Skirt Steak vs Flank Steak

Acabonac Farms |

When it comes to beef cuts, skirt steak and flank steak are often confused with one another. Don’t be too hard on yourself though, it makes sense as to why. They’re both thinner cuts of beef perfect for grilling and marinating, oftentimes used interchangeably. However, they each bring some unique qualities to the table, and in this article, you’re going to learn the important differences between them, and when you might want one over the other.  

Skirt steak, harvested from the cow's diaphragm, sports a long, flat shape and has a real knack for absorbing marinades, making it the star of dishes like fajitas. Its robust flavor and slightly tougher texture mean it benefits from some tender loving care in the form of a good marinade.

Flank steak, on the other hand, is cut from the lower abdominal area, making it leaner and thicker than its skirt counterpart. It has a very pronounced grain, which is a highway map for slicing: cut against it, and you’re rewarded with tender bites; slice with it, and you might find yourself chewing longer than you'd like.

Recognizing the subtle differences, and understanding how to prepare each cut properly, can elevate your dishes significantly. For those looking to source the best in grass-fed beef, Acabonac Farms offers both cuts, ensuring high quality meat without unwanted additives or chemicals, unmatched flavor, and ethical sustainable sourcing. Knowing the difference between skirt and flank steak will have you holding the title of grillmaster in no time.

Key Takeaways

  • Both skirt and flank steaks are known for their rich flavor and ability to absorb marinades, making them two of the most popular choices for grilling enthusiasts.
  • Skirt steak is very thin, making it ideal for quick cooking and has a stronger beefy flavor. Flank steak has a more mild taste suitable for many dishes, but comes with a prominent grain which means proper slicing is needed to maximize tenderness.
  • Understanding how to properly prepare and cook each cut - considering their unique textures and flavors - can significantly enhance your results.

What is Skirt Steak?

Skirt steak is a cut of beef that comes from the diaphragm muscles of the cow, and is one of the top cuts of steak at Acabonac Farms. It is known for its long, flat shape and is located near the cow's belly, which results in a very thin cut that has a lot of flavor but can also be quite tough if overcooked. Visually, skirt steak is recognizable by its thin, elongated appearance, with a grain that runs across its length. Other names that it goes by are “entraña" in Spanish-speaking countries, Romanian steak, Philadelphia steak, or Arrachera.

what is skirt steak

Typical Uses for Skirt Steak

Skirt steak is a favorite in many dishes across various cuisines, particularly known for its role in Mexican fajitas. It also shines in stir-fries, sandwiches, and as a standalone entrée, often marinated and grilled to bring out its full flavor. Some of the main reasons you might want to want to feature skirt steak in your next meal are:

Marinade Absorption: Because of its loose muscle fibers, skirt steak is perhaps the best cut for absorbing the flavors of marinades.

Quick Cooking: Its thinness allows for fast cooking, ideal for high-heat methods like grilling.

Versatility: Excellent in a variety of dishes, from casual barbecues to gourmet preparations.

Cost-Effectiveness: Generally more affordable than premium cuts, making it a great choice for flavorful meals on a budget.

What is Flank Steak?

Flank steak is a lean and flavorful primal cut of beef that comes from the abdominal muscles or lower chest of the cow, similar to flap steak. Unlike skirt steak, flank steak is thicker and wider, but it also has a noticeable grain running across it, making it easy to identify. This cut is relatively flat and long, and is known for its texture that becomes very tender when sliced properly (against the grain).

In most English-speaking countries, ‘flank steak” is this cut’s primary name. However, in French cuisine, it is often referred to as "bavette." In Latin America, particularly in Brazil, it's called "fraldinha”.

what is flank steak

Typical Uses for Flank Steak

Flank is excellent for grilling, broiling, or stir-frying. This cut shines in dishes that utilize marination before cooking, as the flank readily absorbs flavors and becomes more tender during the process. When cut against its prominent grain, flank steak is used in many of the same dishes as skirt steak. It is a terrific choice for use in salads, fajitas, and sandwiches too! Flank steak is also particularly popular in Asian cooking, especially in Chinese and Thai cuisines.

