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What is Skirt Steak? A Detailed Guide on this Lesser Known Cut

Skirt steak can be one of two different muscles on the cow, the outside and inside skirt. Well marbled, great for marinating, and often used in fajitas, it's a lovely cut of beef. Learn all about it below.

Emma Braby

Last Updated: May 29, 2020 | 7 min read

skirt steak with chimichurri sauce

The Skirt steak has quickly become a family favorite because it can feed everyone on the cheap while still delivering a beefy hit for steak lovers.

Not to be confused with the similar looking Flank steak, the Skirt steak is a different cut, and we look at this more deeply in our skirt steak vs flank steak comparison article.

Popular in restaurants as the cut of choice for steak fajitas, stir fries, and other similar recipes, the skirt is a versatile piece of meat that can be used to deliver intense flavor.

It can be cooked quickly and easily, but it does need careful preparation otherwise, it can be ruined before you’ve even started.

After reading this guide, you’ll know exactly what the skirt steak is and why it’s so awesome, and we certainly won’t be ‘skirting’ around the details.

You will learn where on the cow it’s from, the best online shops to get it from, and how to prep and cook it like a pro.

So, let’s get straight into the skirt!

What is Skirt Steak?

Unlike some steaks, the name doesn’t really give us a clue as to where it’s from.

Part of the plate primal that sits below the rib, this area of the steer is known for short ribs, minced beef, and the skirt, a long, flat muscle with a thick grain that runs the entire length.

These steaks are 20 to 24 inches long and three to four inches wide.

The skirt has good marbling for a lavish beef flavor, which often surprises people the first time they try it, as such flavor is associated with the more expensive cuts.

If you don’t cut and cook it properly, though, you can easily ruin it, so be sure to check out these Skirt preparation tips.

Where Does Skirt Steak Come from on the Cow?

Diagram showing where the plate and flank primals are on the cow
Image courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com

The Skirt steak is well known and has been around since we started butchering and eating cattle.

It is part of the plate primal, which is the part of the body that sits just under the rib primal.

Skirt steaks come as either the outside skirt or the inside skirt.

The outside skirt comes from the outside of the chest wall and runs diagonally from the 6th to the 12th rib.

The inside skirt is situated a little further back within the chest wall itself and sits flat across the lower part of the ribs.

The outside skirt being thicker and more uniform means that it is usually sold to and bought by commercial buyers as it’s easier to present to retail customers.

The inside skirt being thinner, tends to shrink slightly when you cook it as the muscle fibers tighten up, which is another reason why restaurants prefer the outer. Either way, they are both tasty.

Other Names for the Skirt Steak

Rarely, it is called the Beef Plate or the Philadelphia, but other than the differentiation between the inside and the outside, the skirt is rarely called by any other name because it is well known.

Sometimes it can be referred to as the dish it is intended for. So, for example, you may hear people refer to it as the fajita or Tex-Mex Skirt.

Flavor, Texture, Fat Content and Tenderness

With its open grain and distinct marbling, the skirt has a reputation for big flavor and tenderness when cooked correctly.

Having lots of muscles connected by fat, this cut has a fabulous fatty flavor, but don’t expect it to taste like a regular steak. It has a profoundly unique flavor that is buttery and very beefy, which some liken to the richness of liver but with a nicer steak-like consistency.

The open grain takes very well to a marinating.

Normally, not getting much past the surface, a marinade is somewhat wasted on a steak, but with the skirt it has open ridges and a wide grain that the marinade can soak into, meaning it holds a lot more of it and can stand up to the strong flavor with its intense beef hit.

Typical Uses

Skirt steak is the original fajita beef steak.

It is well known as the best beef cut for carne asada, a Mexican marinated grill steak, often put into tacos.

It is also used for stir-fries and other similar quick, flavorful recipes.

Skirt Steak Nutrition

NutritionTotal Amount (Based on 3oz Serving)% Daily Value (based
on 2000 calories/day)
Calories20010%
Saturated Fat3.6g20%
Sodium55mg3%
Protein25g50%
Iron2.07mg10%
Zinc7mg63%

In addition to the above, the skirt includes a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, iron, riboflavin, phosphorus, and choline.

Buying Skirt Steak

Although well known, the Skirt steak, just like the Hanger steak, isn’t readily available as each animal only creates two of each of both the inside and the the outside.

Given that the outside is popular for commercial cooking, it’s only the inside that normally makes its way to our supermarkets and butchers.

Once there, you have to be quick as it is snapped up by those in the know, so to avoid disappointment, be early or order it from your local Butchers.

