Skirt steak is a versatile cut of beef that lends itself well to many types of cuisine. Grilled skirt steak is fairly easy to cook. It has some definite intricacies that can throw you off your game leading to chewy meat if not grilled properly.
Skirt Steak Selection
Skirt steak is skirt steak right? Kind of… There is an inside skirt steak and an outside skirt steak. These types are similar they don’t cook exactly the same. These also won’t typically be labeled as inside or outside so you will have to take a look at your skirt steak and figure out which one you are dealing with yourself.
Inside skirt steak is typically a bit thicker on one end and tapers down. The inside skirt also has a fairly low fat content. This differing thickness makes it a little harder to get a consistent cook. It is the most commonly found, at least in stores around here.
Outside skirt steak is thinner with more fat and also typically has a membrane that needs to be removed prior to cooking. The Outside skirt steak is fairly hard to find in many places since it is the preferred cut for many restaurants. Outside skirt steak is in my opinion, easier to cook and serve with a tender outcome.
Cook It Hot And Fast
Grilling skirt steak is quite easy no matter which type you get. The key is a super hot grill! Get your grill as hot as it will go and don’t be afraid that you are going to burn it. Since skirt steak is a thin cut of meat, you want a very hot fast cook to sear the meat on the outside without overcooking. On a hot grill you will cook it 3 to 4 minutes per side or until it’s your desired level of doneness. You can move it around over the fire to get a nice consistent char on the surface of the meat.
Once the meat is cooked, take it off the grill and let it rest under foil for about 10 minutes before you slice it. This lets it finish cooking and also lets the juices redistribute in the meat to keep it juicy.
How To Slice Skirt Steak
Now it’s time to slice it, this is probably one of the most important steps of all! Skirt steak has to be sliced against the grain of the meat, it just has to. Since it is a tough and fibrous cut of meat if you slice it with the grain you will have long intact fibers that you will be chewing on for days! By cutting against the grain, you cut these fibers into short pieces that are easy to chew.
Be mindful that the grain can change direction. Pay attention as you go to ensure that you aren’t slowly aligning yourself with the grain as you cut.
I prefer to cut my skirt steak slices between 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. I also keep my knife vertical and don’t try for an angled cut. If you cut angled, you have a thin part that has short fibers and the thicker part has longer fibers which leads to more required chewing.
Sauce it Up
Skirt Steak is the type of meat you want to give a little extra TLC to for flavor and tenderness. It’s great when marinated with a simple olive oil, lime juice and salt and pepper mix or you can add extra pow to the meat with a chimichurri marinade. We’ve dressed it up with a tomato and avocado salsa also for great fresh flavor as well.
How Do You Cook Perfect Skirt Steak?
- Heat your grill as hot as it will go. If using charcoal, be generous and build a nice hot fire.
- Season your skirt steak with salt and pepper or whatever seasonings you plan on using.
- Grill your skirt steak on 3 to 4 minutes per side (or to your desired doneness). This varies by thickness and the heat of your flame so I can’t give you an exact time here. You can move it around a few times if you need to so that it gets an even char. Here’s a great article from Carnivore Style, “Different Levels of Cooked Steak” if you’d like more information on the stages of doneness.
- Remove the skirt steak from the grill and let rest under foil for 5 to 6 minutes.
- Slice it nice and thin against the grain. This is about the most important step! Slice against the grain!
How Long Does It Take To Grill Skirt Steak?
It typically takes from 6 to 8 minutes if you are using a very hot flame. This can vary depending on your grill temp, skirt steak thickness and the level of doneness you prefer (skirt steak gets tougher fast when cooked much over medium). Once done grilling you have to let the skirt steak rest for 5 to 6 minutes to redistribute the juices. So I would say anywhere from 11 to 14 minutes including the rest should give you a nice medium rare.
How Do You Make Skirt Steak Tender?
Since skirt steak is a naturally tough cut of meat, your tenderness will come from properly cutting it. You want to ensure that you cut it against the grain and cut it fairly thin. If you cut it with the grain, you are guaranteed tough cuts of meat that will not be pleasant to chew! If I’m making tacos or putting in something then I usually go one step further and chop the skirt steak up.
How Hot Should Your Grill Be For Skirt Steak?
Your grill should be super hot! My personal experience is that you will get best results with a charcoal or wood grill to get the heat level needed for the perfect skirt steak cook. I’m not saying you can’t get it done on a typical gas grill, just that you won’t have the outside seared as nicely.
Are Skirt Steak And Flank Steak The Same?
No, they are completely different cuts of meat but can be cooked similarly. The skirt steak is tougher than flank and also has less fat. Due to the extra fat in the skirt steak as well as the muscle buildup it typically has more beefy flavor which is what makes it popular. Skirt steak comes from the diaphragm area and flank steak comes from the abdominal muscles.
Why Is Skirt Steak So Hard To Find And So Expensive?
For starters there are only four skirt steaks on each cow, 2 inner skirts and 2 outer skirts. In recent years the skirt steak has become extremely popular for home cooks as well as restaurants. Since the supply is low and the demand is high, the once unpopular cut of meat has become desirable and harder to get.
Best Substitute For Skirt Steak?
If you are having trouble finding skirt steak for your recipe and want something similar you might be able to substitute one of these and get a similar outcome.
- Flank Steak – This is the closest you are going to get in cooking time and methods
- Flap Steak – This one is a little chewier but has a good beefy flavor. It’s easy to confuse visually with skirt steak.
- Hangar Steak – Hangar steak is similar to flank steak and resides just forward of the flank. It it typically more tender and also more expensive.