The skirt and the flank are two great steaks. While they have a few things in common they have significant differences in grain structure, shape and fat content which means that they cook up a little differently.
When I have the choice to cook flank or skirt steak I go with the flank almost every time.
Let’s take a closer look at the Skirt vs Flank comparison and see what makes them different.
Where Do The Flank and Skirt Come From?
The flank steak comes from the abdominal area of a steer, specifically the Flank section, and is typically sold as an entire muscle. A flank steak will typically weigh between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds.
The skirt steak also comes from the belly of the steer, starting in the Plate section and extending into the Chuck. The skirt is actually the diaphragm of the steer. There is an “inside skirt” and an “outside skirt” but there really isn’t much difference between them.
There is a membrane on the back of the skirt that must be removed or the steak will be incredibly tough.
Since the skirt steak is actually the diaphragm of the steer it is one of the most used muscles on the animal. The end result is a cut of beef that is incredibly flavorful but much tougher than the flank.
Differences in Grain Structure
Both the flank and skirt have well defined grain structures.
Here is a look at a flank steak. The direction of the muscle fibers is clearly defined which makes slicing against the grain extremely simple. You can also see that the muscle fibers are tightly bound together. This means that marinating an intact flank steak is pointless as no marinade can penetrate into the meat.
Here is a look at a skirt steak. Like a flank steak, the grain structure is very well defined. Unlike the flank steak the muscle fibers are not tightly packed together which makes this cut more accepting of marinades.
How to Grill These Steaks
Both of these steaks are thin, flat cuts. There is no need to mess around with indirect heat or reverse searing.
I go with direct high heat using a set of GrillGrate panels to put down some grill marks. A guy has to have some fun 🙂
The skirt is a thinner steak than the flank so it grills faster. I will typically grill a skirt steak for three minutes per side while a flank will go for five minutes per side.
I always shoot for an internal temperature 130F but that can be tricky. The skirt is so thin that it is hard to get my thermometer exactly where I want it. This is especially true when working over scorching hot charcoal.
When these steaks are done and rested it is absolutely critical that they be sliced AGAINST the grain.
If you slice a skirt steak with the grain you will be chewing that steak for days.
When I grilled these steaks we ended up using them for fajitas. The clear winner between the two were the fajitas made from the flank steak.
While the skirt steak is supposed to have better flavor than the flank the reality is that after they were grilled, sliced and served up with peppers, onions and salsa any flavor difference between the two steaks was insignificant.
What was very apparent between the fajitas is that the flank steak was much more tender than the skirt.
Overall I find the flank to be an affordable steak that is simple to work with and has a nice balance between flavor and tenderness. The skirt isn’t a bad steak either…I would just rather have the flank.
One shining consideration about skirt steak is that it is one of the few steaks that comes out pretty good when cooked to Well Done. Check out the video below…it is pretty fun!
Related Steak Posts