Where to Buy Skirt Steak Online

There’s nothing quite like browsing online meat markets, and you get to take your time looking at all the available cuts and weights, comparing prices and standards as you go.

Enabling you to order exactly what you need in the quantities you need them, you can also check out the rearing ethos of the meat and how the quality is assured.

Here are three online outlets that sell some of the best Skirt steak available:

Skirt Steak Price

People are catching onto this delicious cut, so it’s not as cheap as it once was, but it still offers good value for money.

It comes in large cuts of around 1 to 2lb in weight and can feed 4 to 6 people dependent on recipe and appetite.

At the time of writing, the price of the skirt is $14 to $24 per/lb dependent on quality and type of beef.

Portion Size: How Much Skirt Steak Per Person?

A Skirt steak can weigh anywhere between 1 and 2 pounds, and it reduces in weight by around a quarter when cooked.

If cooking as a steak that will be accompanied by a typical side like fries or potatoes, you will want around 6 to 9oz depending on appetite.

If making tacos or carne asada with the usual side of rice and beans or street corn, then 4 to 6oz per person will suffice, and a 2lb piece of skirt will easily feed six people.

How to Prepare Skirt Steak for Grilling or Smoking

Inside Skirt Steak isolated on white
image courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com

The Skirt steak is sold ready trimmed and rolled so that it takes up less room on the counter.

To prepare for cooking, it is best trimmed a little more to get rid of any excess fat so that the meat grain is exposed to keep it tender.

Be careful with your knife when doing so as the skirt is a relatively thin steak as it is, and if you cut too deep and remove too much meat, it becomes very thin and easy to overcook.

Medium-rare is the perfect choice for the skirt.

The skirt can be used in pretty much any recipe, with any marinade or method of cooking.

If you plan on eating it in all its unfettered beef glory, you need only season it with a generous pinch of salt and pepper in preparation to cook it.

If you intend to smoke the skirt, a rub with some extra virgin olive oil will allow the meat to retain moisture.

How to Cook Skirt Steak on a Grill or Smoker

Being a thin piece of meat, the skirt is susceptible to overcooking, so it’s best cooked on a searing hot grill on direct heat.

If you’re feeling brave, it also does very well cooked directly on hot coals, which allows it to cook quickly and adds extra char flavor to the meat.

Here’s our simple guide to cooking your Skirt steak on your grill:

  1. Pat the steaks dry and bring to room temperature.
  2. Heat your grill to a very high heat.
  3. Season the skirt with salt and pepper.
  4. Place on the grill, ensuring it sizzles immediately and with gusto, that way you know it’s hot enough.
  5. Cook for just 2 to 3 minutes each side, making sure it gets plenty of color on the meat to ensure it is seared and has that Maillard effect added flavor.
  6. Remove from the grill and allow to rest for a few minutes.
  7. Slice perpendicular to the grain at a 45-degree angle in half inch strips.
  8. Serve with your chosen dish and enjoy.

Three Best Skirt Steak Recipes from Around the Web

Now that your taste buds are tingling and your Skirt steak has been ordered, let’s look at the various ways you can cook and serve up the perfect skirt.

Here are our three favorites from around the web:

Brazilian Skirt with Golden Garlic Butter by Finecooking.

This traditional Brazilian recipe starts with a perfectly cooked steak, medium-rare, that is smothered in perfectly golden garlic butter and parsley. Simplicity at its best.

Full recipe and instructions can be found here:

https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/brazilian-skirt-steak-with-golden-garlic-butter

Beer-marinated Skirt by the Food Network.

Steak and beer, what’s not to like? After soaking the steak in a marinade made of beer, garlic, onion, and orange, you throw it on the fire and cook it to perfection. Job done.

Click here to see Food network’s recipe:

http://www.foodnetwork.co.uk/recipes/beermarinated-grilled-skirt-steak.html

Skirt Fajitas by Olivia’s Cuisine.

We couldn’t talk about skirt being ‘the’ choice for fajitas and not put a great fajita recipe in.

The key to this one is a rich and flavorful marinade, with tons of Mexican ingredients such as tequila and Spanish onions.

Head here to see how good it looks:

https://www.oliviascuisine.com/skirt-steak-fajitas/

Conclusion

The skirt is no longer an underestimated cut of beef, popular for its great value and amazing flavor, it is a firm favorite across the globe.

Whether you decide to add it to your list of extra beefy steaks or make a fajita feast for the whole family, you’ll be blown away by the quality and versatility of this piece of meat.

Let us know your tips in the comments below for your best Skirt steak recipe.

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