How To Cook a Skirt Steak: Ultimate Guide

skirt steak cut

Skirt steak is a long strip, and a thin cut that comes from the plate primal found below the ribs. It’s a tough cut of beef; therefore, you need to know how to cook a skirt steak. First, you will need to tenderize the steak and trim the connective tissue. It will prevent the steak from being chewy. You have a few options for cooking skirt steak. There is slow cooking and cooking over direct heat – on a stovetop or grill. This article will show you how to cook skirt steak on a grill and a stovetop.

As a chef, I do prefer cooking meat over direct heat. It gives the meat a distinct flavor, unlike slow cooking. Smoke on a grill enhances meat with a smoky flavor. When the steak is pan-seared, it goes through Maillard’s reaction. The exact process occurs when grilling a steak. The meat caramelizes on the outside and remains juicy and tender inside.

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How To Cook a Skirt Steak

cooking skirt steak

You can cook skirt steak perfectly using many different cooking techniques. I chose to highlight two of my favorite cooking methods – grilling and pan-frying. Other than that, it’s a versatile cut of meat that can be cooked in many ways (slow cooking, etc.).

I’m not going to use marinades; however, if you want to have a tender skirt steak, I highly advise using lactic acids to do so.

I’m a firm believer – the less is more; therefore, I’m using kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and some fresh herbs. I do not want to overpower the natural flavors of the meat. Smoke from the grill will add a smokey flavor to the steak. While butter and fresh herbs, when pan searing the steak, will make it crispy on the outside and flavorful and juicy on the inside.

It seems to me most home cooks do not know what the difference between a skirt steak and a flank steak is. Well, skirt steak comes from the plate primal, found below the ribs, while flank steak is from the abdominal muscles of the cow.

Here’s a list of equipment you’ll need for grilling:

Here’s a list of equipment you’ll need for pan-frying:

Here’s the ingredient list (feel free to swap herbs):

  • Skirt steak (grass-fed);
  • Olive oil;
  • Kosher salt;
  • Freshly ground black pepper;
  • Fresh thyme;
  • Fresh rosemary;
  • Butter;
  • Garlic.

How To Cook Skirt Steak On a Grill

  1. Season the steak. Skirt steak is a chewy cut of meat; therefore, I suggest seasoning it with a generous amount of salt at least an hour before cooking. Ideally, season it for about 24 hours before cooking. Dry brine uses steak’s moisture to form the brine, which soaks back in. This process keeps the meat tender, juicy, and firm after cooking it;
  2. Bring skirt steak to room temperature. Take the steak out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking;
  3. Prepare the grill. Use cooking oil to rub grill grates. It’ll prevent the steak from sticking to the grates. If using a charcoal grill, prepare it for two zone cooking. One-half of the grill should be extremely hot. Hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill grate. If it starts to get uncomfortable holding hand after 3 seconds – the grill is ready for cooking. Another half of the grill should be warm;
  4. Remove connective tissue. Using a boning or paring knife, remove the tissue. If connective tissues are left – the steak will be tough to chew. Unless you’re planning to slow cook skirt steak for 4 hours or more – leave the tissue on;
  5. Pat steak dry. After dry brining the steak, there’s a lot of moisture on the meat’s exterior. Remove the moisture using paper towels. It’ll help to form a nice golden brown crust on the surface;
  6. Grill the steak. Place the steak onto the hot side of the grill and sear it for 2 minutes per side. Move steak onto a warm side and continue cooking to the desired doneness. I’m cooking my skirt steak to medium-rare. Cooking time depends on steaks thickness, grill temperature, and the weather outside;
  7. Check steak’s internal temperature. Using a meat thermometer or finger test method – check steak’s internal temperature. Remove the meat from the heat source when the steak’s temperature is 5° Fahrenheit below the desired doneness. Steak continues cooking for another few more minutes when off the grill;
  8. Rest. Leave it to rest for 5-10 minutes, depending on steak thickness. When cooking, the steak juices are pushed towards the middle of the meat. If you do not let the steak rest and slice into it – all that flavorful juices end up on your plate instead inside of the steak;
  9. Slice skirt steak. Slice the steak into thin slices, at an angle, across the grain. It’ll make the meat more tender.

Note: sear the meat on high heat for 2 minutes on each side on a gas grill. Then turn the heat to medium and continue cooking to desired doneness.

