What to Know About Skirt Steak vs. Flank Steak

Everything you need to know about these two ultrabeefy cuts that are similar yet have key differences.  

Published Sept. 19, 2022.

It’s steak night, and you’ve got your pick between two of the best: skirt and flank. They’ve got a lot in common that make them virtually interchangeable. But there are also some key differences between the two that are worth noting before you shop and cook. 

Jump to a Section

What Is Skirt Steak?

Skirt steak is a thin, ribbonlike cut from the underside of the cow with ultrabeefy flavor and lots of intramuscular fat. It has a loose grain that resembles a pleated skirt—hence its name. It’s the original—and still preferred—choice for fajitas.

Alternative Names: Fajita steak, Philadelphia steak

Where Does Skirt Steak Come From?

Skirt steak is cut from the plate section of the cow, situated under the well-marbled rib. But be advised that there are two types: inside skirt and outside skirt, which are cut from different areas of the plate and are dissimilar in texture. Avoid the inside skirt, which is very chewy, and ask your butcher for the outside skirt, which is more tender. Because there are only four skirt steaks per cow—two inside and two outside—it can be a little hard to find.

What Does Skirt Steak Taste Like?

Skirt steak’s abundant marbling makes it taste especially beefy with buttery richness. Thanks to its loose grain structure, the meat is satisfyingly chewy but also tender.  

What’s the Best Way to Cook Skirt Steak?

Because skirt steak is thin and offers tons of surface area, it’s an excellent candidate for high-heat cooking methods like grilling and pan-searing, where the meat can develop deep, flavorful browning just as the interior comes up to temperature. Thanks to its thinness and loose grain structure, it’s one of the few beef cuts that takes well to marinating. Just an hour of soaking in a potent mixture will season it deeply. 

Ideal Doneness Temperature

Although we bring most steaks to medium-rare (125 degrees), we have found that the tougher muscle fibers of skirt steak need to hit 130 degrees before they shrink and loosen enough to turn perfectly tender.

Want to know even more about shopping for and cooking skirt steak? Read this.  

Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter

The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.

What Is Flank Steak?

Flank steak is a large, flat cut that's from the underside of the cow just like skirt steak. It’s also very beefy with a coarse grain. 

Alternative Name: Jiffy steak

Where Does Flank Steak Come From?

The flank is located under the relatively lean loin, which explains why this steak tastes beefy but less juicy than richer, more marbled skirt steak. 

What Does Flank Steak Taste Like?

Flank steak offers a unique combination of beefy flavor, relative leanness (especially compared to skirt steak), and moderate chew. 

What Is the Best Way to Cook Flank Steak?

As with skirt steak, this cut’s thinness and distinct grain makes it ideal for marinating, since the seasonings can penetrate into the nooks and crannies and add robust flavor. Its thin, flat profile and abundance of surface area also make it a great choice for pan-searing, grilling, and stir-frying

Doneness Temperature

Like some other thick-grained steaks, it’s best cooked not a smidge less than medium-rare (125 degrees) or a smidge past medium (135 degrees)—or it will be tough or dry, respectively. 

What Are the Differences Between Skirt Steak and Flank Steak?

Skirt steak has more fat, making it taste even richer and juicier than flank steak. It also has more connective tissue. Flank steak is thicker and wider than skirt steak and a little easier to find in stores. It is a reasonable substitute for skirt steak.

How Do You Tell Skirt Steak and Flank Steak Apart?

On the animal, flank steaks are found closer to the back, or hind, legs of the cow, while skirt steaks are closer to the front, the forelegs. When you’re shopping, 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). It’s so long that it’s often sold rolled up. 

Skirt Steak vs. Flank Steak: Which Is Better?

Both of these steaks offer beefiness in spades, and we love them both. But because skirt steak has more marbling, some people prefer it. 

How to Slice Skirt Steak and Flank Steak

Steak—especially chewier cuts like skirt and flank—should always be sliced against the grain. Doing so shortens the muscle fibers, making the meat easier to chew. 

Read this to learn just how much more tender meat sliced against the grain can be, and for our method. 

Our Favorite Skirt Steak Recipes

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

Mexican-Style Grilled Steak (Carne Asada)

Superthin, well-charred steaks define this Mexican favorite. To deliver maximum char as well as tender meat, we created an unusual grill setup.
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

Our Favorite Flank Steak Recipes

Pan-Seared Flank Steak with Mustard-Chive Butter

Flank steak has it all: rich, beefy flavor; lean meat; and a reasonable price tag. Its one downfall? It only seems to work on the grill.
Get the Recipe

Grilled Beef Satay

Thai beef satay features tender pieces of meat grilled on skewers so that they develop a lightly charred crust.
Get the Recipe

Steak Tacos

Who says that a great steak taco has to begin on the grill? We wanted a way to cook juicy, flavorful steak indoors so we could enjoy beefy tacos all year long.
Get the Recipe


This is a members' feature.