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Skirt Steak

Any tips? I've tried it out and loved it, but I'm still working on my barbeque skills on this one. Seems to get more tender as it cooks, which I guess makes sense, since it's the same cut as brisket, right? Is this a matter of personal taste, or is there a right level of "doneness" for this cut?

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  1. Most emphatically it is not brisket:


    I have had it cooked rare, I don't know if that is 'correct' but it is my taste. Some cuts, if you cook them well done, turn into a hockey puck. I don't know if this is the case here.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Louise

      I think the short answer is "yes -- skirt steak quickly turns into a hockey puck".

      The more complete answer is that when we talk about "low & slow" cooking making a brisket "fall apart tender" what we are really saying is that the embeded collagen melts away. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brisket

      Skirt steak has nearly no fat and no real collagen either -- its from that odd "middle of beast" portion of the animal that is neither chest (brisket) nor belly (flank) in packer terms it is the "plate" -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skirt_steak vs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flank_steak vs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brisket

      My guess is the ONLY way to actually tenderize it is through ENZYMATIC actions: http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN... but I know that when I get really well prepared fajitas that have been expertly cut/trimmed/sliced they are not excessively tough. The other possibility is that some grocers are selling hanger steaks as skirt steak -- and the appearanc eis so close that only an expert butcher would know the difference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanger_s...

      1. re: renov8r

        Actually once - you've seen both hanger steak and skirt steak, I think they are pretty easy to distinguish - skirt steak is thinner, longer and narrower than hanger steak as far as I can tell.

    2. Skirt Steak has nothing to do with brisket. It is a long, thin steak that is up to 3 ft long and probalby not more than 1/2 inch thick and maybe 5 inches wide. There is a very noticeable grain running width wise. The longer you cook it the tougher it gets, I don't think it should go much past rare or at the most medium rare. When I cook it, it takes barely 2-3 minutes per side for about rare plus (slightly more than rare).

      It sounds like you are talking about a different cut of steak.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ESNY

        Agree about the cooking of skirt steak - one of my favorite cuts. If I have time, I like to marinate in olive oil. red wine, fresh herbs that I have around - particularly oregano, garlic etc. It's a great cut for last minute work night dinners when you want to have something v. quick to cook.

      2. skirt steak is similar to flank or hanger steak. Most people marinate to help break down the fibers as they are pronounced. It is usually cooked quickly and I believe traditionally used for fajitas. However, I think this is another one of those cuts where you can also cook it forever in the slow cooker and it will be tender; anything in between will be tough.

        1. I am making skirt steak, or arrachera tomorrow for lunch/early dinner for Cinco De Mayo.... Get your butcher to run the trimmed skirt steak through the tenderizer he should have behind the counter(the machine in back with the pins or gears) It will really improve the tenderness.

          I marinate mine in fresh squeezed lime juice(2 limes) , minced garlic, minced/seeded jalapenos, kosher salt, and black pepper for a couple of hours before grilling. I grill it for about 4 mins per side at the most, and then let it sit 10-15 mins before slicing. Always tender and great. I learned the above recipie/technique from some coworkers from mexico I used to work with as a cook back in the day...

          As always great meat starts with a vistit to a great full service butcher shop. I have to give credit where credit is due. Thank you Polancics Meat & Tenderloin, Ottawa, IL.

          1. I think you have to understand some steer anatomy to appreciate skirt steak. On the hanging side, the skirt is a flap that is part of the animal that contains some of the organs (not important which). It is the same as the flap you see on a cut of pork spareribs. While the steer hangs aging, the skirt is exposed to the air and ages much faster than the rest of the side. If left until the side is ready to cut for retail, it is usually spoiled...dry, dark red, shriveled. Consequently, meat packers will go thru the plant and remove the skirts from the side before the skirts spoil. In the olden days, they would keep the skirts or give them to their friends. With the popularity of fajitas, they are now rather popular and expensive. Often, the skirt is cut from the side before properly aged, and it will be rather tough. The best skirts are deep red, and look almost spoiled. I prefer them marinated in teriyaki, but that is just a preference. When you buy skirt steak from a retailer, you takes your chances. If well aged and marinated, definitely cook rare or medium.

