Skirt steak and flank steak are often used interchangeably in recipes. Yet, in the battle against skirt steak versus flank steak, there are some differences that make each cut of beef slightly different. Both deliver rich flavor, cook easily, and can be used in a variety of dishes.

Here we dive into their differences and help you determine which one to use for your next barbecue.

What is Skirt Steak?

Skirt steak is not a steak you’re going to order if you want a thick-juicy steak you cut in with a knife. Instead, it’s a long, skinny cut of meat that comes from the side of the cow, the plate primal. 

Skirt steak
Skirt Steak

There are two different skirts on the cow – inside and outside. The inside is the abdominal muscle, and the outside is the diaphragm. Both the diaphragm and abdominal muscles are highly active, making this a lean, tough, and fibrous cut. 

Butcher Diagram cow : Skirt Steak

The outside skirt is longer and thicker than the inside. But both types can be as long as two feet and range from 1/4 to 1 inch thick. 

It may not be the steak you’re used to seeing, but skirt steak is a highly flavorful piece of meat. It has a rich, beefy flavor, even more than flank steak. The connective tissue can make it a tough cut of meat, especially if you cook it well-done. 

We often use skirt steak in fajitas and Cornish pasties

Cooked Skirt Steak with Chimichurri
Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

What is Flank Steak? 

As you move towards the rear end of the cow, we get flank steak. Flank steak is a favorite in many countries and has earned nicknames, like Babette in French and sobrebarriga in Columbia. 

Butcher Diagram cow : Flank Steak

Being from the belly of the cow, flank steak is lean with lots of muscle fibers. There is often fat along the edges of the meat, with light marbling. A sizable chunk of meat that can be tough to eat if not cooked properly. Along with skirt steak, we often use flank steak for fajitas. 

Flank steak cooked
Cooked Flank steak
Raw beef Flank steak
Raw Beef Flank Steak

What is the difference between Skirt Steak and Flank Steak?

Now that we know the major difference between skirt and flank is where it comes from on the cow, let’s look at some other key characteristics of each piece of beef. 

Skirt Steak and Flank Steak Cooking Methods

Both skirt steak and flank steak can be cooked with the same techniques. And since both pieces of meat require little trimming, neither is difficult to prepare. 

Some may argue that skirt steak is slightly easier to cook since it’s so thin. Skirt steak requires little cooking time, you’ll only need about 5 minutes and it’s ready to eat. 

Since both cuts of meat are thin and have a large grain, they aren’t the best choices for smoking. They won’t absorb much of the smoke flavor and you will still need to grill for a few minutes.  Both these pieces of meat are cooked the best when cooked on high heat, quickly.

Which one belongs on the grill?  

Both steaks are great for grilling and should be cooked when the grill is hot. These meats do great with high heat for a short time. Choosing between these two steaks is more about selecting the one that fits your recipe.

Which one is more tender?

Neither one of these steaks is melt-in-your mouth tender. Inside skirt comes from the transverse abdominal muscle and ranks the lowest for tenderness. Flank steak comes in second for being more tender and easier to chew. 

The winner, though, is the outside skirt, which comes from the diaphragm. 

Tips on Grilling Skirt Steak

Skirt steak is a great opportunity to try out your favorite marinade. We rarely marinate thick steaks of meat because the thick, smooth cut doesn’t absorb much flavor. But since the skirt steak is a thin cut of meat with open fibers and lots of little openings, a marinade can add a lot of flavor. 

You may find the packaging of skirt steaks slightly odd since it may come rolled up. That’s because they can be nearly 2 feet long if you’re buying a large chunk of meat. So if you get a long piece of meat, make sure you use a sharp knife to divide into evenly sized pieces. 

Grilling skirt steak brings out the juices and keeps the steak tender. The high heat cooks it in a short period and the trick to grilling skirt steak is to get the fire hot so you don’t overcook the meat. 

  • Remove any excess moisture. Dry the surface of the skirt steak before seasoning or grilling.
  • Use a thermometer to ensure you don’t overcook the meat. Since skirt steak is thin, cook for a medium-rare (130-135 degrees F) to medium (135-145 degrees F). 

How long does it take to grill skirt steak?

A quick hot sear will lead to a flavorful cut of beef. The best texture comes with just 3-4 minutes per side. If you go past this time, you’ll end up with a dry, chewy steak. 

Skirt Steak

How to cook skirt steak in an oven. 

If you want to cook skirt steak in the oven, it will take longer, but you can still get an intense flavor for your meal. 

  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. 
  • Place the cuts of steak in a pan sprayed with oil. 
  • Cook with other vegetables, like diced potatoes or carrots. 
  • Once the oven is hot, cook the steak for 6-7 minutes. Then flip the meat over and cook for another 3-4 minutes. 
  • Check the internal temperature to ensure it’s reached 145-165 degrees F. 

