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

posted on

October 4, 2023

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


A problem that often arises when selecting meat is that you’re faced with too many cuts of meat to choose from. There’s ribeye, filet mignon, T-bone, sirloin, beef tenderloin, and plenty more.

How do you know which to choose?

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

Originally published in 2020, this article was updated and republished on October 4th, 2023.

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, this cut goes by different names, including:

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


Skirt steaks are moderately meaty. They’re marbly, giving them a relatively high fat content, and 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 or stir-fries because they work well when cut into strips.

It’s important to note that there are two types of skirt steaks:

  • 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 has much less fat. Additionally, outside skirt steak is much more flavorful. It’s usually the cut you’ll find in restaurants.
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What Is a Flank Steak?

Flank steak is a large and squat cut. It’s 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’re lean and a little thicker, they can be tougher to chew.

People commonly use flank steak for fajitas, London broil, Chinese stir-fried beef, etc.

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What's the Main Difference Between Flank and Skirt Steak?

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

From Different Parts of the Cow

Both cuts come from the side of the cow. Throughout the cow’s life, these areas work 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 slender. However, flanks are slightly thicker and more oval-like than skirts.

Taste

Skirt steak tends to have a richer, meatier flavor than flank steak due to its higher fat content. This is true both for outside and inside skirt steak.

That rich taste makes it a good match for spices, rubs, and strong marinades.

On the other hand, flank steak tends to have a slightly milder flavor, which makes it an excellent canvas for a broader range of marinades and rubs.

100% grass-fed beef flank steak is richer and more flavorful than the standard supermarket variety while still mellow enough to pair well with marinades and spices.

Tenderness

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

Flank is more tender than the inside skirt.

The outside skirt is more evenly matched and may be more tender than a flank. Keep this in mind if tenderness is important to you.

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

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Try Them Both in Similar Recipes

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

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

As we’ve said, one thing to note is because of their tough fibers, these cuts can be harder to chew. Young children and seniors might find flank easier to consume.

If you get a skirt cut, remove all of the membrane and excess fat so everyone can enjoy it.

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, remember 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.

How to Grill Each Steak

Whether you’re using gas or charcoal, the name of the game is speed. Both skirt and flank steak are best if you cook them on high heat for a short period.

Get your grill up to temperature first. Around 400°F is a good temperature for flank steak, while you can boost the heat to 500°F for skirt steak.

Make sure to pat either steak dry before putting it on the grill if you marinate it first. This helps to get a good sear and prevents marinade from dripping and burning or causing flare-ups.

Grill skirt steak for 3-4 minutes per side, and then take it off the grill and let it rest before you cut and serve.

Grill flank steak for 4-6 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the steak. Overall, you shouldn’t cook flank steak for longer than 10-12 minutes. Take it off the grill and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before you cut and serve.

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

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How to Cut the Meat

Both skirt and flank steak offer the best eating experience when you cut them against the grain instead of with the grain.

But what does that mean?

When you look at any steak, you can get an idea of what direction the muscle fibers are arranged in. You can also see how long or short the fibers are.

Skirt steak and flank steak both have long muscle fibers, which can be tough to chew if you cut in the same direction as those fibers. So it’s best to cut in the opposite direction and make thin slices rather than thick ones.

Think of it like trimming the ends of a bunch of strings. You don’t want long, tangled strings – you want short bits that barely hold together.

You'll get the most tender result by cutting either flank steak or skirt steak this way.
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.

It’s also worth noting that not every grocery store carries both cuts or carries them at the same time. So you might not get the cut of meat you planned on cooking, and it definitely won’t be ethically raised 100% grass-fed!

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. 

Check out our 100% grass-fed beef skirt steak and flank steak, or take a break from beef and try our 100% grass-fed bison skirt steak and bison flank steak!