            1. I think the key to skirt steak is to marinate it, cook it quickly and not well done, and you HAVE to cut it against the grain or it is tough. If you don't slice it the right way it won't matter about anything else you have done.

              2 Replies
              1. re: danhole

                Agreed--fast cooking, a rest, and the correct slicing are critical. Skirt steak needs to be cooked quickly, on a very hot fire. Then let it rest under foil (more important for thicker cuts like the flank). Finally, slice is against the grain. Here's my handy ASCII diagram:

                Skirt and flank steak look like this:

                ||||||||||||||| <- A long strip of steak, the lines indicate the grain of the meat.

                Cut it so that it looks like this:

                ||||| ||||| |||||

                ^cut ^cut

                (Number of pieces depend on how long the steak is. Cut it so that each chunk of meat is 3-4 inches long.) At this point you have a couple of pieces that you’ve cut WITH the grain.

                Now take one of those pieces and rotate 90 degrees. Cut slices AGAINST the grain, making “fajita” size pieces of meat. Do the same for the remaining chunks.

                Cut thin slices against grain. Repeat for the other two (or more) chunks of meat.

                1. re: nelsonii

                  Cute and effective graphics; you should collaborate with Mark Bittman as his illustrator!

              2. Rick Bayless says outer skirt steak is smaller, thicker, and more tender than inside skirt. Also to cook skirt to medium doneness - if cooked too rare it will be chewy, too well done and it comes out dry.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Romanmk

                  This sounds like the beast I've been dealing with. It doesn't work rare. Given that I'm usually an eater of bloody meat, I went that way the first time. Medium does seem to be more tender with the cut I've been getting from my very good butcher. Thanks all for the marinade tips. I'll be happy to give it another go.

                  1. re: oralfixation

                    I always cook skirt steak rare. In fact it's even good reallllly rare. It's just delicious pan-fried in a very hot cast iron skillet with salt sprinkled over the surface of the pan. It's also very good when used for tomato beef (the Chinese or Chinese-American dish)

                2. The jfoods have skirt steak 3-4 times per month. This may sounds like sacriledge but we marinade in a botled marinade from the grocer called Wasabiyaki, a spicy teriyaki based marinade. Jfood has found that the best method is sliced the skirt into 3-4 "chunks" and place in a zip-loc bag for 6-8 hours. Then jfood grills it fro 3 minutes per side on the weber set at medium (after pre-heat). Jfood then serves the chunks, nice a medium rare.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jfood

                    Doesn't sound like sacrilige to me. One of the favorite dishes I served when I was doing a personal chef gig for a family for a while was skirt steak, broiled just to medium rare with a sauce made from a container of fresh salsa that I warmed through and cooked down just a bit. Super easy and very tasty.

                  2. no idea how I screwed up, because I took advice from this thread and elsewhere on the internet--got a small skirt steak from whole foods tonight to try out with pan frying, as I've never done that--read either to fry it in cast iron pan on stove, or sear it in cast iron pan on stove and then finish it off in same pan in a 400 degree oven. Marinated it with lime, olive oil and garlic for 1 hour--let it come to room temperature for 25 minutes..got my Large Creuset frying pan hot on nearly the highest level (on an electric stove)--pan was smoking-added 2 tsps of olive oil--dried the steaks off, put them in--they seemed to want to curl up a bit (it was one long piece that I cut into 3 4-5 inch pieces)--from what I read, 3 min per side would be rare, 4 med rare and 5 med well---did one piece for 3, and that came out totally over cooked, and then the others seemed a bit thicker, and the 4 min a side looked more med well---seemed tough when cutting it, and while I understood to cut against the grain, it just wouldn't let me, so I had to cut with the grain--was so pissed off, I gave the salvagable pieces to my husband as he was starving--he said it wasn't bad--but not at all tender and juicy like I had hoped--how could the times had been so wrong, and it smoked my kitchen terrible and ruined my good lecreuset pan----guess I should have either done it for a lot less, or perhaps had better luck with just a 1.5 min searing and then finish it in the oven at 400-----

                    I had sauteed some portabella mushrooms and shallots with thyme to go on top,and had roasted fingerling potatoes to go with it, these came out good--but, oh, the steak, so not what I had hoped for............