Many of the same advantages from skirt steak come with this cut, including its versatility, cost-effectiveness, and quick cooking time. However there are some distinct advantages:

  • Leanness: If you’re looking for a lower fat meal, flank steak offers less marbling than skirt steak.
  • Tenderness: While both cuts are tender when handled and prepared correctly, flank steak becomes even more notably tender than skirt when cut against its prominent grain. 
  • Uniform Thickness: Flank is easier to work with than skirt steak because of its consistent thickness throughout the cut. 

What's Better, Flank Steak or Skirt Steak?

skirt steak vs flank steak

Choosing between these two cuts often comes down to personal preference and specific cooking needs. Here's are some detailed comparisons between flank and skirt steak to help you decide:

Texture and Flavor Comparison

Flank Steak

Skirt Steak

Texture

Leaner, uniform thickness, tender when sliced against the grain

Thinner, more marbling, can be chewier unless well marinated

Flavor

Milder, versatile for various dishes

Rich, intense beefy flavor, ideal for strong-taste preferences


Flank vs Skirt Steak Nutritional Content

Flank Steak (per 100g)

Skirt Steak (per 100g)

Protein

Approximately 25 grams

Approximately 23 grams

Fat

Approximately 8 grams

Approximately 12 grams

Calories

About 175 calories

About 200 calories

Vitamins/Minerals

Good source of B and E vitamins, zinc, and iron

Similar in B and E vitamins, zinc, and iron


Grass-fed beef options, like those from Acabonac Farms, offer significant nutritional advantages and over conventional grain-fed beef, including up to 160% more omega-3 fatty acids, double the vitamin E, and over 125% more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), while containing 33% less total fat. 

Price and Availability

Flank Steak

Skirt Steak

Average Market Price

Higher, varies by region, roughly $12-$15 per pound

Slightly lower, about $10-$13 per pound

Availability

Widely available in supermarkets and butcher shops

Commonly available but slightly less so than flank steak



Which is Fattier: Skirt Steak or Flank Steak?

Skirt steak generally contains more fat. The marbling in skirt steak is one of the advantages of the cut, as the fat renders during high heat cooking methods and coats instills the meat with a richer flavor. However, this fat content can be seen as a downside for those who are more health conscious.

Is Flank or Skirt Steak Better For Fajitas?

For fajitas, skirt steak is traditionally the preferred choice. Skirt steak's texture, when marinated and cooked quickly at high heat, becomes ideally tender and flavorful, which is what you want when preparing fajitas. While flank steak can also be used and yields tasty results, skirt steak holds the edge here.

Can You Replace Flank Steak with Skirt Steak?

Replacing flank steak with skirt steak is generally acceptable in many recipes, especially in stir-fries or grilled meals. However, it's important to consider the difference in flavor. Skirt steak has a much more beefy taste, which can be a pro or con depending on who you ask. Flank steak is usually preferred in Asian cuisine, for example, because it is more mild - allowing the other ingredients and flavors to shine.

How to Cook Flank Steak and Skirt Steak

Both cuts respond well to similar cooking methods and involve almost identical preparation techniques (which is why they are so often interchangeable in recipes). They should be marinated for the best results, as they’re thin profile maximizes flavor absorption and allows marinade to effectively break down the muscle fibers and tenderize the meat. High heat, quick cooking methods like grilling and pan-searing are the best options for both cuts to get a delicious sear/char on the outside while locking in flavor on the inside. 

Make sure your pan or grill is very hot before placing your meat on it. For tender grass-fed beef, cooking should only take 3-4 minutes per side when grilling or pan-searing. If your temperature is too low, you’ll miss out on the sear and have to expose the meat to heat for a longer time, which will yield chewy and tough results. For a more guaranteed tender result, you can also slow-cook or braise flank or skirt steak. This method is excellent for breaking down tougher fibers - especially with flank steak. When finished cooking, always slice your steak against the grain as it cuts through the muscle fibers and increases tenderness.