How To Cook Skirt Steak On a Stovetop

  1. Season the steak. Skirt steak is a chewy cut of meat; therefore, I suggest seasoning it with a generous amount of salt at least an hour before cooking. Ideally, season it for about 24 hours before cooking. Dry brine uses steak’s moisture to form the brine, which soaks back in. This process keeps the meat tender, juicy, and firm after cooking it;
  2. Bring skirt steak to room temperature. Take the steak out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking;
  3. Remove connective tissue. Using a boning or paring knife, remove the tissue. If connective tissues are left – the steak will be tough to chew. Unless you’re planning to slow cook skirt steak for 4 hours or more – leave the tissue on;
  4. Pat steak dry. After dry brining the steak, there’s a lot of moisture on the meat’s exterior. Remove the moisture using paper towels. It’ll help to form a nice golden brown crust on the exterior;
  5. Preheat the pan. Put a heavy cast-iron skillet on a stovetop over high heat. It should be scorching hot before placing the steak;
  6. Sear the steak. Pour two tablespoons of olive oil to coat the interior surface area of the pan. Lay the steak away from you and sear for two minutes on each side. Turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking to desired doneness. Cooking times may vary depending on the thickness of the steak. I’m cooking skirt steak medium-rare; therefore, it’ll take 5-6 minutes;
  7. Baste. Add butter and fresh herbs to the pan halfway through cooking. Create butter pools and baste the steak using a tablespoon;
  8. Check steak’s internal temperature. Using a meat thermometer or finger test method – check steak’s internal temperature. Remove the meat from the heat source when the steak’s temperature is 5° Fahrenheit below the desired doneness. Steak continues cooking for another few more minutes when off the grill;
  9. Rest. Leave it to rest for 5-10 minutes, depending on steak thickness. When cooking, the steak juices are pushed towards the middle of the meat. If you do not let the steak rest and slice into it – all that flavorful juices end up on your plate instead inside of the steak;
  10. Slice skirt steak. Slice the steak into thin slices, at an angle, across the grain. It’ll make the meat more tender.

Steak Doneness Guide

steak doneness chart
  • Rare steak: 125° F;
  • Medium rare steak: 135° F;
  • Medium steak: 145° F;
  • Medium-well steak: 150° F;
  • Well done, steak: 160° F.

Note: Carryover cooking continues when steak is resting. Remove meat from the heat source when the internal temperature is 5° Fahrenheit below the desired doneness. Keep in mind thin steaks, and thick steaks cook at different rates.

Use a meat thermometer to check the steak’s internal temperature. Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and check the reading displayed on a thermometer.

You can also use a finger test method to check the steak’s doneness. Using your index finger, touch the thickest part of the steak. Depending on how stiff it is, you can determine whether it’s cooked correctly or not.

Here’s a short video explaining how to use the finger test method:

Skirt Steak Buying Guide

When shopping for beef steak, pick grass-fed one. Nowadays, many supermarkets are packed with grain-fed beef steaks. Grass-fed has more nutritional benefits as well as a more complex flavor.

But what is the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef? For the most part, grain-fed beef is raised in a feedlot and fed an unnatural diet. In contrast, grass-fed beef is raised in its natural environment feeding on grass and other plants.

Though grain-fed beef contains more marbling, the taste and the texture of the meat are somewhat different from grass-fed beef.

Most steak lovers enjoy grass-fed steak more because of its meatier and more complex flavors. Grass-fed beef has a lot of marbling – which is slightly yellowish. The fat produces fantastic flavor and adds tenderness to the meat.

skirt steak buying guide

Conversely, grain-fed has too much marbling and not as good of a texture as grass-fed beef. Some may find too much fat overpowers the flavor of the meat. Yes, the steak is more buttery; however, a flavor profile is not as good.

I’m not saying you should avoid buying grain-fed beef; however, pick grass-fed instead if you’re not on a budget.

There’s also dry-aged and wet-aged steak. Both types are excellent; however one is more flavorful (dry-aged).

Dry-aged is hung for around 5 weeks in a dry environment. Throughout these 5 weeks, steak intensifies in flavor. It is expensive and very desirable among true steak lovers.

Wet-aged steak is more readily available. It’s vacuum-sealed and aged for 10 days. The wet-aging method tenderizes the meat making it more flavorful and more tender.

Here’re a few tips on how to choose the best quality skirt steak:

  • Marbling. Look for a yellowish marbling on the meat. It should have a decent amount of that since fat makes meet tasty. Too much fat will make the steak taste buttery – I’m not a massive fan of that;
  • Color. Darker meat is a sign of grass-fed beef, while brighter meat is a sign of grain-fed beef. If looking to have a tasty meal, then go for dark red meat. It has a more complex flavor profile, unlike butter-like grain-fed beef;
  • Smell. A good quality beef should be odorless. If it has a hint of ammonia odor, it’s better to stay away from meat like that.

How To Serve Skirt Steak

If looking for a skirt steak recipe, I have a few to share with you. Below you’ll find some of my favorite skirt steak recipes:

FAQ

How do you make skirt steak tender?

Season steak with a generous amount of salt and leave it to marinate for about 24 hours before cooking. During these 24 hours, salt will tenderize skirt steak, making it juicy and tender. Alternetaviley, you can use marinades with lactic acids to tenderize the meat. Food like buttermilk has lactic acids that react with proteins in meat at the molecular level making the meat tender.

Difference between skirt steak and flank steak?

Skirt steak comes from the plate primal, found below the ribs, while flank steak is from the abdominal muscles of the cow.

How long should you cook skirt steak?

Cook skirt steak between 4 to 9 minutes, depending on the doneness. Rare steak takes 4 minutes to cook. Medium rare takes around 5 minutes. Medium takes 6-7 minutes. Medium-well takes around 8 minutes. Well done takes 9-10 minutes. Keep in mind cooking times can be different depending on how you cook skirt steak (grilling, broiling, or pan-frying).

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