More from the blog

Best Breed of Chicken for Ethical Pastured Meat

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Preparing Chicken: Tips and Tricks Sure, you may have cooked with chicken breasts or thighs–maybe even a whole chicken–but we sell plenty of other incredibly tasty and nutritious cuts of chicken. From drumsticks to wings, backs to giblets, each cut offers its own unique flavor profile and cooking experience. Our ethically raised Cornish Cross Broilers are nutritious and easy to cook. This generously sized bird is protein-packed and nutrient-dense, making for a delicious meal whether grilled, baked, barbecued, or slow-cooked.  How you prepare your chicken will depend on the cooking method and cut you’ve chosen–and there are plenty to choose from! Order Your Ethical Pasture-Raised Chicken Today!  Ready to taste the difference? Order your ethically pasture-raised chicken now and taste the quality and flavor that comes from ethical breeding and sustainable practices.

A Complete Guide to Cuts of Chicken

From aromatic, creamy curries to light summer salads, chicken is a versatile, nutritious meat that works wonderfully as the centerpiece for thousands of dishes across cuisines.  But you’re missing out if you’ve only cooked with chicken breasts or thighs. Plenty of other chicken cuts are packed with flavor–not to mention essential nutrients.  We provide ethically raised pastured chicken cuts of all types because we believe nothing should go to waste. That’s why we’ve curated this list to help you enjoy parts of the chicken you might have overlooked! We’ll discuss these cuts in more detail, explaining the unique flavor profile of each one. For inspiration, we'll also include some of our favorite mouth-watering recipes.  The Importance of Ethical, Pasture-Raised Chicken  Factory-farmed chickens are often raised in crowded conditions that may increase the risk of disease and stress. This non-natural environment also reduces the meat's nutritional benefits and gives it an inferior taste compared to ethically raised chickens.  That’s why we’re committed to delivering healthy, delicious, ethically-raised breeds of chicken to our customers. Pasture-raised chickens are more nutritious because of the diverse, nutrient-dense diet they get through foraging on healthy farmland. In the warm seasons, our chickens roam in mobile coops that rotate daily to fresh, lush pastures. Their interaction with the land naturally fertilizes and helps regenerate the soil. When winter sets in, we transition our chickens to warm barns, protecting them from the harsh elements while maintaining access to pasture as weather permits. In addition, our chicken is free of GMOs, antibiotics, and hormones. Dark vs. White Meat As we explain the different cuts of chicken, you’ll notice that some–like thighs, legs, and drumsticks—are dark meat, while cuts like breast, wings, and back are white meat.  This is due to the difference in color from a protein called myoglobin, which stores oxygen in the chicken’s muscles. Certain muscles–like the legs–need more oxygen and blood flow than other parts, like the breast, leading to the difference in meat color.  While you may have heard that white meat is better for you, this isn’t the case. Although there are differences between the two, these generally come down to taste preference and the recipe you’re making: Protein content: White and dark meat have relatively similar calorie counts, although white meat is slightly lower and has more protein. Nutritional profile: White meat is rich in vitamins B12, B3, and B6, while dark meat has more iron, zinc, and B2.  Taste: The differences in fat between white and brown meat give these cuts different flavors. White meat is more delicate and mild, while brown meat is richer and more succulent. Types of Chicken Cuts Here, we’ll look at 11 of the most popular chicken cuts. Some may surprise you, but we encourage you to be adventurous and try new recipes.  