Key Differences in Cooking Approaches

While the majority or the cooking process for flank and skirt steak is the same, it is important to remember these tips for each respective steak:

Skirt Steak: Because it is thinner than flank steak, it is much easier to overcook. Keep a watchful eye on your meat and remove immediately after a sear has established. 3-4 minutes on each side is the recommended cooking time for both cuts, but shoot closer to 3 minutes for skirt steak. 

Flank Steak: Being slightly thicker than skirt steak, flank steak does not absorb marinades as quickly. When marinating flank steak, try to do so overnight to get the absolute best results. Also, while both cuts need to be sliced against the grain after cooking, it is particularly important for flank steak as it has tighter muscle fibers that need to be separated by slicing (incorrectly sliced flank steak will be tougher than incorrectly sliced skirt steak).

Popular Skirt Steak Recipes

skirt steak recipes

Skirt steak is celebrated for its flavor and quick-cooking properties, making it ideal for a variety of dishes. Here are some simple and popular recipes:

Classic Beef Fajitas:

  1. Marinate: Combine lime juice, olive oil, minced garlic, chili powder, cumin, and a pinch of salt. Marinate the skirt steak for at least 1 hour.
  2. Cook: Grill the steak over high heat for 3 minutes per side until charred.
  3. Serve: Slice thinly against the grain and serve with sautéed onions and bell peppers on warm flour tortillas.

Skirt Steak Salad:

  1. Prepare: Marinate skirt steak in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and rosemary.
  2. Grill: Cook on high heat until medium-rare, about 3 minutes per side on high heat.
  3. Assemble: Slice and lay over mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, sliced avocado, and crumbled goat cheese.
  4. Dressing: Drizzle with more balsamic vinaigrette and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.

Argentinian Chimichurri Steak:

  1. Sauce: Blend parsley, fresh garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano, and red pepper flakes to make chimichurri.
  2. Grill: Cook skirt steak over high heat until desired doneness, typically 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare.
  3. Serve: Slice steak thinly across the grain and serve with a generous helping of chimichurri sauce. Accompany with roasted potatoes or a fresh garden salad.

Popular Flank Steak Recipes

flank steak recipes

Flank steak is equally versatile and is known for its lean profile and mild flavor that isn’t overly beefy. This makes flank steak the perfect base for a ton of different dishes:

Marinated Flank Steak:

  1. Marinate: Soak the steak in a blend of soy sauce, honey, minced garlic, and ginger for several hours.
  2. Grill: Cook to your preferred level of doneness on a preheated grill, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.
  3. Serve: Let rest, then slice against the grain and serve alongside steamed vegetables or over creamy mashed potatoes.

Asian-style Stir Fry:

  1. Prepare: Thinly slice the flank steak against the grain.
  2. Stir Fry: Quickly cook the steak strips in a hot wok or pan with sesame oil, adding bell peppers, sliced onions, chili peppers, and carrots. Toss in a savory stir fry sauce made with soy sauce, oyster sauce, and a dash of sugar.
  3. Finish: Serve hot over a bed of steamed jasmine rice or wrapped in lettuce cups.

London Broil:

  1. Marinate: Cover the flank steak in a marinade of red wine, olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs for at least 4 hours.
  2. Broil or Grill: Cook under a broiler or on a hot grill, about 4 minutes per side for the grill and 5 minutes for the broiler.
  3. Serve: Slice thinly against the grain and pair with a side of roasted seasonal vegetables.

Where to Buy Skirt Steak and Flank Steak Online

Hungry yet? We encourage you to experiment with both cuts to find your favorite new quick-cooking steak! Grass fed skirt steak, with its strong beefy flavor, and thin marinade-absorbing shape is ideal for dishes like fajitas, while the leaner, milder grass fed flank steak is perfect when sliced thin and enjoyed in stir-fry. Sources like Acabonac Farms offer both of these cuts online, giving you a convenient way to enjoy some of the best beef in the country - delivered right to your front door. 

If you’re excited to explore the distinct flavors and textures of skirt and flank steaks, consider purchasing these cuts from Acabonac Farms, known for the best grass-fed beef that is both flavorful and sustainably sourced. With no unwanted additives, fillers, hormones, or antibiotics, Acabonac Farms produces simply delicious meat from animals ethically raised on open grassy pastures.

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.