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Skirt Steak vs Flank Steak: What's The Main Difference?

September 16, 2020

Craving steak? We don’t blame you. Every bite is filled with unmatched juiciness, tenderness, and flavor.

A problem what arises when selecting meat is that you’re faced with so many different cuts of meat. There’s ribeye, filet mignon, T-bone, sirloin, beef tenderloin, and plenty more. How do you know which to choose?

Knowing the difference between cuts will help you pick the perfect one. In this guide, we go over the difference between skirt steaks and flank steaks. Read on to become a more informed meat-lover!

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What Is a Skirt Steak?

When you picture a steak, a skirt steak is probably not the image that comes to mind. This cut is long, thin, and oddly-shaped. It has a well-defined grain structure with plenty of loosely packed, tough fibers.

While most commonly known as skirt steaks, these cuts also go by names including:

  • Romanian tenderloin
  • Philadelphia steak
  • Arrachera (in Mexico)


Skirt steaks are moderately meaty. They are marbly, giving them a relatively high fat content. The average cut weighs about 1.25 pounds and yields 3 servings. As for their taste, skirt steaks have a beefy flavor. People commonly use them for fajitas, in a stir fry, etc. They work well when cut into strips. 

It’s important to note that there are two types of skirt steaks: inside and outside.

  • Inside: The inside variety is shorter and skinnier. It comes with hard fat and a membrane that you need to trim away.
  • Outside: The outside variety is generally more desirable. While you should still trim this cut, it comes with much less fat. Additionally, outside skirt steak is much more flavorful. It is usually the cut you’ll find in restaurants.

    What Is a Flank Steak?

    Flank steak is a large and squat cut. It is very meaty and has a low-fat content. Most meat markets sell flank steaks as the whole muscle. The average cut weighs around 2 pounds and yields four servings.

    Flank steak is the most popular name for these cuts, but you may also hear it called: 

    • Beef flank
    • Jiffy steak
    • Fraldinha (in Brazil)
    • Sobrebarriga (in Colombia)
    • Babette (in France)

    Flank steaks have a well-defined grain structure. They have a strong beefy flavor, but because they are lean and a little thicker, they can be tough to chew. People commonly use flank steak for fajitas, London broil, Chinese stir-fried beef, etc.

    What's The Main Difference Between Them?

    Now that you know what skirt steaks and flank steaks are, let’s go over their key differences.

    What Part of the Cow It Comes From

    Both cuts come from the side of the cow. Throughout the cow’s life, these areas work very hard. This results in both cuts being relatively tough and fibrous.

    The skirt steak comes from the plate primal. The outside variety is from the diaphragm while the inside variety is an abdominal muscle. The flank steak, as you might’ve guessed, comes from the flank primal.

    Shape

    Skirt steaks are long, skinny, and thin. Compared to other cuts of meat, flank steaks are also long and skinny. However, flanks are slightly thicker and more oval-like than skirts.

    Taste

    Both cuts have a nice beefy flavor. But, because they have a higher fat content, skirt steaks tend to be more flavorful than flank steaks (whether you have the inside or outside variety, they’ll both be relatively the same).

    Tenderness

    These cuts are no filet mignon. While they offer great flavor, they are a little tough to chew.

    Flank is more tender than the inside skirt. Outside skirt is more evenly matched and may even be more tender than a flank. Bear this in mind if tenderness is a big deal to you.

    You can tenderize these cuts with a mallet and by marinating in olive oil and citrus overnight.

    What They’re Commonly Used For

    People use these cuts of meat for similar purposes. You’ll find them in fajitas, London broils, in a stir fry, etc. One isn’t necessarily better than the other; it depends on how flavorful and tender you want the dish to be.

    Best Cooking Practices for Each

    Seeing as they have a low fat content, flanks require little preparation. With skirts, you should trim off the excess fat. If you get the inside variety, be sure to trim away the membrane.

    Both cuts have loosely packed muscle fibers, allowing them to marinate well. You can marinate them to give them a little extra flavor. This is why they work so well in Mexican dishes - they marinate amazingly in spices.

    Both also grill quickly. You should turn up the heat and watch them closely. Do not cook past medium rare. If you cook past medium rare, it will be very tough.

    Some people choose to smoke these cuts. This can add a little flavor, but it is usually not worth the effort. The cut won’t be in the smoker very long, and you’ll have to finish with a sear anyways.

    How to Cut the Meat

    Despite all of their differences, skirts and flanks have a few things in common. This includes how you should cut and serve each piece of meat.

    Each one has a well-defined grain structure. This makes it easy to see which way the muscle fibers run. Top tip: you should always cut against the grain to reduce toughness and make it easier to chew.

    Who You Should Serve Each Cut To 

    Both cuts are great options for you, your family, and your guests. They are tasty, affordable, and popular at barbecues.

    As we’ve said though, one thing to note is because of their tough fibers, these cuts can be harder to chew. Young kids and seniors might find flank easier to consume. If you get skirt, be sure to remove all of the membrane and excess fat so everyone can enjoy.

    Price

    Skirt steaks are usually less expensive than flanks. However, the price difference is minimal. If you want to try a flank, it’s worth paying a little extra.

    Skirt Steaks vs Flank Steaks: Which Is Better?

    After reading this guide, you’re probably left with a burning question. Which cut is superior?

    One is not necessarily better than the other. It all depends on your personal flavor and tenderness preferences. Feel free to experiment with both to find the cut that’s right for you!

      Brooks Hitzfield

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