Skirt steak is a thin, long cut of beef that is a popular type of meat used in dishes like bulgogi, fajitas, carne asada, and stir-fries. It is often marinated, then grilled, pan-fried, or broiled briefly before serving.
If you can’t get your hands on this meat, then you’ll need an alternative option. We’ve pulled together our favorite skirt steak substitutes so that you can finish any recipe without the original ingredient.
What can I use to replace skirt steak?
To replace skirt steak in your next dish use flap steak, flat iron steak, hanger steak, beef tenderloin, or flank steak . Although not a perfect match, they will fit into any recipe that uses skirt.
1. Flap steak
Flap steak goes by a range of names including flat meat, bavette, or sirloin tip. You could be forgiven for mistaking skirt for flap steak as they look similar and are both connected to the bottom sirloin.
Flap is a useful substitute for skirt steak, with lengthy, open meat grains and big beefy flavor. Its texture makes it an excellent meat for slicing into fajitas and similar Mexican-inspired recipes.
The meat grain is loose and perfect for holding a marinade. To get the best out of your flap steaks be sure to slice against the grain. This results in meat that’s a little chewy but not tough.
Buying flap meat as a replacement may save you a few dollars because it is an easier cut to butcher and clean. But keep in mind that skirt steak will have a better texture that’s more tender than flap.
2. Flat iron steak
Flat iron steak is taken from the chuck (or shoulder) of the cow. It offers a comparable size, shape, and leanness to skirt steak. The meat is extremely tender and has a lot more flavor than other cuts like the tenderloin.
You'll notice that flat iron has more marbling than skirt steak and is also thicker. It is a “beefier” tasting option, ideal for thinly slicing into subs or tacos.
To cook flat iron steak, we recommend briefly searing on a high heat then continuing to cook at a lower temperature until its ready. After searing, some chefs prefer to roast the meat in an oven on a moderate heat. Using a slow cooker will also result in deliciously tender meat that everyone will love.
3. Hanger steak
The diaphragm of a cow is usually chopped into two separate cuts - the skirt steak which contains the tougher muscle; and the hanger steak which most people find packs more flavor. It is also one of the most tender cuts on the cow, excluding the tenderloin.
Hanger steak is also known as hanging tenderloin or butcher’s steak. It receives the latter name because butchers would take this meat home for themselves rather than sell. They knew what good meat was!
Similar to skirt steak, hanger has a slightly grainy texture which is full-flavored and rich. It should be cooked rare or medium-rare to stop the meat from becoming tough and chewy.
Before cooking, hanger steak will benefit from a spice rub or marinade. Its strong flavor pairs well with pungent spices and its flavor won't get lost behind other ingredients.
4. Beef tenderloin
Beef tenderloin is known by different names around the world such as filet mignon, fillet, and eye fillet. It comes from the loin of the cow and is a more expensive alternative that you may want to try.
The tenderloin has a little less flavor but it is extremely tender. Grilled and thin-sliced, this meat can be used in any way that you would use skirt steak.
5. Flank steak
Flank steak is cut from the flank primal, or belly muscle. It is a lean cut with less beefy flavor than skirt, but when cooked right, it is also more tender.
Flank and skirt are both flat, long cuts of meat with a grain that runs through them. However, the skirt grain runs opposite to the flank. Keep this in mind and slice the flank thinly against the grain for the best results.
Flank steak is a great replacement for skirt steak, but you need to be careful not to overcook it as it will quickly become gummy and dry. We also suggest marinating it well to tenderize the meat, then cook on a high heat briefly. Flank is also suitable for grilling, searing, or stuffing.
Fast facts about skirt steak
- It is best cooked on a cast iron pan or hot skillet with oil or butter and should never be left on the heat past medium. The meat will continue to cook once removed from the pan so make an allowance for this.
- Skirt steak is excellent in Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, Cornish pasties, stir-fries, arrachera, or smothered in chimichurri sauce.
- The meat is cut from the short plate, located next to the short ribs.
- It is sometimes labeled fajita meat in grocery stores.
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Skirt steak is a meal you can make in just a few minutes and is a delicious, flavorsome cut of meat that is popular with most. If you can't find any in your store then you could also try using flap steak, flat iron steak, hanger steak, beef tenderloin, or flank steak. They all have a slightly different texture or flavor profile, but they’ll all work deliciously in any recipe that calls for skirt. Each option carries plenty of beefy flavor and if cooked and sliced correctly, will offer tender, juicy meat.
What recipe are you hoping to make that calls for skirt steak? Please let us know in the comments below.