For a rich meaty taste that won’t break the bank, there’s no finer cut of beef than the skirt steak. It cooks up quickly, is full of savory beefy flavor, and can be used in countless dishes. Because it is so versatile, skirt steak is the perfect choice for entertaining, meal prepping, or a midweek feast.
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Ask anyone about their favorite cut of beef, and you’ll likely hear a lot of talk about rib eyes, New York strip, and filet mignon, but when done right, the humble skirt steak can rival the finest chop house fare. Plus, because it is so easy to prepare, you’ll have a mouth-watering meal on the table in minutes without all the fuss of getting dressed up and going out. You’ll also save a small fortune with this skirt steak recipe.
The best way to cook a skirt steak is in a hot iron skillet. It takes only a few minutes on each side to get a good sear and serve up beef that is pure, buttery perfection. Enjoy skirt steak topped with chimichurri sauce alongside your favorite sides. Roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts, or asparagus would pair beautifully with this flavorful dish. You can also use prepared skirt steak in tacos, on hot sandwiches, or in stir fry.
What is Skirt Steak?
Skirt steak comes from the diaphragm muscles of the steer – the area across the chest, just behind the front legs. It is a long thin cut, and has visible grain lines. There are actually two different types of skirt steak, the inside and outside cuts. Outside skirt steaks are narrower, measuring between 3 and five inches across, and thicker. Inside skirt steaks are about twice as wide, and only about half as thick. The outside cut is preferable because it tends to be more tender and flavorful. Sometimes the cuts are not labeled, so be sure to ask your butcher which is which.
Skirt steak is often confused with flank steak, which comes from the area just in front of the back legs of a steer. Though they are prepared similarly, flank steaks are generally a little more expensive, and don’t have quite the same depth of flavor. There is an easy way to tell the difference. The grains on a skirt steak run across the width of the meat, while the grains on a flank steak run lengthwise. Both cuts should be sliced against the grain for the most tender results.
The meat – If possible, choose an outside skirt steak. If your only option is an inside skirt steak, you can still have tender, melt in your mouth steak. You’ll just need to reduce the cooking time because the meat will be a bit thinner. Try to choose a skirt steak that is uniform in thickness so it cooks evenly.
The marinade – Skirt steak marinade options are endless. This recipe calls for a few simple ingredients, but you are free to choose the flavors you love best. A marinade typically contains three key components:
- Oil – Olive oil is the most typical choice, but sesame oil, avocado oil and vegetable oil will work as well. Mayonnaise or yogurt will also do the trick. Oils allow fat soluble flavors to transfer into the meat.
- Acid – Vinegar or citrus, such as lemon juice, have an important job in a marinade. Their acids break down the long protein chains in meat, allowing the flavor to enter, and acting as a tenderizing agent. If left in an acid too long, however, meat can break down too much and become a mushy mess, so stick to the recommended marinating times.
- Flavor – Spices, honey, garlic and onions, kosher salt, soy, herbs, red pepper and mustards do the job of bringing out the savory elements in meat dishes. Experiment with what you have on hand and the flavors that you know you enjoy.
For easy clean up, mix your marinade right in a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag. Marinate your meat in the refrigerator, as marinating at room temperature can encourage bacteria growth. Never reuse marinade once it has been in contact with raw meat, as it can make you sick.
You don’t need a grill or a fancy sous vide setup to make a magnificently tasty skirt steak.
- Iron Skillet – The most crucial thing you’ll want to have on hand is an iron skillet. These heavy pans can withstand high heat, hold their temperature well, and distribute the heat evenly. They will produce a nice crusty outer layer and a perfectly done interior.
- Sharp knife – You’ll need a good sharp knife to divide the meat into sections before cooking, to remove excess fat, and (once cleaned thoroughly) to slice the meat after it’s cooked and rested. A sharp knife produces clean, even cuts, that help the meat retain its juices better than dull knives do.
- Tongs – Metal spatulas can sometimes damage the season on an iron skillet, and they can inadvertently scrape the delicious exterior crust away from your meat. Plastic spatulas are also not advisable because of the high heat required for making skirt steak. Using tongs will allow you to spare your pan and protect the perfect sear.
How to Cook Skirt Steak
- Tenderize – Many skirt steaks are sold already tenderized. If yours has not been tenderized, it’s wise to do so before cooking. Tenderizing will ensure that your meat is so tender it melts on your tongue like butter. Place the meat between two sheets of plastic wrap, and bang several times with the flat side of a kitchen mallet. This will break the meat down enough to let the marinade go to work.
