Nothing says “I love you” like a deliciously cooked steak dinner. When you are looking for the best available cuts of meat, you should know the differences between skirt steak vs flank steak.
Many people get these two very similar cuts of meat confused. They are not the same cut at all but come from a very similar area of the cow. Skirt steak is cut from the diaphragm of the cow and flank steak comes from the lower abdomen of the cow. Both are very muscular, tough, and rich cuts of meat best served rare or medium-rare. Both handle marinades very well, although skirt steak is a little more receptive to marinades because of the more loose muscle fiber structure.
🥩 Comparison between Skirt Steak Vs Flank Steak
|Skirt Steak||Flank Steak|
|Cost||Less Expensive per Pound||More Expensive per Pound|
|Texture||Rough, Lean, Tougher,||Tough, Slightly more tender than Skirt steak.|
|Flavor||More Intense||Intense and Rich|
|Thickness||Very thin cut||Less thin cut|
|Best Finish||Rare or Medium Rare||Any|
|Cut||Diaphragm||Bottom of Abdomen|
|Size||> 1 Pound Whole: Very Thin and Long.||2 Pounds Whole: Less Thin and Long|
|Cooking Methods||Seared or Grilled||Seared or Grilled|
What is Skirt Steak?
If you’ve ever wondered what meat is best for fajitas, the answer might very well be skirt steak. It is full of intense flavor, is a very thin cut of meat, and takes to marinades extremely well. As long as you cook the meat rare or medium-rare and cut it against the grain you will have a delicious treat for fajitas or simply as part of a steak and potatoes meal.
Skirt steak is cut away from the diaphragm of a cow. The diaphragm is a muscle that helps makes the lungs work. This particular cut of meat is extremely lean, muscular, and tough. However, cooked properly it is also very tasty because the muscle concentration adds crazy flavor to the meat.
Skirt steak meat is visibly rough and comes extremely thin to the point you can almost see through the ribbons of meat when you hold it up to the light. The muscle fibers are loosely connected.
If you’re in a rush, grilling a skirt steak is the way to go. It works best for a hot and fast grill, like we did for the grilled skirt steak with black garlic aioli.
What is Flank Steak?
When choosing a cut of beef for stir fry, you would be smart to reach for flank steak. Flank steak also gives skirt steak a run for its money when it comes time to make fajitas. This cut of meat has great flavor and a tight grain structure coupled with lower fat content. This makes it prone to chewiness if cooked incorrectly. It is possible to marinate flank steak, but the grain definition makes marinating less effective than it is for skirt steak.
Flank steak should be cooked rare or medium-rare for best results, however, it will stand up to a higher temperature finish than skirt steak if you prefer your steaks medium-well. Flank steak comes from the lower abdomen of the cow and is almost all muscle. It is lean, tough, and low in fat.
Both cuts of meat are long, thin, and skinny compared to other cuts of steak. However skirt steak is more long, thin, and skinny than flank steak.
👨🍳 How to Grill These Cuts
Whether you choose prime vs choice steaks, prepping them will be the same. The best way to prepare both of these meats is to sear or grill the meats on high heat for a very short period of time with a rare or medium-rare finish. Your goal will be roughly 130ºF. For skirt steak, that goal temperature will take about three minutes per side. For flank steak, that goal temperature will take roughly five minutes per side.
Both skirt steak and flank steak can be tough. Tenderize the meat before grilling it by pounding on it with a meat mallet. Marinating the meat properly will also help tenderize it.
You can also smoke the flank steak, but you really need to monitor the temperatures closely.
USDA suggests beef be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees. Snag our Grilling Times and Temperature Chart to put in your cupboard for quick reference.
❗ Recipe Tips
Always cook these meats rare or medium-rare for best results. That means you can have your meal from the refrigerator to the grill to the table in ten minutes or less! Skirt steak takes roughly three minutes per side on a hot grill and flank steak takes roughly five minutes per side.
Always cut these meats against the grain! A well-defined grain structure will make it very easy to tell which way you should turn the meat on your cutting board to go against the grain instead of with the grain. One of the easiest ways to make sure you do this is to cut the meat at a catty-corner to the length of the cut.
Marinate your meat. Both of these steak cuts will be tenderized significantly simply by soaking them in a good marinade. You will love how these steaks soak up the flavor and spice of your favorite mix. Dry rubs will be less effective.
🍽️ How to Serve
Use both of these two cuts of beef for fajitas, stir fry, on tacos or in salads, or even on top of a grain bowl. Serve the meat with sides according to your preparation of choice. You can even serve the meat plain with sides you would traditionally serve with Ribeye.
🥩 How to Store Leftovers
Because both cuts are cooked rare or medium-rare, the leftovers can easily be used the next day. Add these steak pieces to scrambled eggs or a sunny-side-up egg for a delicious breakfast treat! Just a quick trip around a hot skillet is all the meat will need.
To keep the leftovers, take the strips of meat you have left and put them in an airtight container in your refrigerator or freezer. You can also use a freezer-quality plastic zipper baggy.
Frozen leftovers can be added to risotto in the Instant Pot, used in stir fry, rice dishes, tacos, or grain bowls, or tossed with a salad. Thaw briefly in the microwave or in a skillet as you cook the rest of your dish.
Smoked Flank Steak – I love the rich flavoring added by the wood chips.
Grilled Tex Mex Flank Steak with Avocado Corn Salsa – Cut thin, this is a phenomenal recipe with grilled corn and avocado.
Best Flank Steak Substitutes – It can be frustrating when the grocery store doesn’t have the cut in stock. Learn which substitutes can be used in a pinch.
Cilantro Lime Skewers – This is a fast and delicious recipe with the tart lime and cilantro marinade.
No. These two cuts of meat come from different areas of the cow but both are very similar and each can be used as a substitute for the other.
Skirt steak is longer, thinner, and rougher than flank steak but both are generally considered long, thin, and lean cuts of meat. Flank steak has a more oval appearance and may be as much as 5/8″ thick.
Yes. In general, skirt steak makes the best substitute for flank steak and vice versa. The two types of meat come from a similar area of the cow, are both mostly muscle, and are long thin cuts with well-defined grain structures perfect for marinades and similar recipes.
Skirt steak is cut from the diaphragm of the cow, which is the muscle that allows the lungs to inhale and exhale. This cut is a thing, long, oddly shaped muscle.
Flank steak is cut from the lower abdomen of the cow and is all muscle. This muscle is in near-constant use, making it the tougher of the two options. It is a thin, long, and oval-shaped meat.
Other names for skirt steak include Romanian tenderloin, Philadelphia steak, and Arrachera (in Mexico).
Flank steak may also be called Beef flank, Jiffy steak, Fraldinha (in Brazil), Sobrebarriga (in Colombia), and Babette (in France).