Who doesn’t love barbecue? The combination of charred meat combined with a juicy interior is to die for. However, what we love most about barbeque is the variety you can include in your spread.
Apart from various types of meat, you can go for a wide range of meat cuts. When it comes to beef, everything from the classic brisket to the prime rib and T-bone is ideal for barbeque.
But, although often ignored, flank steaks and skirt steaks are delicious and beefy cuts that make for juicy barbeque meat or fit into any other recipe. Most of the time, these cuts are used interchangeably and are criminally overcooked.
That’s what we’re about to change. This article will include everything you need to know about flank steak vs skirt steak, including where they come from and what’s the ideal cooking method for each. So let’s get started.
Flank Steak vs Skirt Steak
We know what you’re thinking; why do you need to know the difference between these two cuts of meat? The answer is simple. Although both look the same, they are pretty different in terms of muscle content, grain, and texture.
Consequently, each requires different techniques while prepping and cooking and fits into various recipes. Using them interchangeably can ruin a delicious piece of meat and spoil your dinner.
Don’t worry; by the end of this article, you’ll be able to tell where each cut comes from and how to cook it to restore its unique flavors.
What is Flank Steak?
A flank steak comes from the lower abdominal area of the cow. The meat cut is rich in muscle content and has a grainy, tough texture. Attributing to the tough fibers, the steak is very lean and is relatively thicker and broader than the skirt steak.
However, that doesn’t mean the piece of meat is no good for cooking because of its texture. If cooked at the right temperature and sliced thinly against the grain, flank steak can easily make up the main course of a gourmet dinner.
Besides that, its rich, beefy flavor works well with most marinades so that you can try out a plethora of recipes using flank slices. You can get the entire flank muscle from your local butcher. A typical whole flank steak can weigh anywhere from 2-3 pounds.
If you want to know how to grill flank steak on charcoal grill check out our video below:
What is Skirt Steak?
We have a detailed article about skirt steak: What is skirt steak?
Although the skirt steak is often mistaken for the abdominal part of the cow, that’s not the case. Instead, this meat cut is taken from the area near the cow’s diaphragm located alongside the abdominal flank area.
Skirt meat runs from the 6th-12th rib of the cow. Sometimes, you might get a thick muscle attached to your meat, which is the diaphragm itself.
Due to its lean and tough appearance, similar to flank steak, most people tend to mix the cuts up. While purchasing a skirt steak, you can choose whether you want an inside or outside cut, but there isn’t much difference between the two.
Although both flank and skirt steaks are tough, skirt steak is slightly tougher and has a more intense flavor. This means the piece of meat is delicious if cooked rare or medium-rare; anything more than that, and it’ll become dry and chewy.
If you want to know how to cook skirt steak on Kamado grill, check out our video below:
What’s the Similarity Between Flank Steak and Skirt Steak?
Now that you know where flank steak and skirt steak come from and how they look, you know why it is easy to confuse the meat cuts. Before discussing the defining differences between flank and skirt steak, some similarities place both amounts in one genre.
First of all, both skirt and flank and lean, tough pieces of meat compared to other popular cuts. That’s why they need special attention while cooking so that they don’t lose their natural juices.
Secondly, both meat cuts have an intensely beefy flavor that accentuates every marinade you compliment them.
Thirdly, the most important similarity between both is the cooking technique. You need to sear them quickly over high heat and slice them against the grain.
This will give you a charred crust outside, while the inside will remain pink and juicy. Cooking these meat cuts any longer than that will provide you with a chewy, rubbery meat dish.
Lastly, when we said these meats required special attention, it continues after you’re done cutting as well. Both flank and skirt steak have tough and pronounced muscle fibers.
That’s why, if you slice your steak parallel to the grain, you’ll end up with slices that are difficult to cut and chew. The technique is to cut the steak against the grain to break up the tough fibers and get delicious, tender bites.
Another similar feature of flank and skirt steak is the price range. While both flank and skirt are delicious when prepared correctly, they are pretty unpopular compared to other meat cuts.
So, if you’re planning to host a dinner on a budget, these steaks are the best choices for you to whip up an impressive meal for your guests.
What’s the Difference Between Flank Steak and Skirt Steak?
After listing the prime characteristics of each meat cut along with their similarities, it is time to state the differences. These points will ultimately help you figure out which steak is the best option for you.
As previously mentioned, both steaks are pretty tough compared to other meat cuts. But, when comparing the flank steak and skirt steak, it all comes down to which one is easier to chew and bite into.
In this case, the flank steak is the clear winner. Although it is nothing compared to the tenderness of the brisket or the prime rib, it gives you an easier time while eating compared to the skirt steak.
However, if you choose the outside skirt instead of the inside skirt steak, the tenderness level is almost the same when compared with the flank.
Both skirt and flank steaks are famous for their intense meaty flavor. Still, the skirt has a higher fat content compared to the lean flank. This means it gives a better flavor after cooking, which appeals to multiple taste palettes.
Pinpointing the difference between the two steaks in terms of size is quite tricky, as both come in irregular and odd-looking shapes. But, if you weigh both steaks at your local butcher shop, you will find that flank steaks weigh more than typical skirt steaks.
On the other hand, skirt steaks are quite long compared to flank steaks, while flank steaks are thicker. This means if you’re making fajitas or bulgogi, which requires cutting your meat into slices, a skirt is the right choice.
Similarly, if you’re planning to sear the entire steak, the flank is a better option.
As affordable cuts of meat, both flank and skirt steaks are great options for everyday meal prep.
But, the nutrition content varies in both cuts of meat.
For instance, flank steak has comparatively fewer calories and saturated fat content compared to the skirt steak. While a single serving of flank steak gives you 160 calories, a serving of skirt steak can pile up 200 calories at once.
But, in terms of fat content, a serving of skirt steak will give you around 3.6 grams of fat, while a flank steak only provides 2.6 grams of fat. So, if you’re targeting mindful portions for your family, you should go for the steak that meets your nutrition needs.
Flank Steak vs. Skirt Steak – Which is Better?
Flank steak and skirt steak are affordable and delicious cuts of meat, fit for any dinner you plan to host. Both steaks are more or less the same regarding the taste, texture, and cooking technique.
Nevertheless, both steaks differ in terms of tenderness, weight, size, and nutrition content. Bottom line, both steaks are great to cook with and taste delicious, but choosing the right one depends on your personal preference.
Make sure to plan out your menu and recipes and buy your meat cut accordingly to avoid any inconvenience while prepping and devouring the meat.