Skirt Steak: 5 Different Ways

by Matt Moore on August 30, 2011 · 30 comments

in Cooking, Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to dine with friends at one of NYC’s hipper steakhouses.  For those who’ve spent time reading my work, it shouldn’t surprise you that I typically don’t like to frequent places that are considered both trendy and expensive.  Nevertheless, I was in the company of a few investment banker friends, so I shut my mouth, ordered, and graciously accepted their offer to pick up the tab.  After all, I was a guest in their city!

As much as I hate to eat crow, I will confess . . . the place was awesome.  Aside from the fact that the atmosphere sported over-the-top décor and “club music,” my meal was fantastic.  The best part?  The highlight of their menu was not a traditional filet, rib-eye, or porterhouse.  Rather, the specialty of the house was my favorite cut of all: the skirt steak.

For those unaware of this cut of steak, allow me to enlighten you.  Skirt steaks are actually the diaphragm muscle, located in the area just below the ribs on the cow.  The outer skirt steak is from the plate section, below the rib and in-between the brisket and flank.  For the outside cut, butchers will typically leave the membrane attached, which should be removed before cooking.  Simply use a sharp knife to cut and pull away this membrane before cooking.  More commonly, you will find the inside skirt steak at your local grocery store.  This cut is a bit thinner, trimmed free of fat and membranes, and comes from the flank.  Regardless of either cut, this long, flat strip of meat has incredible flavor, but has often been considered tough and mysterious to outsiders (except Texans who swear by using skirt steak for fajitas).  However, the secret is finally out.  When marinated and prepared correctly, this cut is an excellent choice for flavor, value, and versatility.

Not surprisingly, an increase in awareness in “alternative” cuts has spawned somewhat of a movement in the restaurant world.  Diners are branching out by choosing these types of cuts (skirt, flat-iron, hanger, flank) over the more traditional steakhouse fare.  If you ask me, it’s a win-win for both diners and restaurateurs.  As patrons, we are stepping out of our comfort zones by enjoying new types of cuts, preparations, and flavors.  Restaurants are cutting back on expensive food costs by serving more “humble” cuts to intrigued diners.  The end result?  Better value, great flavor, and a new experience.

To get the same results at home, I’ve provided five outstanding recipes that will showcase the superb versatility and flavor of this cut.  A common attribute of all of these recipes is that skirt steaks take well to high heat.  Such heat will render the fat (flavor) and also allow you to prepare these meals rather quickly.  Always be sure to slice the steak against the grain and at an angle–this will ensure maximum tenderness.

Crack open a cold beer and get to work!


Skirt Steak Sandwiches with Garlic/Basil Mayo and Caramelized Onions

Just in time for football season, steak sandwiches are some of my favorite “game-day” foods.  This recipe ups the ante by fortifying a store-bought mayonnaise with a few fresh ingredients that will set this sandwich over-the-top.   (Prep 10 minutes. Cook 30 minutes. Serves 2)

Caramelized Onions
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Cups Yellow Sweet Onions, sliced thin

1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

Garlic/Basil Mayo
1/4 Cup Mayonnaise
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Pinch Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Fresh Basil, chopped
1 – 2 Dashes Worcestershire 

Skirt Steak Sandwiches 
1 Loaf Whole Grain French Bread
1 lb Skirt Steak
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

In a skillet over medium low heat, combine oil, onions, and kosher salt and sauté for 25 – 30 minutes, stirring on occasion until onions are browned and tender.

Mayo:  Combine minced garlic and kosher salt onto a cutting board.  Using the flat side of a chef’s knife, work the ingredients into a paste on the board.  Combine garlic paste with mayo and remaining ingredients.  Cover, and keep chilled until ready for service.

Sandwich:  Slice French bread into approximately two 6 – inch servings.  Next, slice the bread horizontally to create a sandwich top and bottom.  Place each slice under a broiler for 30 seconds – 1 minute, or until slightly browned and crispy.  Meanwhile, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the skirt steak and season both sides liberally with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Add steak to a grill/grill pan over high heat and cook for approximately 2 – 3 minutes per side for medium rare.  Remove steak from grill and set aside to rest for 3 – 4 minutes.  Begin assembling sandwich by spreading a layer of mayo on each side of the toasted bread.  Next, thinly slice steak across the grain and add to the bottom portion of the sandwich.  Top with caramelized onions and serve.

