For a long time, flank and skirt steaks have been neglected by chefs worldwide. However, that is slowly changing as more chefs are now going for the steaks as they have found new ways to prepare them into juicy and mouthwatering steaks.
These two steaks both have similarities mostly on how they are composed but they also have differences. These are the two things we get to look at today. In addition, we will also look at how best to prepare each one of them to end up with the best steak in the end. Let us get started already.
What is a Flank Steak?
Flank steak gets its name because of where it comes from. This type of steak is extracted from the bottom abdominal area of a cow. Since it is the abdominal area, it is expected that the steak will have a lot of muscle content and tough muscle fibers too.
So, what does this location mean for the meat? Well, the meat forming the flank steak is normally lean and tough. You might have to cook it the correct way if you are hoping to make the meat softer.
Flank steak will tend to be thicker and wider as compared to skirt steak. Well, it will also be tougher than skirt steak. Because of this toughness, it is possible to thinly slice the steak against the grain.
You will notice that flank steaks tend to carry a rich and intense beef flavor. If you enjoy such flavors, you will easily notice it as you grill or smoke the stake. Because of such flavor intensity, the steak is great when grilled or seared.
So, what would be the best way to cook flank steak? It is recommended that you cook it quickly and also at high temperatures. This will help it maintain its flavor just as you want it. You can still opt for using marinades to help tenderize the meat.
What is a Skirt Steak?
Skirt steak is extracted from the diaphragm muscle of a cow. This diaphragm muscle is not too far from the cow’s abdominal where you get the flank steak. It might be the reason some people might confuse the two.
Skirt steaks are often long, lean, and tough because of their location. As you can see, they still have the same features just as the flank steaks so far.
Have you ever heard of inner skirt and outer skirt steaks? These are terms butchers often use to confuse buyers. You can take either as both tend to have similar composition.
For muscle composition, you will find skirt steak having tougher muscles thank the flank steak. This means that the skirt steak will have a different texture than flank. It will also have much more intense flavor. If you thought flank steak had more flavor, you might want to try out the skirt steak to be blown away.
The tough composition of skirt steak makes it ideal for cooking it as medium-rare or rare. If you go out of these parameters, then it might not feel as the best steak people claim it to be.
Some find skirt steak best grilled or seared. This makes it great for stir fry or fajitas. To make it even better, you need to cut against the grain so as to efficiently pull its tough fibers apart.
Cutting against the grain technique
You might have come across the phrase “cutting against the grain” in this article or any other post talking about beef steaks. So, what does it exactly mean?
You have to remember that both skirt and flank steaks come with tough muscle fibers. Generally, for meat that has tough fibers, it is just hard to cut through and eat. It is the reason you have to cut against these fibers when preparing the meat.
Contrary to popular opinion, cutting against the grain will not ruin the meat. It helps to break down these fibers so as to tenderize the meat. As a result, the meat is now easier to eat and even to slice it into thin slices. You always have to do this when handling meat with a lot of muscle fibers.
Meat Structure Difference
The easiest way to differentiate between flank and skirt steak should be the meat structure. The meat structure will also affect how well you can prepare a certain type of cut.
Flank steak will have clearly defined fibers than skirt steak. This makes it easy for the user to slice the meat against the grain when preparing it. That being said, the fibers are also very close together. This can make it hard to rub in added flavors such as marinade.
The skirt steak on the other hand will have well-defined fibers in addition to a perfect grain structure. The fibers on skirt steak are tightly packed than those on a flank steak. This means that your skirt steak will respond better to marinades. You can introduce it to different types of rubs to enjoy more flavors.
Grilling Skirt and Flank Steak
When it comes to grilling skirt and flank steaks, the process is relatively similar with a few differences depending on the results you want in the end. Both skirt and flank steaks can be cut into thin flat cuts. For their toughness, you can best prepare them to rare or medium-rare.
You do not have to use indirect grilling method as it does not work with these cuts. This is because of the tough flesh that is just hard to penetrate.
To prepare them, simply cook them directly over the grill. You might want to sear them as a way to add the beautiful grill marks on the sides of the steaks.
Since skirt steaks tend to be thinner than flank steaks, you just have to cook each side for about 3 minutes. Flank steaks will need about 5 minutes for each side.
It all comes down to what you prefer. Some will go for the flank steak because of they tend to be larger and also tender. They can be ideal for many barbeque types. With the right preparation, you should have the best flavors whichever you decide to pick.