- Dry the meat – After marinating in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes, remove the meat from the bag, place it on a plate, and pat it dry with paper towels. Don’t worry, the flavor of your marinade has made its way into the meat. Drying it on the outside will allow it to develop a nice crispy sear in the skillet.
- Bring it to room temp – Once your meat is dry, allow it to sit on the counter until it reaches room temperature. This will help ensure that your meat cooks evenly.
- Cook it hot – Cooking skirt steak in a sizzling hot pan will not only help create a nice outer sear on your steak, but it will ensure that your meat cooks quickly and remains tender.
- Don’t overdo it – Skirt steak is typically a thin cut of meat, and it does not contain a great deal of connective tissue, so cooking it longer will only make it tougher. You just need a few minutes on each side to achieve perfect results.
How to Slice Skirt Steak
One of the keys to making the most tender skirt steak is to cut it correctly.
- Let it rest – Never cut your steak right out of the pan. It will smell amazing, and you will be so tempted to dive right in, but giving it a few minutes will make a world of difference. Resting time allows the muscle fibers in the meat to contract and seal in the juices. If you cut it too soon, all of those juices will be left behind on your cutting board.
- Cut it against the grain – Always cut skirt steak against the grain. Notice the direction of the meat’s natural grain, and position your knife perpendicular to those lines. Cutting the meat into thin strips this way will produce smaller muscle fibers, which means less chewing. For the best results, tilt the top of your knife at a 45 degree angle and cut diagonally. This will create more surface area and make each bite even more drool-worthy.
Storage and Reheating
If stored in the fridge, skirt steak will remain safe to eat for 3-5 days. You can also freeze cooked skirt steak in freezer safe bags for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to use it, just defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
To reheat skirt steak, wrap it in aluminum foil and place it in a low oven for a few minutes. You can also reheat it in the microwave. It’s best to add a little water to the dish to prevent drying out. Heat in 30-second intervals so that you don’t overdo it and wind up with jerky.
How to Use
Skirt steak is incredibly versatile, so cooking up a bunch makes meal prep a breeze. Try some of these delectable skirt steak recipes:
Fajitas – Skirt steak is phenomenal in fajitas. Just load some onto a soft tortilla, top with peppers and onions, give it a squeeze of lime juice, a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle on some grated cheese and salsa. You can also use skirt steak instead of ground beef in crispy tacos or on nachos. Taco Tuesday just got an upgrade.
Salad – Try topping your favorite salad with skirt steak. This rich, decadent-tasting meat can turn the simplest salad into a satisfying meal.
Stir fry – Sauté a few veggies in a hot skillet and serve over rice with skirt steak and some soy sauce.
Philly Cheese Steaks – Mix skirt steak with caramelized onions and peppers, and stuff it inside a buttered hoagie roll. Drizzle on some Worcestershire sauce, add cheese on top and broil until the cheese is hot and bubbly.
Pizza – This steak will change the way you think about pizza. Try topping a pre-made crust with a little barbecue sauce, purple onions, skirt steak, and mozzarella, or use an Alfredo sauce, torn baby spinach, and sharp white cheddar. If you really want to take your pizza game up a notch, top it with a dash of olive oil and top with sliced fresh figs, skirt steak, and tangy goat cheese. Just before serving, drizzle it with a balsamic vinegar reduction.
Pasta – Toss your favorite pasta with a little garlic butter or olive oil, torn fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, steak and parmesan. This simple meal comes together quickly, but tastes incredibly decadent.
Our Best Skirt Steak Recipe
- 1 pound skirt steak
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon additional olive oil or butter for cooking
- Mix all the ingredients, other than the steak, in a gallon-sized resealable bag. Add the skirt steak, and squish it around to cover it completely in the marinade. Allow it to marinate in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.
- Remove the steak from the bag, pat it dry with a paper towel, and allow it to come to room temperature.
- Cut the steak into similarly sized pieces that will fit into your pan.
- Drizzle a hot iron skillet with about a tablespoon of olive oil or butter, then cook the steak over medium high heat. Press down on the meat briefly to ensure that it makes contact with the pan to create a sear. For medium rare, cook for 3-4 minutes, then flip the steak and cook the other side for an additional 3-4 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that your steak reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees.
- Let the steak rest for about 5 minutes, then cut it into thin slices against the grain.
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