Skirt Steak Stir-Fry

This quick and simple recipe makes for a great weeknight meal.  I’ve kept it simple by utilizing a bag of frozen prepared vegetables to eliminate hassle and quicken the process.  Of course, you can always utilize fresh vegetables if you’d like.  (Prep 5 minutes.  Cook 15 minutes.  Serves 2)

1/3 Cup Soy Sauce
1 Cup Beef Broth
1 Tablespoon Corn Starch

2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
¼ Cup Yellow Onion, finely diced
¼ Cup Carrots, finely diced

2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Ginger, minced
1 Bag Frozen Stir Fry Vegetables

1 lb Skirt Steak, thinly sliced

Green Onions, sliced

Hot Cooked Rice (to serve)

In a mixing bowl, combine the first three ingredients, stir, and set aside.  Next, add oil to a wok or skillet over high heat; add onions and carrots and cook until just tender, about 1 minute.  Add garlic, ginger, and frozen vegetables and sauté, stirring often until the vegetables are just tender and slightly charred, about 2 – 3 minutes.  Add steak and cook for another minute, or until just browned.  Pour in soy sauce mixture and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, and stir to evenly distribute the flavor.  Garnish with sliced green onions.  Serve over hot cooked rice.


Grilled Skirt Steak with Orzo Pasta Salad

I love the bold flavors and contrasting temperatures featured in this recipe.  If you are looking to impress your guests at a late summer cookout–this is your calling card.  The juicy, hot steak served alongside a cool and refreshing pasta salad makes for a delectable combination.  (Prep 20 minutes.  Cook 20 minutes.  Serves 2)

1 lb Skirt Steak
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper

Orzo Pasta Salad
1 Cup Orzo Pasta
1/4 Red Onion, finely diced
1/2 Cucumber, finely diced
8 Cherry Tomatoes, quartered
1/4 Cup Feta Cheese, crumbled
1 Tablespoon Fresh Oregano, chopped
1 Teaspoon Fresh Mint, chopped
3 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar

In a shallow baking dish, season steak with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper and toss in olive oil and vinegar to coat; set aside at room temperature.  Meanwhile, heat a salted pot of water to boiling over high heat, add orzo and cook until al dente, 3 – 4 minutes; drain and set in fridge to cool 15 minutes.  Heat grill over medium high heat and grill steaks 2 – 3 minutes per side for medium rare; remove from heat and allow steaks to rest.  Remove chilled orzo from fridge and add remaining ingredients along with 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil.  Toss well to combine and plate.  Slice steak thin and on the bias and plate next to orzo salad.  Serve immediately.

Skirt Steak Fajitas

A beloved skirt steak dish that always goes over well when entertaining, this recipe will surely get your party going in the right direction–margaritas not included.  If you have time, allow the steaks to marinate overnight in the fridge.  Pull them out about 30 minutes before cooking to bring them up to room temperature so that they cook quickly and evenly.  (Prep 40 minutes.  Cook 30 minutes.  Serves 4)

Skirt Steak/Marinade
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
2 Limes, Juiced
4 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
2 lbs Skirt Steak
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Cumin Powder

1/4 Cup Canola Oil
1 Large Red Onion, sliced into thin strips
1 Large Green Bell Pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 Large Yellow Bell Pepper, sliced into thin strips
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
8 – 10 Large Flour Tortillas

Pico de Gallo/Salsa
Sour Cream

First:  At least 30 minutes prior to grilling, whisk together the first three ingredients into a mixing bowl, set aside.  Next, season the steaks liberally on both sides with the remaining ingredients.  Add the seasoned steaks into a large plastic bag and cover with the wet marinade.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator.

Next:  Prepare grill.  Preheat half of the grill to high heat, with the other half devoted to low heat.  If using coals, pile coals on one side to create a direct and indirect heat surface.  Place a small cast iron skillet over direct heat; add 1/4 cup canola oil.  Add onions and peppers to the skillet and season with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Sauté until the ingredients are slightly charred and just tender, 3 – 4 minutes.  Move skillet to indirect heat and sauté until tender and caramelized, about 20 minutes.  As onions and peppers are finishing, remove skirt steaks from bag, shaking off excess marinade.  Grill steaks over direct heat for 2 minutes.  Flip steaks and grill for another 1 – 2 minutes for medium/medium rare depending on the size and thickness.  Remove steaks from grill, tent with foil, and rest for 3 – 4 minutes.

Last:  Grill tortillas over direct heat until warmed and slightly charred, about 30 seconds to 1 minute, keep warm.  Thinly slice skirt steak across the grain and place a generous portion onto a warmed tortilla.  Top the steak with onions and peppers.  Finally, finish with any of the desired toppings and serve immediately.

