Skirt steak mimics other long, thin cuts of steak, like flank steak, in looks, but this cut deserves attention that it doesn’t usually get. Skirt steak is less well-known than some other seemingly more decadent cuts, but it’s definitely one you should know about if you like marinating steak and making creative steak dishes.
Cooking skirt steak takes a little more care than other cuts because its fibrous texture could get tough when things go wrong. However, this guide walks you through the most common cooking methods for skirt steak, so that you can whip up steak salads and fajitas in no time.
What is Skirt Steak
Skirt steak, hanger steak, flank steak — they all look relatively similar at first glance and are even used for similar purposes, so what’s the difference between them? Take a closer look at the skirt steak and you’ll notice one visible difference right off the bat: its very prominent grain. Skirt steak has long muscle fibers running through it, and it’s easy to spot them. Those fibers are so visible because skirt steak comes from the area right under the ribs, which is full of muscle.
While the origin of the name “skirt steak” remains unknown, the cut has been used for generations, especially in Hispanic cultures. Today, skirt steaks are more popular with commercial and restaurant buyers than the general population.
What Cut of Beef is Skirt Steak
The skirt steak comes from the plate section of a cow, which is part of the abdomen area underneath the ribs. This area is muscled and fibrous, which is why skirt steak can be tough if not cooked properly.
Skirt steak comes in two portions, the inside skirt and the outer skirt. The inside skirt steak tends to be a little tougher, as it comes from the abdominal area. The outer skirt steak is usually more tender because it’s from the diaphragm and yields a thicker cut.
There isn’t much skirt steak from one animal to go around. Butcher’s only get one inside skirt and one outside skirt from a cow, so the price of skirt steak can be steep, especially for consumers who don’t buy it on the mass market.
6 Ways to Cook Skirt Steak
Skirt steak is thinner than other steaks you might be used to cooking, like ribeye and strip steak. Still, you can cook it using the same methods; just be sure to keep a close eye on it to avoid overcooking.
Before cooking skirt steak, be sure to season with salt on all sides and leave at room temperature for about 45 minutes, allowing a natural brine to form for crispier edges.
Grilling Skirt Steak
- Brush olive oil on grill grates. Preheat grill to high heat.
- Season with pepper and additional salt, if desired.
- Sear steaks on each side for about 3-4 minutes, using tongs to flip just once.
- Remove from grill when the internal temperature is reached (let it cook to 125 degrees for medium-rare).
- Rest at room temperature on a plate tented with foil for 5 minutes. If slicing after cooking, be sure to cut against the grain.
Grilling Skirt Steak on Skewers
Because skirt steak is relatively thin, you don’t typically cut it into chunks like you would if you were skewering other cuts of beef. Instead, slice the steak into thin strips along the grain. Marinate if desired. Then, thread each piece of steak lengthwise onto the skewers. Grill over high heat for about 3-4 minutes; turn once to the other side, and grill for another 3-4 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Pan-Seared Skirt Steak
- Season steak with additional salt, if desired, and ground black pepper.
- Preheat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat with one tablespoon olive oil.
- Sear one side for 3-4 minutes. Then, use tongs to flip steak to the other side to sear for 2-4 minutes.
- Rest the steak on a cutting board or plate tented with foil for 5 minutes. Cut against the grain to slice before serving (optional).
Cooking Skirt Steak in the Oven
- Preheat your broiler. Spray an oven-safe pan with cooking spray.
- Season steak with black pepper and, if desired, a little extra salt. Place the steak in the prepared pan.
- Place under the broiler for 3-4 minutes. Flip with tongs and broil for another 3-4 minutes. The internal temperature should reach 125 degrees for medium-rare.
- Rest steaks at room temperature for 5-10 minutes on a plate tented with foil before serving.
Reverse Sear Method for Skirt
- Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Place an oven rack inside an oven-safe pan.
- Add steak to the oven rack. Season with black pepper and additional salt, if desired.
- Cook for 25-30 minutes. The internal temperature should read 125 degrees for medium-rare.
- Preheat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat with one tablespoon of oil.
- Add steaks to the pan and sear on each side for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
- Rest on a foil-tented plate for 5 minutes before serving. Slice against the grain, if desired.
Skirt Steak Sous Vide
- Marinate steak, if desired, for several hours or overnight before using this method.
- Preheat the precision cooker to 125 degrees.
- Place steak in the sous vide bag. Vacuum-seal it to remove the air.
- Place the bag in the preheated water so that it’s fully submerged.
- Cook for 1 ½ – 2 hours.
- Preheat a cast-iron skillet to medium-high with one tablespoon oil.
- Sear the steak on each side for 1-3 minutes until golden brown.
- Rest at room temperature on a plate tented with foil for 5 minutes before serving.
Seasoning Skirt Steak
Season skirt steak lightly with salt and pepper before cooking. If you’d like a more intense flavor, season with your favorite steak seasoning. Or, add a dry rub on all sides of the steak before pan-searing or grilling. Spices like smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground mustard also pair well with skirt steak.
Marinating Skirt Steak
Skirt steak is a favorite for marinating because it soaks up flavors well and the right marinade can keep it tender rather than tough. For a simple marinade, combine ½ cup soy sauce, ½ cup balsamic vinegar, ⅓ cup olive oil, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp oregano, and 1 tsp steak seasoning in a bowl.
Then, place steaks in a sealable bag and top with marinade. Close the bag and leave it in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours, or preferably overnight. Be sure to lay the bag flat to cover the steak in the marinade.
Pan-Seared Skirt Steak
- 2 6-8oz skirt steaks
- kosher salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- Rub salt into all sides of the skirt steaks. Rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.
- Preheat a cast-iron skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Sprinkle pepper on steaks before adding them to the pan. Sear for about 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
- Turn heat to low. Add the minced garlic to the pan. Spoon garlic and olive oil over the steaks, cooking for another 1-2 minutes until garlic becomes aromatic. Check that the internal temperature is 125-130 degrees for medium-rare.
- Remove steaks from heat and place on a plate tented with foil for 5-10 minutes before serving. If desired, slice steaks against the grain.
Just to make sure you have all the information you need to cook a yummy skirt steak from home, here are a few more pointers for a successful meal.
Skirt steak is one of the quickest to cook because of its thin profile. Expect the following cooking times for each method:
- Grilled: 15-20 minutes
- Skewers on Grill: 15-20 minutes
- Pan-Seared: 15-20 minutes
- Oven: 20 minutes
- Reverse Sear: 40-45 minutes
- Sous Vide: 1 ½ – 2 hours
Skirt steak doesn’t need much time to cook, but you should still make sure it’s cooked safely. Use a digital meat thermometer to check the thickest part of the steak. For medium-rare, you’ll want it to reach 125-130 degrees before pulling it from the heat. Your steak will cook a little more as it rests to reach its full doneness level. Add five more degrees for each level of doneness (remove from heat at 130-135 degrees for medium, for example).
Cooking Skirt Steak at Home
Skirt steak is a thin cut that’s not typically found in your local supermarket. However, your butcher likely has some in stock. But, expect to pay a bit for it, as there’s not much skirt steak from each animal to go around. When cooking at home, remember to stay vigilant to avoid overcooking. This quick-to-cook cut can get overdone fast if you’re not careful.
Want some at-home cooking inspiration for skirt steak? Try our Grilled Thai Coconut-Lime Skirt Steak recipe or this Fresh Garlic Cilantro Steak Sauce recipe, which is perfect for kicking skirt steak up a notch or two.