What is Skirt Steak?

This article will teach you everything you need to know about skirt steak. The skirt steak is commonly used in restaurants to prepare Mexican or Southwestern fajitas, Philly Cheese Steaks, and Asian stir-fried beef dishes because it’s flavorful and tender when cooked correctly.

This beef cut is more affordable than filet or ribeye steak. The skirt steak is versatile for varied preparation styles and gives an intense flavor, no matter your recipe.

What is Skirt Steak, Exactly?

Skirt steak is a long, thin, lean cut of meat with an intense flavor that features prominently in many cultures’ cuisines. The cut comes from a primal plate, the section right under the rib primal. An important fact, there are two types of skirt steak; the inside and the outside skirt steak. 

In the United States, skirt steak is often referred to as flank steak, which is a mistake, as they are two cuts coming from a completely different section of the cow.

Since it is a tough piece of meat, it works best when cooked rare or medium rare and should be cut against the grain for the best texture. Also, for this reason, most recipes mention marinating the meat before cooking it.

Varieties of Skirt Steak

The two types of skirt steak include the inside and outside skirt. They differ in texture and tenderness. The outside skirt is more even, longer and thicker than the inside skirt, making it ideal for commercial use in restaurants and sale in grocery stores. It’s tender with a finer texture.

The muscle fibers within the inside skirt shrink during cooking and thus become thinner. The inside steak gives a chewy bite, so it works best when cut to a smaller thickness and marinade. However, both beef cuts are tasty.

raw skirt steak
raw skirt steak

Other Names for Skirt Steak

While the most popular name in the US is the skirt steak, it’s also known as Philadelphia (Philly) Steak, Fajita Meat, Fajita Steak, or Beef Plate. The names most commonly used outside the US are Arrachera, Romanian steak, Romanian tenderloin, and Entraña.

It can also refer to the dish for which it’s the central meat, such as Tex-Mex Skirt or the fajita.

Most common names for Skirt Steak in the United States:

  • Philadelphia (Philly) Steak,
  • Fajita Meat,
  • Fajita Steak,
  • Beef Plate.

Most common names for skirt steak in other countries:

  • Arrachera (Mexico),
  • Romanian Steak,
  • Romanian Tenderloin,
  • Entraña (Spain).

What Part of the Cow is Skirt Steak?

The skirt steak is cut from the beef cow’s diaphragm or short plate primal section (from beneath the rib area). The cut is about 20-24 inches long and 3-4 inches wide, with visible grains. It can be either an inside or outside cut and has marbling for a rich, beefy flavor.

Is Skirt Steak Tough or Tender?

Skirt steak is a lean, long, and thin piece of meat containing many connective tissues. Incorrectly cooked, it will be tough and chewy, so it is important to know how to prepare it correctly. 

To make the skirt steak more tender, marinate the meat before cooking. Also, it is crucial to choose a suitable cooking method depending on the recipe. Before serving, don’t forget to slice against the grain to get even better results in terms of tenderness.

What is Skirt Steak Good For?

You can prepare skirt steak in various ways. Skirt steak is thin and easy to cook if you follow the basic guidelines. It’s best for grilling but is also well suited for roasting, broiling, and sautéing. Skirt steak is very often used in many recipes. For example, it is the most commonly used meat for fajitas. 

We remind you that this is a tough cut of meat, so skirt steak requires careful preparation.

What Does Skirt Steak Taste Like?

The fatty muscles of skirt steak give a distinct beefy yet buttery flavor. Some compare it to the rich flavor of liver, but with better consistency. The skirt steak has open grains and ridges that work well for marinades—it soaks spices and herbs to ooze a more intense flavor.

Skirt Steak Nutrition Facts

Skirt steak contains vitamins B6 and B12, niacin, selenium, zinc, phosphorus, riboflavin, iron, and choline. The list of exact nutritional values varies depending on the type of skirt steak. As a reminder, there are two types of skirt steak, the inside, and the outside skirt.

Source: USDA

A serving of cooked inside skirt steak (3 oz) contains:

  • 187 calories,
  • 10.2 g of total fat,
  • 2.35 mg of iron,
  • 63.7 mg of sodium,
  • 6.15 mg of zinc,
  • 22.2 g of proteins. 

A serving of cooked outside skirt steak (3 oz) contains:

  • 217 calories,
  • 14.5 g of total fat,
  • 2.19 mg of iron,
  • 78.2 mg of sodium,
  • 4.68 mg of Zinc,
  • 20 g of proteins. 

Where to Buy?

You can do a quick search online to determine what online meat markets have to offer. The inside steak is easier to find at local butchers and supermarkets than the outside skirt. 

Look out for weights, cuts, and prices, and compare to get the best value for your money. Assess the ethics used to rear the animals and the quality assurance of the source. Some top places to buy skirt steak online include:

  • Omaha Steaks
  • Snake River Farms
  • Crowd Cow

How Much is Skirt Steak?

Depending on the grade of beef and the vendor, one pound of skirt steak should cost between $20 to $40. For the highest quality beef, expect prices starting at $50 per lb of skirt steak.

Why is Skirt Steak so Expensive?

The main reason why skirt steak is so expensive is its popularity and limited supply. It used to be a relatively cheap cut of beef; however, this changed when famous chefs started recommending it. Naturally, more and more people started talking about skirt steak, which increased the demand for this cut.

The limited demand is also because there are only two skirts per cow (one inside and one outside), and the average weight of one is about 2 pounds.

Be sure to read the fascinating discussion about the current prices of cheap cuts of beef, where plenty of people share interesting insights on this topic. Here is a link to that thread.

What is extremely interesting is that the big increase in the price of skirt steak already took place many years ago (In the late 1980s). It was mainly caused by a significant increase in the popularity of fajitas. 

Skirt steak is now the second most expensive cut of beef, wholesale, with only the tenderloin costing more.

By Florence Fabricant, April 26, 1989. Link to full article.

What is Similar to Skirt Steak?

If you can’t find a decent skirt steak in your area, consider replacing that cut with another. The most common substitutes for skirt steak are flank, hanger, and flat iron.

A complete list of similar cuts to skirt steak:

  • Flank Steak,
  • Flat Iron Steak,
  • Flap Steak,
  • Hanger Steak,
  • Beef Tenderloin,
  • Denver Steak.

Last Thoughts on Skirt Steak

Skirt steak is a very flavorful cut of meat that, when cooked properly and cut into thin strips, is delicious. It is marinated before cooking to make it tender and add new flavors. After cooking, remember to always cut the skirt steak against the grain; this will maximize the tenderness of the meat.

Skirt steak is a cut used in many recipes, such as fajitas, tacos, arrachera, and Chinese stir-fry. It is an interesting alternative to the typical rib eye or new york strip steak.

Photo of author

Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam Wojtow, the founder of Steak Revolution, is a true steak enthusiast. His primary goal is to help others perfect their steak-cooking skills.