Both skirt and flank steak are long cuts of meat which can be used interchangeably in recipes. However, there are differences in the two types of meat, and in this article, we will tell you more about them.

What Part of the Cow are these Steaks From?

Flank steak can be found in the abdominal area of the cow and lies below the ribs. It contains hard-working muscles which make it a tough meat. It has many strong fibers running through it and it is a lean cut, leaner than the skirt. Flank steak is wide and should be thinly cut. It only measures 1 – 1 ½ inches at its thickest and it becomes thinner at one end. 

Skirt steak comes from the diaphragm and it also contains many tough fibers, even more so than flank steak. Because of this, it should only be cooked rare or medium-rare which will help it to become more tender. It is a lean meat like flank, and it is interesting to note that there are two types of skirt steak, the outside, and the inside. The most popular cut is the outside as it is tender and less coarse than the inside. The inside unfortunately can be chewier. The outside is about 3 – 4 inches wide and about ½ inch thick. It is longer than the inside. The inside is 5 – 7 inches wild and half as thick.  If all you can purchase is the inside, you can make it more tender by pounding it with a mallet until it is about ¼ inch thick.

Both cuts have a strong beefy flavor, the skirt steak even more so then the flank. They are both extremely popular in fajitas and other Mexican food.

How to Cook Flank Steaks

If you are planning to cook for 4 – 6 people, you will need 1 ½ – 2 pounds of flank steak. You could even stretch this out to 8 people if you are also making appetizers and side dishes. French fries or jacket potatoes go well with flank steak as do tasty salads like coleslaw. There will be plenty of meat to share and because of its shape, you can get both rare and well-done slices which should please everybody. Flank steak is great in burritos, tacos, and fajitas, but it is just as good sliced with a delicious sauce. Garlic butter goes well with flank steak, as does salsa verde, aioli, or mole. Mole can certainly invigorate your taste buds as it is made with dried red chiles, sweet spices, and chocolate.

Flank steaks do quite well with a marinade, and you can refrigerate it with the marinade for up to 24 hours. A good idea is to put it in the fridge the night before you want to cook it. Here are 2 recipes for a marinade that will go well with flank steak.

  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons spices of your choice

With each recipe, all you have to do is whisk the ingredients together and then put it over the meat. Store in the fridge in a sealable bag.

When the meat is marinated, take it out of the fridge. You can grill flank steak out in the yard or patio on your barbecue. You can also fry it in a skillet on the hob or even cut it up for a stir fry. However, one of the best ways to cook a flank steak is under the broiler. A broiler is really an upside-down grill which directs the heat straight onto your flank. You will end up with crispy bits all around the edges, but a soft tender inside. This method won’t dry out your steak at all. You need to get out your broiler pan, but if you haven’t got one you can improvise and use aluminum foil. This will help with clean-up as well.

With flank steak the cooking time is 4 – 6 minutes on each side, depending on how you want your steak done, The inside temperature of a rare steak should be 115F – 120F, medium-rare 120F – 125F, and medium 130F – 135F. Cooking a well-done flank steak isn’t recommended as the meat is tough to start with and too much cooking will make it more so. 

Once you have finished cooking the steak, leave it to rest for 5 minutes. This distributes the juices around the whole cut of meat. If you don’t, they will just seep out onto your plate and the meat won’t be as tender as it could be.

When you come to cutting the steak, you need to cut against the grain. This means that you will be cutting through the tough fibers rather than along them. Most of the work has been done and you won’t have to chew through the fibers.

How to Cook Skirt Steak

Skirt steaks take well to a marinade, even better than flank does. This is because the fibers in flank steak are close to each other so it is more difficult for the liquid to penetrate the meat. However, this shouldn’t put you off using a marinade with flank steak as you will get a flavor.

Here are 2 perfect recipes for a marinade to use with skirt steak –

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  •  1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  •  1 minced garlic clove
  •  2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

You can leave the steak to marinate overnight or you can just leave it for an hour or two. It all depends on how strong a flavor you want. It must always be kept in the refrigerator otherwise bacteria could develop.

Skirt steak is the best seared. You can do this outdoors on your grill or indoors on the stove in a cast-iron skillet. The first thing to do is to dry the surface to get rid of any remaining moisture. Excessive moisture can create steam, and this will prevent you from getting a nice crust on your steak. A hot sear for around 3 minutes each side will give you a medium-rare steak. You don’t want to cook it for any longer as both a medium and a well-done steak can be chewy. Heating it hot and fast also gives you a crispy crust while the inside will be soft and juicy. 

Skirt steak is not a meat that you can cook low and slow as there is not enough connective tissue. Fatter cuts of beef do better heated low and slow and this method breaks down the connective tissues.

Like flank steak, you will need to rest your skirt steak for 5 minutes to let the juices get absorbed. Then you need to cut it against the grain to stop it from being too chewy.

Other Differences Between Skirt and Flank Steak

One of the main differences between skirt and flank steak is their toughness. Skirt steak is tougher so it can be a little chewier. However, it does have a stronger flavor than flank steak.

Another difference between them is their grain structure. Flank steak has clearly defined fibers while the skirt doesn’t. This makes it easier to slice flank steak against the grain.  However, the fibers are close together meaning that it is harder to add flavors. It is best to marinate flank steak for a longer time if you want to get a stronger flavor, or you could inject it with flavors. This means that the liquid will go straight into the meat. 

Flank steak is usually more expensive than skirt steak, but it still sells at a very reasonable price. They are the steaks that are most favored for fajitas in restaurants.

A final difference is that skirt steak tends to be thinner than flank steak and therefore needs less cooking time. 

Final Thoughts

As you have seen there are a lot of similarities between flank steak and skirt steak. Both should be cooked rare or medium-rare if you want tender meat. They both need to be cut against the grain to chop the fibers and make them easy to eat. However, there are differences even though they can be used for the same recipes. 

To sum up, flank steak is the leanest of the two types of meat. It can be cooked in a variety of ways, grilling, roasting, broiling, and sautéing. Skirt steak needs to be cooked hot and fast on a grill or in a cast-iron pan on the stove. Because it is thinner than flank steak, it needs higher temperatures to get a crispy outside and tender meat inside.

We hope that this article has helped you to choose which steak to buy and cook and that you have some delicious meals not only this summer but indoors in the winter.