How to cut skirt steak 

The grain is the direction and pattern of the muscle fibers in the meat. Since skirt steak has larger fibers, it’s important to cut it across the grain. This results in tender pieces of meat. 

Instead of placing your knife straight down, angle it at a 40 to 45-degree angle to the meat. Then follow the angle through the cut. Most people find thinner slices results in meat that is more tender. 

If you aren’t used to cutting against the grain, spend a few minutes watching how to identify where the grain is on your piece of meat and then how to cut it. 

Tips on How To Grill Flank Steak

Flank steak is popular to grill because it’s affordable, flavorful, and versatile. It’s great grilled and sliced into tacos, fajitas, steak salads, stir-fry, or works well on its own. 

Similar to skirt steak, marinate your flank steak. The acid and salt in your marinade will help loosen up the tough muscle fibers. Short on time? You only need to marinate the steak for an hour or two. In fact, you don’t want to marinate too long or the acid in the marinade will sour the meat. Tip: Avoid flare-ups on your grill by patting your steak dry before grilling it.

How long does it take to grill flank steak?

The grain structure affects how long you should cook cuts of meat. Grill flank quickly at high heat. Use a meat thermometer to cook 130-135 degrees F, about 3-4 minutes for the first side, and 2 minutes on the other side.

Once you’ve removed your flank from the grill, let it rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing it. This allows the muscle to relax and seal in the juices. You can tent foil over it to keep it warm. 

How to cook flank steak in an oven. 

Cooking flank in the oven makes for an easy prep meal.  

  • Marinate your steak for up to 2 hours before you want to cook it. 
  • Set the broiler to the highest heat. Place the top oven rack one notch below the broiler element.
  • Line the boiler pan with aluminum foil. 
  • Place the cuts of steak in a pan sprayed with oil. 
  • Broil the steak for 4-6 minutes per side.
  • Check the internal temperature to ensure it’s done. 
  • Rest your flank for 5-10 minutes before slicing it against the grain. 

Skirt Steak vs Flank Steak: Comparison Table

Laying their facts side-by-side shows you how these lesser-known steaks compare.  

MeatShapeMeat ContentFat Content & MarblingAverage WeightLocation on Cow
Skirt SteakLong and thinModerately meatyModerate to high fat, highly marbled1- 1/12 poundsCenter of cow’s belly, in the section referred to as “plate”, below the rib
Flank SteakLarge and squareVery meatyLow to moderate fat, less marbling2 poundsRear quarter of a cow, behind the plate

Final Verdict

For me, flank steak takes the trophy. But only by a small margin. This piece of meat may cost slightly more, but you get a little more meat and the meat you get is tender and easy to use. 

Both types of meat can fit into a healthy diet, especially since they have a lower fat content than other choices of beef. 

Skirt Steak FAQ’s

Some common FAQs

  1. What is skirt steak called in a grocery store? The most common name is skirt steak. Yet, there are alternative names for this piece of beef, including: 
    • Romanian tenderloin: the traditional Jewish name 
      1. Arrachera: Mexican name 
      2. Philadelphia steak: this name more likely refers to the meat used in the Philly cheesesteak subs 
  2. How to marinate skirt steak? Marinating the steak adds additional flavor and juices to your meat. The coarse muscle fibers also increase the surface area for the marinade to seep into. Choose your marinade and then let your meat soak in it for up to 2 hours. Make sure you dry the meat before you cook it.  
  3. Where does skirt steak come from? Skirt steak comes from the short plate or diaphragm of the cow. It’s just under the rib section, both the inside and outside area. 
  4. What to make with skirt steak? Serve the steak as a main course or use it as a protein in your tacos, salads, or other recipes. Sides are endless. Mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, peas, grits, and rice all make for excellent choices. Ideally, you want to serve it along with carbohydrates to create a balanced meal. 
  5. Where to buy skirt steak? Local butchers, grocery stores, and online vendors all have skirt steak available all year around. 
  6. How much skirt steak per person? Price per pound of skirt steak will vary depending on where you purchase your meat from. Other factors that affect price include size, grade, geography, and environmental conditions. 

Flank Steak FAQ’s

Some common FAQs

  1. How long does it take to broil flank steak? Broil flank steaks for 3-12 minutes per side. The time will depend on the size of your cut and if it’s frozen or thawed. Check doneness by using an instant-read thermometer. 
  2. How to marinate flank steak? Marinating the steak adds additional flavour and juices to your meat. The coarse muscle fibers also increase the surface area for the marinade to seep into. Choose your marinade and then let your meat soak in it for up to 2 hours. Make sure you dry the meat before you cook it.  
  3. What to make with flank steak? Serve the steak as a main course or use it as a protein in your tacos, salads, or other recipes. Sides are endless. Mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, peas, grits, and rice all make for excellent choices. Ideally, you want to serve it along with carbohydrates to create a balanced meal. 
  4. Where to buy flank steak? Local butchers, grocery stores, and online vendors all have flank steak available all year around.
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