1. Boneless Chicken Breast Boneless chicken breasts are a versatile, household staple across countries. This lean cut of white meat comes from the bird's chest and is packed with essential proteins. With its mild, succulent taste and quick cooking time, chicken breast works in a variety of recipes. One of our favorites is bacon-wrapped honey chicken breast.  Meat type: White Common uses: Salads, curries, sandwiches, stir-fries  How to cook: Oven bake, grill, poach, sauté 2. Chicken Thigh Try cooking with chicken thighs for a meaty, tender lunch or dinner. This succulent, juicy meat comes from the upper part of the chicken’s leg. Depending on your preference, you can buy this dark meat bone-in or boneless and skinless. With their rich, intense flavor, chicken thighs work wonderfully in slow cooker recipes, but you can also marinate them overnight then grill, saute with veggies, or bake them in the oven.  Meat type: Brown  Common uses: Casseroles, sheet pan dinners, barbecues, paellas How to cook: Oven bake, grill, sauté, slow cook 3. Whole Chicken Cooking a whole chicken can provide for several meals throughout the week, making it both practical and economical. With this delicious cut, you get both white and dark meat. You get breasts, thighs, drumsticks, back, and wings–perfect for a variety of taste preferences.  The best way to cook a whole chicken is to roast it. Try our whole roasted garlic chicken recipe.  Meat type: Both  Common uses: Roasts, plus leftovers used for sandwiches, salads, and stir-fries  How to cook: Roast 4. Chicken Drumsticks Another summer barbecue classic is the chicken drumstick. This succulent, dark cut of meat comes on the bone and is from the chicken’s shins. In addition to their savory, juicy flavor, chicken drumsticks are cost-effective and easy to cook.  Whether you grill drumsticks on the barbecue or roast them in the oven, you can get creative with herbs, spices, and marinades, from spicy cajun to sweet honey garlic.  Meat type: Brown  Common uses: Barbecues, sheet pan dinners How to cook: Grill, oven bake 5. Chicken Wings Like drumsticks, chicken wings are also incredibly cheap and versatile. This white cut of meat comes on the bone and is best cooked in the oven or on the grill, doused in your favorite marinade. 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Chicken Liver A less common cut of chicken is the liver, an organ meat. This cost-effective part of the chicken has a tender, smooth texture and a rich, meaty taste. It’s low in calories and nutrient-dense, with high levels of iron, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. Because of its rich flavor, chicken liver is a wonderful centerpiece in warming stews and casseroles. Saute it with caramelized onions, bacon, and tender mushrooms, served alongside creamy mashed potatoes.  Meat type: Brown  Common uses: Casseroles, pate, stews  How to cook: Fried, oven bake, saute 8. Chicken Heart The heart is another part of the chicken that’s often overlooked, rich in iron and zinc. Chicken hearts are dark in color, with a rich flavor similar to chicken thighs.  Like chicken liver, juicy and tender chicken hearts work wonderfully in stews and casseroles or simply stir-fried with your favorite vegetables. Because this cut is so delicate, it’s quick to cook. 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Meat type: Dark Common uses: Casseroles, stir-fries, appetizers, broth How to cook: Saute, boil, braise, deep fry, simmer  Order Your Ethical Pasture-Raised Chicken Today!  Now that you know about these 11 cuts of chicken, you can elevate your meals! We hope this guide has inspired you to experiment with different parts of chicken. Ready to cook? Order your ethical pasture-raised chicken now.