Leftover Skirt Steak Scramble

With the size of my portions, leftovers are always inevitable.  Live like a king and finish off your steak for breakfast.  Life is good.  (Prep 5 minutes. Cook 10 minutes. Serves 1)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Eggs
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
Leftover Skirt Steak, sliced
Green Onion Tops, sliced
Crumbled Blue Cheese

In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  Whisk eggs together until combined and frothy, season with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Add eggs to pan, waiting to stir until eggs have set.  Using a wooden spoon, gently lift the cooked portions from the bottom of the pan, allowing the runny portions to reach the heat.  Continue in this manner until no more runny portion remains, careful not to over-scramble.  Meanwhile, heat the leftover steak to temperature using a microwave or skillet over medium heat.  Plate eggs, topped with sliced steak, and garnish with green onion slices and crumbled blue cheese.  Serve.


{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jonathon Cowley August 30, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Brilliant use of an often-ignored cut. It’s something that isn’t often encountered here in the UK. It’s basically the same cut that makes belly pork on a pig or the thin end of a breast of lamb.

2 James August 30, 2011 at 4:10 pm

We butchered out own beef until I was nearly out of high school, so up to the mid to late 90s. We used everything. Skirt steak was a staple, although being from Texas I never new it was called anything but “fajita meat” until I went to work at a local grocery store meat/seafood market. Once we actually starting buying meat, skirt steak was the best deal, you could get the most for your buck. Funny now though it has at least tripled (more at certain stores) in price. Sure would help a Graduate student out if it was still pre-popularity price. Thanks for the recipes The Orzo one is the only one I haven’t heard of, will be trying it this weekend.

3 Rob August 30, 2011 at 4:20 pm

I have to second your love of this cut.

The skirt steak is a staple of mexican cooking.

My local carnerceria carries inner and outher flank steak and we use if for anything from steak sandwhiches to pasta dishes. I was suprised when I realized that outside of mexican cooking skirt steak was so rarely used. Whenever we have a grill out skirt steaks take their rightful place next to the burgers and brats (and chorizo).

4 Adam August 30, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I definitely agree that this cut is a bargain for a very flavorful piece of meat. Seeing as I live in NYC I have to ask, which trendy restaurant you went to that inspired this article?

5 Tod Bowman August 30, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Love it! Flank is my favorite. “Back in the day” it was the only beef we could afford. Although we can handle the occasional rib-eye, etc, we still love the flank. I’m going to have to play with these recipes (I particularly like the scrambled idea). Time to fire up the grill!

6 modF August 30, 2011 at 4:58 pm

One of my favorite cuts of meat as well, makes great sandwiches and wraps. You can do just about anything with it on the grill as long as you don’t take it past medium-well.

7 Mike August 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Unless I forget my Houstonian History, Fajitas were supposedly invented at a local eatery called Ninfa’s, and they used, specifically, this cut. I love a good skirt steak, especially grilled directly on the coals.

8 Luke August 30, 2011 at 6:45 pm

How could you forget to mention that this is also the cut of meat used for the Mexican dish Carne Asada?
Carne Asada is basically skirt steak marinated in lemon juice, garlic, onion and other spices and then barbecued.
It’s awesomely delicious!

9 zeus August 30, 2011 at 8:52 pm

NYC is a place that I visit very often and also write a lot about on my own website. They have amazing restaurants and entertainment venues there. These steaks look amazing and the next time I visit NYC I’m definitely going to visit one of these steakhouses and might even write an article on it. Thanks Art Of Manliness.

10 Michael August 31, 2011 at 3:10 am

Hey I love Skirt Steak my favorite cut, we had Skirt Steak salad for dinner just this Monday.

11 Over the River August 31, 2011 at 6:50 am

I agree with all of the above. A great cut for a very enjoyable meal. We often have the meat and potatoes “combo” where I marinate the skirt (or a nice flat iron) and boil new potatoes in salted water. In the kitchen I’ll cut the steak and potatoes to bite-sized pieces, and we can catch up on the news with nothing more than a fork in hand. I also have to second Michael’s choice of skirt steak salad as being a personal favorite.

12 John Hosie August 31, 2011 at 7:38 am

I discovered skirt steak back in the mid-70′s when one of the guys I shared a house with treated the rest of us to it. It was one of the most tender cuts of meat I’d ever had. He had a very simple recipe, too.

Grill it with a little salt and pepper. On the second side, when it is about half done, schmear the top with Duck Sauce.

That’s it. Since then I’ve found that marinating in a little sesame ginger dressing first is a good alternative. There’s also marinating in Italian dressing, or whatever else you might want.

