How to make skirt steak tender

How to make skirt steak tender? Even though skirt steak has a unique flavor, it’s a tough cut with lots of connective tissue. There’s an inside skirt and an outside skirt steak, and both come from the plate primal, a well-worked area hence why the muscle fibers are so tough and chewy. However, you can make this exceptionally flavorful cut of beef tender by using one of 5 tenderizing methods.

In this article, I’ll explain how to tenderize steak with salt solutions, marinades, a slow cooking method, and pounding the steak with a meat mallet.

How to make skirt steak tender

Skirt steak is best cooked hot and fast on a grill or cast iron skillet. The cut is often used for fajita and salads; however, to keep skirt steak from being chewy, follow one of the five tenderizing methods below:

5 ways to tenderize skirt steak
Fresh and cooked skirt steaks

Tenderize with salt (dry brine)

Tenderize steak with salt. Rub skirt steak with a generous amount of kosher salt and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Squeeze as much air as possible and place the steak in the refrigerator overnight. Dry brine uses steaks moisture to form the brine, which later soaks back into the steak and breaks down muscle fibers resulting in a tender cut packed with flavor. It also helps to get a better crispy exterior when searing the steak (Maillard reaction).

Marinate the steak

Marinades with acidic ingredients such as apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk, or yogurt, to name a few, help to break down muscle fibers making the skirt steak more tender. Use a light hand when adding species and acidic ingredients to the marinade because you do not want to overpower the natural flavors of the beef. Here’s an excellent steak recipe that requires marinade.

Wet brine

Tenderize skirt steak with a wet brine solution. Add 30 grams of kosher salt to one liter of water and bring it to a boil. Once the water has cooled down, place the steak in a water solution and leave it there for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Leaving steak submerged under salted water for too long may cause the steak to become too salty. Salted water will break down the tough muscle fibers making skirt steak tender. Feel free to add additional aromatics to the salted water to infuse other flavors into the meat. Keep in mind that there are many different types of salt with varying levels of saltiness.

Pound the steak

Cover the steak with plastic wrap and gently pound it using a meat mallet’s flat side. Pounding meat is a quick and easy way to break down the muscle fibers in the meat and make it more tender. However, if skirt steak has excess marbling, make sure to remove some otherwise, it’ll make pounding very messy.

Slow cook

Sear the steak in a scorching pan until caramelized crust forms. Add a few tablespoons of olive, two cloves of garlic, onion, carrot, and celery into the pot and cook on medium heat until onions become transparent. Add a cup of red wine and reduce by about 2/3. Pour beef broth into the pot with fresh rosemary and thyme and bring it to a simmer. Add the skirt steak into the pot and place the pot in a preheated oven (275° Fahrenheit), and cook for 3-4 hours. Here’s a full guide on how to braise the beef.

Additional tips for making skirt steak tender

tips for making skirt steak even more tender
Cooked tender skirt steak

Leave skirt steak to rest

Leave skirt steak to rest after cooking. Resting will allow steak juices to redistribute throughout the steak’s interior, making the meat tender and juicy. If you slice skirt steak right after it’s cooked, the juices will end up on your plate, making the steak dry and chewy.

Slice against the grain

By slicing long bundles of muscle fibers against the grain, you shorten them and make them easier to chew. However, if you cut them with the grain, the long muscle fibers stay intact, meaning it’s harder to tear them apart with your teeth, resulting in tougher chew.

Do not overcook the steak

It’s best not to overcook the skirt steak. When cooking on medium-high heat, it should be cooked to a medium-rare level of doneness. However, ignore the temperature guidelines if you choose a different steak cooking method, such as braising.


Why did my skirt steak come out tough?

Most often, skirt steak comes out tough because it’s overcooked. It should not be cooked beyond medium rare. It may also be tough because it was not appropriately tenderized.

What is the best cooking method for skirt steak?

The best cooking method for a skirt steak is pan frying, grilling, or stir-frying. The meat is packed with flavor and, when cooked fast on high heat, is perfect for salads, fajitas, or tacos.

How do I stop skirt steak from overcooking?

Use a meat thermometer to check the skirt steak’s internal temperature. It’ll help to avoid overcooking the meat. However, if you do not have a meat thermometer, cook skirt steak quickly and remove it from the heat source after about 3-5 cooking.

How do you tenderize skirt steak for fajitas?

Tenderize skirt steak for fajitas using dry brine or marinade. Dry brine will not overpower the meat’s natural flavors, while marinating is an excellent way to infuse the meat with different flavors that add complexity to fajitas.

Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas is an accomplished chef with over a decade of experience in the culinary world, having worked in esteemed, high-end restaurants across Europe. With a talent for combining traditional techniques and innovative flair, Renaldas has refined his signature style under the mentorship of respected European chefs. Recently, Renaldas has expanded his impact beyond the kitchen by sharing his expertise through his online platform. Dedicated to inspiring culinary professionals and food enthusiasts, he offers expert advice, innovative recipes, and insightful commentary on the latest gastronomic trends.
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