Choosing between skirt steak vs flank steak is a common question among steak lovers. Almost everyone enjoys a cut of beef in one form or another. Some steaks, however, tend to be more popular than others. Popular cuts such as sirloin, tenderloin, and ribeye tend to dominate most menus. However, not as popular but equally tasty are the often interchangeable skirt steak and flank steak.
Deciding which cut is best between these two steaks depends largely on two things. The dish you’re making and the way you’re preparing it. Skirt steak is more commonly used in fajitas or Philly cheesesteak because the marinade makes the meat less chewy. Since flank steak is deliciously tender it’s great for cooking at high heat really quickly. This makes it a popular choice for stir-fry or a flavorsome base for Carne Asada.
Table of Contents
- 1 At a Glance: The Differences between Skirt vs Flank Steaks
- 2 What is Skirt Steak?
- 3 What is Flank Steak?
- 4 Key Differences and Similarities
- 5 Skirt vs Flank—Which One is Better?
- 6 Skirt vs Flank—Best Ways To Cook, Grill, and Smoke
- 7 Which Steak Should You Pick?
- 8 Popular Recipe Choices for Skirt and Flank Cuts
- 9 A Quick Tip: Why Should You Cut the Skirt and Flank Steak Against the Grain?
- 10 A Final Thought About Skirt Steak vs Flank Steak
At a Glance: The Differences between Skirt vs Flank Steaks
The table below gives you a quick comparison between the skirt and the flank steak.
|Location on steer||Chest muscle||Abdomen|
|Flavor||Intense beef flavor||Robust, meaty|
|Cooking methods||Grill, smoke, stovetop||Grill, smoke, stovetop searing|
|Dietary benefits||Thick layer of fat not good for low fat diets||Fewer calories, leaner. Ideal for low fat diets|
|Fat content||Has a fat layer||Leaner|
|Where to Buy||Check Out Skirt Steak Price at Snake River Farms||Check Out Flank Steak Price at Snake River Farms|
What is Skirt Steak?
Skirt steak comes from the muscle that separates the steer’s chest from the abdominal area. This is the area that forms the diaphragm muscle and is used a lot when the cow is alive. This results in a considerable amount of tough muscle fiber.
These tough fibers can make the cut very chewy if not prepared properly. Skirt steaks have a more intense beef flavor and are ideal for rare or medium-rare choices. Skirt steak also has more fat which means it’s a better choice for grilling and smoking.
Romanian tenderloin, Roman steak, Philadelphia steak, or Arrachera are some of the more common names for skirt steak.
What is Flank Steak?
Flank steak is taken from the steer’s abdomen and makes up the section of muscles that the animal uses when it walks. A flank is generally a leaner cut with long muscle fibers and is broader and flatter than a skirt steak. It’s also a bright red color.
With flank steak, preparation is key to ensure the meat stays tender. Searing is probably the best way to prepare and is also great for well-done choices.
Flank steaks are commonly sold under the London Broil label. Jiffy steak and Bavette steak are also common names for this particular cut. Some of these names may not be known outside of the U.S.
Key Differences and Similarities
Many people actually don’t know the difference between a skirt and flank steak because they’re actually so similar. However, the basic differences s can be differentiated as follows:
Differences Between Flank and Skirt Steak
While very similar, there are a few key differences that separate them. Let’s have a look at a few of these:
- Health option: Although both cuts look and taste similar, flank is the definitive healthy option. Research has shown that flank has fewer calories. This is mainly as a result of the less saturated fat. If you prefer, you could trim off any excess fat on your chosen cut of beef before preparing.
- Location of the cut: Skirt steak is from the muscle of the chest while flank steak is from the abdomen.
- General pricing: In general, both cuts are considerably cheaper than other beef cuts such as T-bone, or filet mignon. If you’re really on a stringent budget though, skirt steak is cheaper per pound. Flanks are usually a bit pricier because they’re a popular choice for restaurants to use in their high-on-demand fajitas recipes.
- Fat content: Flank is leaner and has a less fat content. This makes it a more tender beef cut. The skirt steak on the other hand has a thicker layer of fat, making it such a popular grilling choice.
- Flavor: Skirt steaks tend to have a more robust beef flavoring. Since steak is a very chewy steak because of the tough fibers, this cut does well with a good marinade.
What Similarities Are There Between Skirt Steak and Flank Steak?
Flank and skirt steak are actually so similar that it’s possible to substitute one for the other. Let’s have a look at a few of the similarities:
- Both cuts are a more economical option to the more traditional cuts such as ribeye.
- Preparation is very similar since both cuts can be prepared in similar ways.
- With a similar taste, they can be substituted for each other’s recipes.
Skirt vs Flank—Which One is Better?
As any seasoned cook will tell you, there isn’t really a cut of steak that’s better than the rest. Different cuts are just better suited to specific dishes. Flank and skirt cuts are mostly used interchangeably.
For steak lovers who enjoy a steak with a more intense flavor, a skirt steak would be a better choice. Skirt steak is also best served as rare or medium-rare. For folks who prefer a well done or tender steak, the flank steak would be the better option.
Both skirt and flank are specialty cuts. They’re not guaranteed to be available at all supermarkets. You can either order your cut of choice from your local butcher or order directly from online butchers specializing in these types of beef cuts. We recommend trying Snake River Farms, as they have been in the business for long time and the quality of their meat is excellent. You can use the following links:
Skirt vs Flank—Best Ways To Cook, Grill, and Smoke
The key to enjoying a good cut of steak lies in the way it’s prepared. Some cuts of beef are better for certain preparation methods and particular recipes. Let’s explore some aspects regarding the preparation processes.
Flank vs Skirt Steak—Which is Better for Grilling?
