It's that time of year again when the weather is just great for grilling out! If you're like me, you may be trying to figure out what to put on the grill. You might have heard about flank steak and skirt steak and wondered what the difference is. In this blog post, we'll explain the differences between flank steak and skirt steak and give some tips on how to cook them. Let's get started!

The Differences Between Flank Steak and Skirt Steak

Grilled marinated skirt steak, fresh off the grill and juicy

When it comes to grilling beef, there are so many choices! But when it comes to great steaks for the grill, flank and skirt steaks are two of the most popular. Many people think these two cuts of beef are the same, but they differ in a few key ways.

Skirt and flank steaks are both tough, lean types of meat that you can use interchangeably in a variety of steak dishes. However, there are specific differences between these popular butcher shop choices.

Similarities of Flank & Skirt Steak

  • Both flank and skirt steak come from the abdominal area of the cow.
  • They are long, flat cuts of beef that are relatively lean.
  • Flank and skirt steak have a lot of flavors but can have a tough texture if not cooked properly.
  • Both are ideal for fast grilling over high heat.
  • Both flank and skirt steak are found in similar dishes like fajitas, carne asada, and London broil.

The flank steak comes from the cow's lower abdominal area, while the skirt steak comes from the diaphragm region near the flank. Because of their similar origin, both come in long, flat cuts with much connected tissue and descent marbeling.

When it comes to taste, flank and skirt steak are very similar. They're both reasonably lean with a lot of beefy flavors. And because they're tough cuts of meat, they benefit from quick cooking over high heat. You'll often find flank and skirt steak in dishes like fajitas, carne asada, and London broil.

Differences Between Flank & Skirt Steak

Fresh flank steak ready to be seasoned and grilled

Now that we've gone over some of the similarities between flank and skirt steak, let's look at the differences.

  • Flank steak is wider than skirt steak and has less marbling (fat running through the meat).
  • Skirt steak is thinner than flank steak and has more marbling.
  • Flank steak benefits from a longer cooking time than skirt steak.
  • Skirt steak should be cooked quickly over high heat to avoid tough, unpleasantly chewy results.
  • Flank steak has a more tightly woven grain structure than skirt steak, which has a less dense but more fibrous grain structure.
  • Skirt steak is more sensitive to marinades (soy sauce or balsamic vinegar) than flank steak. It's also better at slow-cooking, stir-frying, and pan-broiling than flank steak.

The main difference between flank and skirt steak is that flank steak tends to be thicker and broader than skirt steak. The larger size and density cause flank steak to require more tenderizing and cooking time to break down the extra connective tissue. While flank responds very well to rubs and seasonings, marinades in Latin cuisine often work better with skirt steak, where the moisture and flavors can thoroughly infuse into the meat. These differences are more subtle than most people realize, but they can make all the difference in your final dish!

Raw skirt steak with lots of marbling and connective tissue

How to Grill Them

Now that we know more about flank steak and skirt steak, let's talk about how to grill them.

Whether served in tacos, salad, or by themselves, flank and skirt steak are delicious when properly cooked! Flank and skirt steak are both grilled over high heat, with flank taking a couple more minutes per side. Both steaks are best when cooked to medium-rare, then allowed to rest for five minutes before slicing against the grain. Since both cuts of beef are thinner than traditional steaks, they will continue to cook after being removed from the grill. So be sure to remove them promptly and not overcook; otherwise, they can become challenging to chew.

Here are the basic steps for grilling flank and skirt steak:

  1. Season your flank steak with salt, pepper, and other desired spices or rubs. Marinate your skirt steak for at least an hour, up to 24 hours.
  2. Preheat the grill to high heat.
  3. Ensure the grill grates are thoroughly cleaned.
  4. Oil grill grates if you like
  5. Grill flank steak for 4-5 minutes per side, or until it reaches medium-rare. Grill skirt steak for only 2-3 minutes per side, or until it reaches medium-rare.
  6. Remove steak from grill and allow to rest for five minutes before cutting into it.
  7. Slice flank and skirt steak against the grain into thin strips. Serve immediately.

And that's all there is to it! Grilling flank and skirt steak are easy once you know the basics. Just remember to season well, cook over high heat, and slice against the grain for tender, juicy results.

Sliced flank steak, ready for feasting!

Some Recipes to Try

If you're looking for some flank and skirt steak recipes to try, we've got a few suggestions. Pretty much any recipe for flank steak can be used with skirt steak; just plan on reducing the grilling time by a couple of minutes per side to not dry it out.

Chile-Rubbed Flank Steak with White Polenta - The flank steak is rubbed with garlic and chile, then grilled to perfection. The polenta is a fluffy backdrop to soak up the delicious sauce. 

St. Patrick’s Day Stout & Pesto Grilled Flank Steak - The steak is marinated in Irish stout beer and green from the fresh pesto and served with a matching traditional Irish side dish.

Party Steak with Grilled Scallion Salsa Verde - A simple marinade of garlic and vinegar, charred scallion and chile salsa verde, and seasoned skirt steak make this an easy party food but with a more elegant presentation.

Korean Sizzling Beef (aka Beef Candy!) - Based on the Korean classic, Bulgogi, thinly sliced beef is marinated in soy, sugar, and sesame oil. Served with steamed rice, this savory-sweet and spicy “beef candy” is a gorgeous and simple weeknight meal!

The Best Carne Asada - Marinated in a combo of dried ancho, guajillo chilies, chipotle peppers, orange juice, lime juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, coriander, and cumin, these thin pieces of charred goodness are heavenly.

May 02, 2022 — Jason Klein