                    What exactly did I do wrong????

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: janie

                      jfood does not cook stek inside since he has a gas weber so it is available 365.25 days a year. A blazing hot pan has a different effect on texture and time than a medium based gas weber. It appears the converion from weber to LC added to the issue.

                      That being said his grill had a starter issue the other night and he pan seared and finished in the oven some veal chops. Nice med-rare but the texture was not the normal from the grill outside. Thankfully the weber is fixed.

                      1. re: janie

                        Janie, a thick cut of steak (1-1/2" or thicker) can benefit from pan searing to give it a quick outer crust and then finishing in the oven, but a skirt steak is 1/2" thick at most and as you found, this method overcooks it. All you need to do is sear it quickly in the pan, then let it rest before serving.

                        How quickly? Depends on the piece and the heat of the pan. I'd first cut it into sections of relatively even thickness (see nelsonii's graphic guide above), then, assuming the pan is smoking hot as you say, do the thin end for maybe a minute per side (less if it's really thin), and the thicker section for 2 minutes per side, no more. Let rest for ten minutes and slice across the grain.

                        If you find that comes out too rare, next time add 30 seconds or so until you find out what works for your pan and your family's tastes.

                        1. re: janie

                          You should never ever cook a steak soley by time. Every steak, stove, oven, grill, etc is different. The time should only give you a general sense of how long it will take. In my experience 3 min per side would be for medium well, certainly not rare. I've cooked inch thick NY strip steaks for 3 minutes per side for rare/medium rare so this would naturally be way overcooked for a thin skirt steak.

                          I would definitely NOT put it in the oven next time unless you want shoe leather again. Besides the taste of the actual steak, one of the benefits of using skirt steak is how easy and quick it is to cook indoors. I put it in the skillet (no oil) and let it get nice and crusty. When you see the edges start to turn color, flip it and cook for maybe another min or two. If you are unsure, cut one piece to see if its done.

                          1. re: ESNY

                            what about all the smoking of the pan, and the burnt pan--I used a lecreuset enamel cast iron frying pan---should I not have put oil into the hot pan, and simply oiled the steaks instead--they had marinated in oil, but I had wiped them dry before putting into pan..I had the pan on very high on an electric stove--because I thought I was supposed to have the pan almost smoking--do you think if I would have done it 1.5-2 minutes a side instead,--the smoke wouldn't have gotten so crazy...? thanks for the great advice everyone--i've got to try this again till i get it right..

                            1. re: janie

                              The smoke is probably from the oil, esp if you preheated your pan over high heat, the temp of the pan would be way above the smoke point of the oil.

                              You can either oil the steak directly or just put it into the dry pan without anything. A hot pan, dry steak and not touching it will create a good sear and it wont stick. I use a lodge cast iron skillet, preheated over high heat for at least 5 minutes and put the steak right in. There will still be smoke as the fat renders from the steak but it shouldn't burn or smell burnt. that was definitely from the oil in the pan. Give it another shot but carefully watch the steak since 1 minute too long on a steak this thin will mean its way over cooked.

                              1. re: janie

                                I also use a Le Creuset pan with the black enamel interior. I add a small amount (1 tbsp or so) of grapeseed oil - excellent for high heat cooking with a neutral flavor - then wipe the interior of the pan with a paper towel, leaving just a glisten of oil behind. You want to sear it on the hot metal, not fry it in oil. When the pan is hot (but not insanely hot) I put in the steak and don't touch it for a minute or so to let the crust start to form, then shake it loose and check it for color.

                                As ESNY says above, color and texture are much better indicators of doneness than a clock. Experience is key! Keep practicing and you'll soon be an expert.

                          2. My favorite.Place the skirt steak in a plastic bag and dump a jar of chimichurri sauce into it. Shake bag, marinate for 4 or 5 hours. Grill the steak to medium rare.
                            Take Queso Blanco cheese and slice thin, and chop up some cilantro.
                            Slice the skirt steak against the grain in 1/4 inch slices. Place the steak in a warm tortilla shell, add cilantro, and the cheese. Top with a dash of your favorite hot sauce. So good. Tomatoes are optional. I also squeeze on some fresh lime juice.