Other Names For Skirt Steak: All About This Flavorful Cut

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Skirt Steak On Wooden Board

Skirt steak might not be as well-known as cuts like ribeye and New York strip, but it’s an excellent choice for grilling. With a multitude of beef flavor and a pleasingly chewy texture, skirt steak makes the ideal filling for tacos and fajitas. 

Like many other cuts, the skirt might wear more than one label. My guide is here to educate you on the other names for skirt steak. 

Other Names for Skirt Steak

Skirt steak comes from the plate primal, which is located in the cow’s lower abdominal cavity. It’s made up of two muscles: the diaphragm, or outside skirt, and the transversus abdominus, or inside skirt. Other aliases include arrachera, Romanian steak, and Romanian tenderloin. While many people get the skirt confused with the flank, these are two separate cuts. 

Skirt Steak 101 

The skirt is taken from the abdominal cavity below the ribs. This area is known as the beef plate primal. Other cuts from this primal, which is characterized by its tight grain structure, include the hanger steak and the short plate ribs. 

There are two types of skirt steak. The diaphragm muscle is called the outside skirt, while the transversus abdominus muscle goes by the name inside skirt. 

Sliced Skirt Steak on Plate

Sometimes the butcher will put these qualifying terms on the label when packaging the meat for sale. More often, though, the outside skirt will end up in a commercial kitchen. When you buy a skirt steak at the butcher shop, it’s usually an inside skirt. 

Both types are long and flat—about 24 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide. They have a wide, ropy grain that makes them easy to carve. They’re also distinguished by a decent amount of marbling, which you can detect running between the muscle strands. 

If you do manage to get your hands on an outside skirt, it might have a thin membrane that needs to be removed before cooking. A reputable butcher will have removed the membrane during trimming, but it’s easy enough to peel it away yourself. 

Other Names For Skirt Steak: A Guide

In Mexico—particularly in the northern regions—skirt steak is known as arrachera. It’s customary to grill the steak, carve it into thin slices against the grain, and serve it in tortillas topped with onions, salsa, and a squeeze of lime. 

Romanian steak or Romanian Tenderloin are other names that might pop up. They’re not commonly used in the US, but you can find a surprising number of recipes that call for this type of steak. 

In the past, the USDA used the term beef skirt diaphragm to refer to this cut. It wasn’t very popular at the time—in fact, the Japanese government considered the diaphragm cuts to be “offal” instead of meat. In recent years, though, skirt steak has gained a lot of traction. 

Skirt Steak vs. Flank Steak

Many people confuse skirt steak with flank steak. In fact, while you can substitute one for the other in most recipes, these are different cuts of meat. 

Sliced Flank Steak And Seasonings

The flank is another beef primal, meaning it’s not part of the plate. The two are adjacent to one another, so it makes sense that the steaks might have a similar texture and flavor profile. But as the name suggests, the flank is located toward the rear of the animal, while the plate sits closer to the forelegs. 

Both cuts are naturally tough, but cooking them to medium rare and slicing them against the grain makes them seem more tender to the bite. They’ll never be as tender as filet mignon, but the rich, beefy flavor more than makes up for it. 

Skirt steak is even more intensely flavored than flank steak. While they both take well to marinades, I think skirt steak absorbs the flavors better. If you have a recipe that calls for skirt steak (see below), don’t substitute the flank unless you’re unable to find the skirt

Take a look at this video tutorial to further educate yourself on the differences between flank steak and skirt steak. 

How To Cook Skirt Steak

The best way to prepare skirt steak is to marinate it for 30 minutes to 2 hours, then grill it quickly over high heat. Since the marinade won’t penetrate that far beneath the surface, there’s no need to leave it in the mixture for any longer than that. 

How hot does the fire need to be? Some people don’t even bother with a cooking grate, preferring instead to grill the steak directly on the hot coals. This gives the exterior a nice hearty sear, locking in the moisture so the inside stays juicy and tender. 

Be very careful not to overcook skirt steak. Because the muscles are tough, it’s best served medium rare to medium. 

Allow the steak to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving. The cut is very long, so it’s a good idea to cross-cut it into shorter segments, then slice the sections thinly against the grain. 

One more thing: When making fajitas or stir-fries, slice the meat into strips against the grain before marinating and cooking it. The strips will absorb more marinade that way, and they’ll cook faster once they hit the heat. 

Where to Buy Skirt Steak

Butcher Slicing Beef

Check your local butcher shop to see if they have any skirt steak available. If they don’t, they should be able to place a special order. In addition to removing the membrane, the butcher should trim the surface fat while leaving the intramuscular fat alone. 

Buying skirt steak in the supermarket is a trickier prospect. I’ve seen steak labeled as skirt steak when it’s clearly flank steak—not a big deal when you can tell the difference, but confusing to amateurs. If you have any doubts, go straight to the butcher counter to make sure you’re buying the right cut. 

Again, it’s not the end of the world if you end up with the flank instead of the skirt. But if the recipe specifically calls for skirt steak, it’s better to use that. Once you’ve experimented with both, you’ll be able to appreciate the unique qualities that each cut brings to the table. 

Final Thoughts 

You probably won’t see real skirt steak labeled as arrachera or Romanian tenderloin if you’re shopping in the US. These terms are more common outside the country. 

However, some inexperienced butchers and supermarket employees use flank steak and skirt steak interchangeably. It’s in your best interests to learn the difference so you don’t get confused. 

Happy grilling!

Darren Wayland Avatar

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