I used to think there were two kinds of steaks—less expensive, weeknight steaks like flank steak and more expensive, treat yourself steaks like filet mignon, New York, or rib-eye. But I recently discovered a steak that’s so deliciously beefy and lip-smackingly juicy that it tastes like a splurge, yet is inexpensive enough for any night of the week.
Skirt steak. It’s my new favorite steak.
I admit to being late to the skirt steak bandwagon—it might be your favorite steak already. But if not, allow me to introduce you (and encourage you to make Skirt Steak with Chimichurri).
A little bit about skirt steak. Like a flank steak, a skirt steak is a biggish piece of relatively rectangular, relatively thin meat. But skirt is narrower and thinner thank flank—only about 4 inches wide and 1/2- to 1-inch thick.
Also like flank steak, skirt steak has a visible grain—stripes, if you will, of muscle fibers running through it. But while flank steak’s grain runs lengthwise, skirt steak’s runs widthwise. That comes into play when it’s time to cut the meat, which I’ll get to in a minute.
You might have to go beyond your regular supermarket to find skirt steak, but anyplace with a decent meat counter should have it. Once there, you might find two types, the outside skirt and the inside skirt. If so, opt for the outside—it will be more tender. If not, don’t worry about it.
A couple of really important things to know to have a truly satisfying skirt steak experience. One, since it’s relatively thin and lean, an overcooked skirt steak can be dry and chewy. In other words, skirt steak is not for anyone who likes their meat much more than medium rare. And to get a tasty crust on the outside before it’s past medium rare on the inside, you need to cook skirt steak at a really high temperature for a really short time. Cast iron or a grill is ideal, as long as the skillet or grate is preheated and good and hot.
Then just 2 to 3 minutes per side. That’s absolutely it.
The second important thing has to do with what I mentioned earlier—the grain in the meat. That grain is long fibers of tough muscle so, like flank steak, it’s common to serve skirt steak sliced across, or perpendicular to, the grain, essentially trimming those fibers into smaller pieces to skirt (a skirt steak pun!) a chewy experience.
But here’s the thing to pay attention to, especially if you’re used to flank steak. You slice flank steak widthwise because its fibers run lengthwise. But skirt steak’s fibers run widthwise, which means you want to slice lengthwise. But that would yield oddly long slices. So instead, you cut the length of the steak into smaller pieces, either before or after cooking, then slice those pieces across into shorter slices. (Here’s a good video on slicing a skirt steak.)
Serving sliced steak might not be as dramatic as serving a whole one. But I happily forgo that drama because the intensely rich, beefy flavor of skirt steak is what I’m craving when I’m craving steak. In comparison, my last couple of “whole” steaks have left me… meh.
How to serve skirt steak? Because it’s typically sliced, you’ll see it in a lot of sliced-steak dishes, like fajitas, tacos, and salads. All delicious. (Salads and sandwiches are also good uses for leftover skirt steak because reheating can lead to the meat becoming more than medium-rare—in other words, overcooked and dry.)
But really, you can serve it any way you like steak. Pan-seared, grilled, simply seasoned with salt and pepper, or dressed up with herbs, spices, sauces, or marinades. (Contrary to popular opinion, marinades don’t do much in terms of tenderizing. So use one for the flavor it adds to the outside of your steak, but not for any textural difference it’ll make.)
Because of its rich flavor, I like to serve skirt steak with a bright contrast. Skirt Steak with Chimichurri, an Argentinian herb sauce that’s sort of like a slightly acidic parsley pesto, is a delicious and not uncommon way to go. Skirt steak is also good with pesto, with this recipe’s salsa verde, and with a flavored butter, like this one or this one.
If you’re looking forward to an easy-living summer, try easy-to-make, easy-to-love skirt steak. It could become your new favorite too. :)