I’d venture a guess, nothing scientific here, just a guess—that the average carnivore doesn’t know there’re two types of skirt steak. I’d also guess that if you’ve had skirt steak in the past it was most likely inside skirt; more on that later. My final guess is that if you’re reading this blog it’s because you know or heard that there are in fact, two different cuts of skirt steak and curiosity got the best of you so you Googled: “What’s the difference between Inside and Outside Skirt Steak?”
However you got here, let me start by extending a sincere thank you for stopping by and encourage you to check out the BEST way to cook a skirt steak, (inside or outside)—it’s a game changer. Top it with some chimichurri and you’ll make an $8 home cooked steak taste better than any $50 steak you’d buy at your local fancy steakhouse.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand, what’s the difference between inside and outside skirt steak? While they are both long and thin cuts of meat with a thick grain to them, they differ in many ways. In appearance the outside skirt is both longer and wider than the inside skirt. It is also about 50% thicker.
Something else you’ll notice about the appearance of the inside skirt is that it’s generally sold with a bunch of hard fat and membrane that will need to be removed. More often than not—when you can find an outside skirt—it will need less trimming, but you’ll still want to run your boning knife over it and clean it up. (See below the “out of the box” and trimmed cuts.) I say “when you can find” because the outside skirt is pretty sought after and it usually ends up in restaurants as opposed to the local market. Making these cuts even more scarce is the fact there are only two skirt steaks, one inside and one outside per side of beef.
While rare to find outside skirt in many chain grocery stores, your local butcher may be able to get some for you. Sadly, most local butchers are going the way of the dinosaur, so I get outside skirt steak from Omaha Steaks. They don’t call them “outside” skirt steak. Instead they are just labeled “skirt steak” but they are the outer skirts and they come nicely trimmed.
How does skirt steak taste?
Both are very flavorful cuts of beef, but the outside is without a doubt more flavorful than the inside. Both pack a hearty and robust beef flavor and both are very well marbled as you can see below after the steaks are trimmed. I’d compare the marbling in these cuts to that of a prime grade ribeye, and certainly better than the flank steak they are often compared to. Because of the thick grain of this cut, many people prefer to marinate these steaks.
Where does skirt steak come from?
The outside skirt steak is located on the outside of the chest wall of the steer and runs in sort of a diagonal orientation from the bottom of the 6th rib to the upper portion of the 12th rib.
Inside skirt steak is located inside the chest wall of the steer further back than the inside skirt. The inside skirt also runs parallel with the steer’s belly as opposed to the diagonal of the outside skirt.
How to cook skirt steak:
I’ve written a pretty comprehensive blog about the best way to cook skirt steak here, where I discuss using a very high heat to sear while not cooking past medium rare. This cut of beef is also great for marinating; the course grain and thin nature of the cut allows marinade to work well for thin slices used for tacos and quesadillas.