Flank steak and skirt steak are both long, odd-looking cuts of steak. Wonder if you've ever eaten either of them? If you've ever had fajitas, then chances are it was skirt steak.
In most recipes, they can be used interchangeably, so how are these cuts actually different from each other?
- Where it's from: Flank steak is from the bottom abdominal area of the cow, so it contains a lot of hard-working muscles. The meat has a lot of tough fibers running through it and is fairly lean. It's a thicker, wider cut of meat than skirt steak.
- Flavor and texture: Flank steak has tons of intense beefy flavor but can be a little tough. Eat it thinly sliced and cut against the grain for maximum tenderness.
- Cooking flank steak: Flanks steaks take to marinades very well, and some marinades can help to tenderize the meat. High heat and quick cooking is the best way to cook flank steak. It can be stuffed, grilled, or seared.
- Where it's from: Skirt steak is a thin, long cut of beef from the diaphragm muscles of the cow. It is also lean and contains a lot of tough fibers.
- Flavor and texture: Skirt steak has even more intense beefy flavor than flank steak. It does contain more tough muscles than flank steak, though, so should only be cooked to rare or medium rare for the most tender texture. It should also be cut against the grain when served.
- Cooking skirt steak: Skirt steaks take to marinades even better than flank steaks and are best cooked quickly over high heat, although it can also be slow-cooked and braised. Skirt steak is best seared or grilled and makes a great stir-fry meat. It is the classic cut used in fajitas.
Cutting Against the Grain
With both skirt and flank steaks, cutting the meat against the grain is the most important thing to remember when you're serving and eating it. The grain refers to the long strands of tough fibers that you can see running through the meat.
Cutting against the grain means that you cut crosswise and sever those fibers rather than cutting along them. This makes the meat much easier to chew since a lot of the hard work is already done for you!
(Image credits: Christine Gallary; Nealey Dozier; Nick Evans)