13 Ryan August 31, 2011 at 11:19 am

I had skirt steak a couple weeks ago at a nice restaurant in Miami and it was amazing. It was every bit as good as any filet mignon I’ve had at a prime steakhouse. I was imagining tough fajita meat, but it was tender and had tons of flavor.

14 Ernie F. August 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm

As a lad in the South West flank steak was what we ate most of the time. We had corn fields all around our house so in the summer time it was flank, corn on the cob and a nice wilted spinnich salad. One quick trick for the flank is to marinate it in over the counter Italian salad dressing for about 2 hours then it only takes less than 4 min. to cook and it is tender and tastes great.

15 Drewgriz August 31, 2011 at 2:58 pm

As a native Texan, I can tell you that fresh, homemade tortillas will make your fajitas approximately eleven times better. Have a friend (or girlfriend) flip these babies ( on the griddle while you grill the steak (every other part of the recipe is spot-on), and it’ll change your life. A little chile con queso couldn’t hurt either.

16 Lawrence September 1, 2011 at 11:43 am

If you are short on marinating time, those ziplock bags that you can suck the air out of are great. I cover the meat with marinade in a bowl, pour it into the bag and suck out the air. This causes the marinade to be forced into the meat. This allows me to cook fajitas on days that due to time constraints, I normally might not- or when I have totally forgotten to do my prep way a head of time.

17 Avery September 2, 2011 at 7:32 am

My wife has an awesome skirt steak recipe. She coats the top of the meat with chopped garlic and then slathers it with about 1/8″ of good Dijon mustard. Let that marinate for about 15 minutes, top with rough ground (or even whole) peppercorns and broil just long enough for the mustard to crust over & get a little toasty looking. Let it rest for a bit before eating.
Perfect for dinner & steak sandwiches the next day for lunch!

18 Jim September 2, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Great article. I was beginning to think I was the only person that appreciates a good skirt steak. My favorite way to prepare is to rub with salt, pepper, and garlic, then soak in a good flavorful beer for 8 hours, then throw on the grill to medium/medium-rare. Easy and awesome!

19 Mike September 2, 2011 at 11:01 pm

My mom has been grilling skirt steak sunce the mid seventies. A great, relatively inexpensive cut of meat. Our marinade is honey, soy sauce, olive oil and minced green onions. Good stuff. Careful- it’ll flare up on the grill quite a bit.

20 Adam September 12, 2011 at 9:57 am

Great article and some new receipts. I have been enjoying beef stroganoff since I was a kid with skirt steak. Great cut of meat.

21 MB September 19, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Great article and tasty recipes!

22 Stephen Morrish October 29, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Here in the UK Skirt can sometimes be hard to find. Mainly because it almost all ends up in Cornwall. This is because it’s the cut of meat that is used in Cornish Pasty. Ten’s of thousands of these pasty’s must be eaten each day in the south west.

23 Jason L. Cheung March 16, 2013 at 10:58 am

Tried the Skirt Steak with Orzo salad last night. I would suggest following the package directions for the pasta. (3-4 minutes? Puh-leeze.) And 1/2 a cup of olive oil for the salad? I thought it was dressed pretty well with a couple of tablespoons. That being said, it was delicious!

24 Gregory Roth May 4, 2013 at 11:20 am

Referring to post #7:
I don’t know if Ninfa’s invented Fajita’s but Mama Ninfa introduced my wife and I to them in 1984 and I have never had another as good.

25 Ray June 2, 2013 at 1:45 pm

I’m from the North West of England and skirt is often used in stews and pies. My mother in law frequently uses it in her steak pies.
If I remember correctly so-called “frying steak” is skirt as well.

26 Alabama Chance July 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Thanks. I’m a big fan of skirt. I like to grill the inside skirt on a lidless ten dollar grocery store grill. The low heat allows extra time for on-grill marinades and really produces a result far superior to regular grills. Super tender.

27 jjaylad August 11, 2013 at 4:15 pm

the orzo recipe sounds especially good. balsamic v. does wonders for flank or skirt steak. I also llllove coffee-marinated flank steak (check out the bon appetit’s recent recipe on their website)<– HEAVEN!

28 LBD October 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Must say, love the skirt steak, and these look great. Have you tried a tri tip cut? THE BEST part of a cow.

29 Joe Zasada October 31, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Skirt steak is one of my favorites. a couple of strips will be dinner for several days; at a much lower cost than ribeys or other more common ‘gourmet’ cuts. Just cut it perpendicular to the grain and you’re good to go…

30 Joni April 4, 2014 at 11:43 pm

I used your fajita recipe – far and away the BEST beef fajitas I’ve ever eaten. Thank you for the recipe!

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