America's Test Kitchen LogoCook's Country LogoCook's Illustrated Logo

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.

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.

Jump to a Section

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.

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

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

Grilled Steak Fajitas

This popular dish features tender strips of beef nestled into a soft flour tortilla along with onions and bell peppers.
Get the Recipe

Grilled Mojo-Marinated Skirt Steak

If you're not grilling skirt steak, you should be: It's a great cut for marinating, it cooks in minutes, and it's especially beefy, tender, and juicy—as long as you buy the right kind.
Get the Recipe

Philly Cheesesteaks

We set out to reproduce this classic sandwich without the pricey rib eye, a deli slicer, or a flattop griddle.
Get the Recipe

Steak Taco Salad

Restaurant taco salads often disappoint with dull flavors and tired ingredients. Could we create a brighter, livelier version that exploded with flavor?
Get the Recipe

Pan-Seared Skirt Steak with Zucchini and Scallion Sauce

This vibrant, no-cook blender sauce is the perfect accompaniment to quick-cooking skirt steak.
Get the Recipe


This is a members' feature.