Flank Steak vs. Skirt Steak – The Beefy Duel

You are probably a schmuck. Admit it. You don’t know enough about steaks. I will start – I know bupkis about the stuff! I know that filet mignon is tender, prime rib is fatty and…um…I like it very rare. That’s it. Until recently, I thought that flank steak and skirt steak were the same thing. Clearly, I was a moron. 
On the left side, you have skirt steak. It comes from the diaphragm of the cow and is best served quite rare, because it gets tough very quickly if cooked too long. It is pretty lean, so there isn’t a lot of fat to keep it from getting all fibrous and chewy as the heat blasts it. It is also called hanger steak, and if you order steak frites in France, this is likely the cut of steak you will get.
On the right side is flank steak – if it was thicker, it would be called London Broil. It has even less fat than skirt steak, and is consequently a little more tender. The less fatty the meat, the more tender. That’s why you need different types of steaks…sometimes you want fatty flavor, sometimes you want buttery texture. 
It’s all a trade off, folks.
I tossed both of the steaks in a Ziploc bag filled with a marinade that was made of:
2 parts Worcestershire sauce
1 part ketchup
Healthy pinch of brown sugar. 
This is my standard “American” marinated that I do for these thinner, cheaper cuts of steak. While strip or Spencer steak might not need marinades, a little salt and sugar go a long way in bringing out the deep, meaty flavors of thin cuts of these thin cuts of beef.
After the steaks marinated for about 35 minutes in the fridge, I took them out and let them come to room temperature. This is a VERY important step. If you cook steak that is cold from the fridge, the outside of the steak will burn while the inside will stay cold and raw. I like raw but not cold…cold is just rude. 
After about 3 minutes per side, the skirt steak was ready to come out. You know when it is done when the steak is a bit resistant to your touch, but not bouncy…you do NOT want bouncy meat.
We let it rest for a few minutes so the juices would redistribute, but we probably should have left it for a bit longer…the juices sadly ran all over the plate. Don’t worry, I sopped them up with some bread. 
And after 4 minutes a side, the flank steak was good to go. 
I sliced both steaks against the grain. That means that if the lines in the steak were running right to left, you want to cut up and down. That ensures a tender piece of beef. 
On the left side you have flank steak, on the right side, skirt. They were both slightly overcooked – I adjusted the cooking times for you already. 
I preferred the flank steak – it was easier to cook rare and had a very hearty, vibrant, beefy taste. I loved it as was, and it would be great next to some polenta. The skirt steak had more nuanced flavors and textures, with the fat caramelizing and adding crispy edges and a slightly sweet taste to the meat. This would be so delicious in tacos or on a sandwich with melted blue cheese and sauteed onions. The anchovy-garlicky taste of the Worcestershire sauce melded with the sweetness of the ketchup and the sugar, letting the true tastes of both meat stand out. 
The truth is…as much as I crave fat, I just love the taste of BEEF. Here, flank steak wins the day.
So, now I know not just that I LIKE steak, but what KIND of steak I like. I feel far superior to most other schmucks out there now. 
And once you know what kind of steak you like, so will you!

Comments

  1. elle marie says:

    Man, I totally love the name of your site "Fritos and Foie Gras" it doesn't get better than that! I haven't had flank steak since… wow, I can't remember, depending where I am abroad it's hard to find certain cuts of meat.

  2. Sarah says:

    I am so hungry now. Sometimes a girl just needs some rare red meat.

  3. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Elle Marie-thank you so much!! Flank steak is tough to give up, but at least you get to try all sorts of fun new stuff!!
    @Sarah-You said it, sistah!

  4. Nosh Gnostic says:

    Hi F&FG,
    Justin (Pulled Porker) and I favor a steak from Taylor's in Sierra Madre, CA that they call "Flat Iron". I believe it's same as flank…
    Anyway, your preparation is simple but tasty, the right way to go with these cuts.
    We did a "Flat Iron" in a skillet one night and added Cognac and Dijon mustard to the pan drippings for a sauce (with a few oz. cream) that was unbelievable. Nom!

  5. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Nosh-Flat iron is flank steak, you are right! And that creamy mustard sauce sounds fantastic! I will definitely be trying that next time!!! Thanks!

  6. Taylor says:

    Great tutorial! I thought they were the same thing too…now I am enlightened :)

  7. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Taylor-thanks, girl!

  8. Chris says:

    Great article. Just one correction, re: the comments. Flat Iron steak is not flank steak. It comes from the shoulder clod of the cow, also known as the chuck, and it was only recently ‘discovered’ as a separate steak. It has a tough membrane attached to it, so in the past it was simply ground into hamburger or it remained with the chuck in the form of a roast. Recently, butchers discovered how to cleanly cut away the membrane, and thus, the flat iron steak was born.

    Here’s a webpage with more detail:

    http://www.goodfoodstories.com/2012/02/27/hanger-skirt-flank-flatiron-steaks/

  9. sherwin says:

    hey putz!!!~ do not call me a schmuck…………..flank steak or brisket is perfect cut for ropa viejo…………create “strings” with a fork

  10. rena says:

    looks great! did i miss how this is actually cooked? oven (degrees pls), stovetop or grill? thanks and cant wait to try!

  11. Derek says:

    Chris added one key correction, but it’s also worth noting that skirt steak is not hanger steak; they’re near each other, but they’re different cuts. Hanger steak is North American Meat Processors Ass’n (NAMP) cut #140; skirt steak is NAMP 121. Flank steak is next to the skirt, at NAMP 193.

    Also, skirt steak is often used for fajita meat, and fajitas are generally cooked medium-rare or even medium. That’s the general recommendation for both skirt steak and flank steak, because they need the heat to loosen the muscle fibers.

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