3 Easy Recipes to Make with Chicken Broth

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The beauty of bone broth is its versatility. If a savory recipe requires water, swap the same amount of bone broth for a richer, umami-laced flavor that will elevate your dishes.  The fact that bone broth is highly nourishing helps. It’s packed with healthy nutrients like proline, glycine, collagen, calcium, and more. Bone broth has a range of health benefits, including:  Immune system boost: Research shows that the amino acids in chicken broth reduce inflammation and boost immune system function, helping to combat common ailments like asthma, heart disease, and arthritis. Heals the gut: Bone broth is easy for our bodies to digest and soothe the gut. It can even positively change the gut microbiome and ease the symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  Mood-busting: Bone broth is rich in calcium and glycine, both of which are crucial to healthy brain function, mood regulation, and high-quality sleep. Not to mention the aroma and soothing warmth that is so comforting on cold winter days. Healthy weight support: Packed full of protein and low in calories, bone broth helps to regulate the appetite by reducing hunger hormones like ghrelin and increasing satiety hormones.  Recipe Inspirations: Making the Most of Chicken Broth By now, you’re probably ready to put the wonders of bone broth to good use in your kitchen.  Here are some of our go-to recipes for what you can make with chicken broth. Soups and Stews: Heartwarming Classics A sure-to-please dish is chicken and vegetable stew. It’s rich in nutrients, great for a cozy night in, and simple to make! All you need to do is gather the ingredients: 1.5 Pounds chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil 1 Large onion, diced 2 Cloves garlic, minced 2 Large carrots, sliced 3 Celery stalks, sliced 6 Cups chicken broth 1 Bay leaf 1 tsp dried thyme Salt and pepper to taste Fresh parsley for garnish (optional) And how to make this recipe: Cut the chicken into one-inch cubes, dice the onion, carrots, and celery, and mince the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a large pot, then saute the chicken and vegetables over medium heat. Add the chicken and stir until it starts to brown (roughly 5 minutes). Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. Using the same pot, add in the onions and saute until softened. Add in the garlic and saute for a minute or two, then toss in your vegetables, making sure to stir so they don’t burn. Now it’s time for the chicken broth and spices! Add in the broth, the bay leaf, dried thyme (and any other favorite seasonings you have), and mix it. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat. Grab the chicken you put aside, put it back in the pot, and simmer on low for about half an hour, making sure the chicken is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper, add any garnish of your choice, and serve! Rice and Grains: A Flavorful Foundation Chicken broth infuses rice and other grains with a mouth-watering, savory depth. A great dish is a Mexican chicken quinoa skillet, loaded with veggies and ready in just 25 minutes.  To make this recipe, you’ll need: 1 Pound chicken breast, cut into cubes 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil 1 Small onion, diced 1 Bell pepper, diced 2 Cloves garlic, minced 1 Cup quinoa 2 Cups chicken broth 1 Can black beans, rinsed and drained 1 Can diced tomatoes (15 oz) 1 Cup corn, frozen or canned 1 tsp chili powder (or more if you like some kick!) ½ tsp cumin ½ tsp paprika Salt and pepper to taste Fresh cilantro And the steps to making this recipe:  Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, dice the onion and bell pepper, mince the garlic, and rinse the quinoa. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Remove it from the pan and set aside. Using the same skillet, saute the onion until soft, then add the garlic and bell pepper, sauteing for about 3 minutes. Now, add the chicken broth, quinoa, black beans, tomatoes, corn, and spices. Mix well and slowly bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the quinoa is light and fluffy and the broth has been absorbed - about 25 minutes. Add the chicken to the skillet to warm, mixing all the ingredients. Check that the chicken is cooked through, adding salt and pepper to taste. Garnish and serve! Sauces and Gravies: Elevating Everyday Meals Chicken bone broth elevates many of the best comfort recipes. For example, try this quick and easy chicken broth gravy to turn mashed potatoes into a crowd-pleasing side or ensure there’s no biscuit left after dinner. To make this recipe, all you need is: 2 Cups chicken broth 2 TBSP butter 2 TBSP all-purpose flour ½ tsp garlic powder (optional) Salt and pepper to taste Fresh herbs for garnish For this quick and easy gravy, all you need to do is: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until it forms a roux. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the roux turns golden. Pour in the chicken broth slowly while whisking. Make sure there are no lumps. Continue whisking while bringing the mix to a slow boil. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring every minute or so. Once it reaches your desired thickness, add the salt, pepper, or garlic powder to taste.  Serve hot on your dish of choice. Tip: If the gravy gets too thick while cooking, add more chicken broth to thin it. The Healing Elixir: Sipping on Chicken Broth While bone broth enhances the flavor and health benefits of many meals, you don’t always have to cook with it! One of our favorite ways to consume chicken broth is to warm it up on the stove and drink it–especially if we feel under the weather.  The number of powerful antioxidants in chicken broth, along with its herby, savory flavor, also makes this drink a great post-lunch pick-me-up or pre-dinner snack. However, not all chicken bone broth is created equal. If you’re going to drink it regularly, make sure you either make your own or buy from a company that doesn’t use artificial ingredients or lots of added sodium, which can undermine its health benefits. At Seven Sons, we’re proud to say that our ethical, pasture-raised chicken breeds are 100% free from growth promotants, antibiotics, and GMOs–with no artificial ingredients or MSG. Ready to taste the difference? Order Seven Sons’ chicken broth or make your own using our bone broth kit today! As always, we love to see your recipe creations–so let us know what you’ve made in the comments.