Both Flank and skirt steak is ideal for grilling. It’s as simple as putting this cut on the hottest grill for a short time and then cut into thin slices. Since the muscle grain on this cut of meat is very distinctive and slicing it correctly will produce wider slices. Simply slice across the grain at 45-degree angles.
The best way to grill a flank or skirt steak is as follows:
- Preheat your grill for direct heat at about 450°F.
- You can marinate the steak or grill with just your favorite salt seasoning.
- Grill the steak for 4-5 minutes on each side.
- Your internal thermometer reading should be about 130-135°F for medium-rare.
- A temperature reading of 145°F for medium-rare.
- Enjoy as-is or serve with a red wine sauce.
Skirt Steak vs Flank—Which One is Better for Cooking on Your Stovetop?
Skirt steak generally has a more flavorsome beef flavor but can be tougher than your average flank because of its fibrous texture. Skirt steak is primarily used by steak-houses in fajitas and the popular Korean rice dish bibimpap. Since skirt cuts are usually fattier which means they work really well with marinates making the meat extra tender.
Cooking skirt steak on your stovetop is as easy as grilling. Follow these simple steps to easily prepare on the stove:
- Sear each side of steak until browned. This usually takes about 2 to 4 minutes depending on the thickness of the cut.
- Flip and sear the other side for 2- 4 minutes.
- Flip each side and cook for an additional 4 minutes.
- For a medium-rare steak, the internal temperature should reach 130°F.
- Enjoy as-is or enjoy with a sauce of your choice.
As an added bonus, here’s a short tutorial to show you how easy it is to make a pan-seared steak!
Flank vs Skirt Steak—Which is Better for Smoking?
Smoked flank or skirt steaks are as easy to prepare as it is delicious. Simply follow these few easy steps:
- Marinate steaks for extra flavor, using your favorite marinade sauce.
- The smoker should reach a temperature of 250°F.
- Place steaks on the smoker once desired temperature is reached.
- Close the lid and smoke until the internal temperature reaches 115°F for rare, 125°F for medium-rare, 145°F for medium-well or 155°F for well done.
- Enjoy as-is or serve with a sauce of your choice.
A tip here is to use hickory wood chips in your smoker as they impart a rich, savory note to the steak.
Which Steak Should You Pick?
Deciding which steak to pick could depend on what your favorite meals are. Read on to find out which popular recipe choices are best with either the skirt or flank beef cuts.
Popular Recipe Choices for Skirt and Flank Cuts
While it’s true that you could substitute one for the other, there are certain recipes that just better if made with the right type of steak. Let’s look at some of the most common recipes for each of the two cuts.
Popular Recipe Options for Flank Steaks
Since flank is the leaner of the two, popular options are:
- Mexican fajitas with thinly sliced steak, cheese, and tomatoes.
- Mexican tacos with steak cut into strips, tomatoes, cheese, peppers, and onions.
- Smoked flank steak with salad and sautéed or grilled mushrooms.
- Balsamic marinated stuffed flank steak.
Popular Recipe Options for Skirt Steaks
- Stir-fry, where the meat is thinly sliced.
- Beef strip salad with greens like spring mix, romaine, and tangy vinaigrette.
- Lemon garlic butter steak served with a green salad and sautéed mushrooms.
- Korean Bulgogi-style grilled steak
Popular Sauce Recipes to Serve with Skirt or Flank Steaks
Most people enjoy their steak without any additional sauce. It allows you to savor the rich, robust beefy flavor of a prime cut of beef.
However, if you prefer a sauce to add more flavors or increase the tenderness, here are a few popular choices that will go well with both flank and skirt cuts:
- Red wine sauce: A decadent red wine pan sauce is probably the most popular sauce to pair with a good steak. Simply make it in the same pan you used to sear the steaks. It’s a great way to incorporate the flavors leftover in the pan. Ingredients include red wine, garlic, and butter for added richness.
- Balsamic reduction sauce: This particular sauce works nicely as a marinade as well. But, when made into a reduced glaze, turns in a deliciously sticky-sweet sauce which you can drizzle over your steak.
- Barbecue sauce: Everyone loves a good barbecue sauce. And with so many different variations to choose from, your particular version of this very traditional sauce will certainly add a burst of flavor to your meal.
- Caramelized onions and mushrooms: While caramelized onions and mushrooms are technically not a sauce, they do make a fabulous addition to any traditional steak dish. And skirt and flank steak dishes are no different!
Should Skirt and Flank Steaks be Marinated?
Steak can be enjoyed with a simple seasoning or a more flavor intense marinate. For tougher steaks such as skirt or flank, the marinade time shouldn’t exceed 24 hours in the refrigerator. For the most part, a couple of hours will be enough time to ensure your steak absorbs the extra flavor.
A tip here would be to use a marinade with a considerable amount of acidity. Many recipes include lemon or lime juice, balsamic vinegar, or even Worcestershire sauce. These types of acidic juices serve to break down the fibrous textures adding to the tenderness of the cooked result.
A Quick Tip: Why Should You Cut the Skirt and Flank Steak Against the Grain?
Probably the most important point to remember with both skirt and flank steaks is to cut the meat against the grain when serving and eating. The reason for this is actually very simple.
Both cuts of meat have long strands of tough fibers running through them. Cutting against the grain will allow you to sever those difficult fibers rather than cutting along them. This will result in meat that’s actually much easier to chew.
A Final Thought About Skirt Steak vs Flank Steak
When it comes to skirt steak or flank steak, it’s very difficult to choose a clear winner. Both cuts have an overwhelmingly robust beefy flavor which makes them equally popular. Steak lovers agree that although these two cuts are not that well known, they deliver a tenderness and juiciness that’s right up there with the more well-known steak greats.
The facts that these two cuts are so interchangeable and affordable just add to the allure of adding them to your next barbecue!