Pour the marinade over the steak until it is fully coated.
- Heat the grill to 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Grill the steak 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until the internal temperature reaches an internal temperature of no more than 135F.
- Transfer the steak to cutting surface and allow it rest for about 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steak against the grain. Arrange the cuts on a serving platter. Serve.
This recipe is great for use in stir-fries or served over rice.
Skirt Steak vs Flank Steak
What Are Their Similarities
- They are both long, flat cuts of steak that come from the underside of the cow.
- Both steaks have a strong beefy flavor.
- They both have tough muscle fibers, so they are great for grilling and searing quickly over high heat.
- Both cuts of meat benefit from being cut thinly against the grain for maximum tenderness. Cutting the grain simply means cutting crosswise against the long strands of fibers that run through the meat, which helps sever the tough grains and makes them easier to chew, as opposed to cutting along them, which can make the meat tough.
What Are Their Differences
- Skirt steak has more marbling than flank steak, so it has a richer taste and can be slow-cooked and braised.
- Skirt steak also has a beefier flavor than flank steak.
- Skirt steak is thinner than flank steak, so it grills faster.
- Skirt steak has more tough muscle fibers than flank, so it should only be cooked rare to medium-rare for maximum tenderness. However, some cooks swear that it is only one of the few steaks that is also good cooked well done.
- Flank steak is wider and thicker than skirt steak. In fact, is often sold as one entire muscle, which can weigh up to 2 pounds, so it feeds a larger crowd.
- Skirt steaks take better to marinades than flank steaks because its grain structure is loose as compared to flank steak’s tightly knit grain, which prevents marinades from getting through. However, a strong marinade, meaning it contains some sort of acid, is said to help make both types of meat more tender.
So when it comes to what flat steak makes the better choice or which is the winner, it all boils down to your preferred cooking method as well as how intense of a flavor you want. Both steaks are great for grilling; however, skirt steaks’ marbling enables it to be slow-cooked or braised, while flank steaks, because they are flatter, are able to be stuffed. However, overall, because flank steak is a bigger cut of meat, it feeds more people, which is generally why some people prefer it over skirt steak. Meanwhile, for even more ways to make the perfect skirt steak and flank steak enjoy the following pro tips.
- Indirect grilling methods are not recommended for either cut of meat because their tough exterior is difficult to penetrate. Instead, cook them directly over high heat, or sear it on the grill for beautiful grill marks.
- To help ensure the steak cooks quicker on the outside while the inside remains rare to medium-rare, remove the steak straight from the refrigerator and place it right onto the high heat.
- Skirt steaks typically only take about 3 minutes per side when being grilled; however, flank steaks need about 5 minutes each side.
- When marinating these type of steaks, they should soak for up to six hours, but no longer than overnight, for best results. However, when in a hurry, some cooks report that marinating the steaks in a high acidic marinade for at least an hour can still make a difference.
- Once the steak is perfectly cooked, remove it from the heat and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing it. This will allow for carryover cooking as well as enable the juices to re-soak into the steak, which helps make it tender and juicy.
- Skirt steak contains a silver membrane on the back of it, which can become very tough when cooked. Therefore, remember to trim the membrane from the steak before cooking to maintain tenderness.
- When purchasing skirt steak, you may be asked if you want the inside skirt or outside skirt; however, the two are really quite the same.