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Ingredients

How to Shop for and Cook Skirt Steak

Everything you want to know about skirt steak, from where it comes from to other names it goes by.
By Published May 17, 2022

Best known for its starring role in grilled beef fajitas and carne asada, skirt steak is a relatively inexpensive cut that’s packed with juicy, beefy flavors. We'll show you what to look for to ensure you get the right type of skirt steak, explain why marinades work so well with this cut, and give you some great recipes to try.

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How Would You Describe Skirt Steak's Flavor and Texture?

Skirt steak is juicy and full of beefy flavor. It's well-marbled, which accounts for its great flavor. Its texture is tender with decent chew.

What Part of the Cow Is Skirt Steak?

Skirt steak comes from the plate section of the cow, situated under the rib, where its attractive fat content makes for juicy steaks. Skirt steak is a long and thin ribbon of beef—nearly two feet in length—and is named so because its open-grained fibers resemble a pleated skirt.

illustration of a cow with the skirt steak section highlighted
Skirt steak comes from the plate, which is located under the cow's rib.

Outside vs. Inside Skirt Steak: What's Better?

Though most grocery stores will label the meat as skirt steak, finer butchers will sell you two varieties: Outside skirt and inside skirt. A cow has two of each:

An illustration showing where the inside and outside skirt steaks are in a cow

We highly prefer the outside skirt, which measures 3 to 4 inches wide and between a half to one-inch thick. Try to avoid inside skirt, which is wider (5 to 7 inches), thinner (a quarter to a half-inch thick), and is far chewier than the outside skirt. In Japan, the outside skirt is called harami and prized for its beefiness, often marinated in miso or soy sauce and grilled.

What's the Best Way to Cook Skirt Steak?

These are the best ways to cook skirt steak:

Skirt steak is also a great steak to marinate. We don’t typically marinate steak since we have found that marinades don’t penetrate more than a few millimeters beyond its surface. For a thick-cut steak, that means minimal flavor impact. But skirt steak is different: It has much more surface area than other cuts. And because it’s so thin, the ratio of surface area to volume is quite large. That means there is a lot of exterior space for a marinade to flavor.

If you look carefully, the grain of a skirt steak forms peaks and valleys like, well, a pleated skirt: The amount of fabric required to make a pleated skirt is much greater than the amount required to make a straight skirt. To illustrate this, we placed a measuring tape on a skirt steak and carefully pressed it into the valleys. When we removed the measuring tape, we found that the surface area for a skirt steak was three times that of a strip steak of the same weight.

What’s the Ideal Doneness for Skirt Steak?

Skirt steak is most tender cooked to medium. Because skirt steak has large fibers, it takes more force to bite through, and therefore benefit from longer cooking so the muscle fibers can shrink in diameter.

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Steak Fajitas
Skirt steak is the cut of choice for fajitas.

What’s the Difference Between Flank Steak and Skirt Steak?

Flank steaks are found closer to the back hind legs of the cow, while skirt steaks are closer to the front, the forelegs. You can tell it’s flank steak if the piece is flat, thin, wide, and the grain runs lengthwise (the long way). Skirt steak, on the other hand, is narrower and the grain runs crosswise (the short way). Skirt steak has more connective tissue and is fattier and juicier than flank steak, which is slightly easier to find in stores than skirt steak. (If you can't find skirt steak, flank steak is a reasonable substitute.)

Is Hanger Steak the Same as Skirt Steak?

Hanger and skirt steaks are two different cuts. The Hanger steak is found “hanging” between the ribs and tenderloin, and is known for its intensely beefy flavor.

Other Names For Skirt Steak

Depending on where you're shopping, skirt steak may be sold under a couple different names:

  • Fajita steak
  • Philadelphia steak

The Best Skirt Steak Recipes

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.