I’d venture a guess—nothing scientific here, just a guess—that the average carnivore doesn’t know there are 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.
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. I 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? Let’s start with appearance. They are both long and thin cuts of meat with a thick grain to them. However, they differ in many ways.
Comparing Inside and Outside Skirt Steak Visually
In appearance, the outside skirt is both longer and wider than the inside skirt. It is also about 50% thicker. Knowing this fact helps you recognize inside vs. outside skirt steak, but there’s more to understand.
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’re likely to still need to run your boning knife over it and clean it up. (See the “out of the box” and trimmed cuts below.)
I say “when you can find” because the outside skirt is pretty sought after. It usually ends up in restaurants as opposed to the local market.
Making these cuts even more scarce is the fact that there are only two skirt steaks, one inside and one outside per side of beef.
While it’s rare to find outside skirt in many chain grocery stores, your local butcher may be able to get some for you. Sadly, many local butchers are shutting down, so I get outside skirt steak from online meat purveyors.
While they don’t call it “outside” skirt steak, Lobels of New York offers outside skirt steak that’s labeled “skirt steak.” They come nicely trimmed from Lobels and everything I’ve ever bought from there has been top shelf.
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 appear very well marbled as you can see below, which shows the steaks after trimming.
I’d compare the marbling in these cuts to that of a prime-grade ribeye. They are certainly better than the flank steak to which they’re often compared. Because of the thick grain of skirt steaks, 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
Skirt steak can be cooked several different ways. The most popular is to simply season it and cook it hot and fast over some extremely hot coals.
If you have some extra time, I’ve written a pretty comprehensive blog about the best way to cook skirt steak, where I discuss using sous vide before searing, while not cooking past medium rare.
This cut of beef is also great for marinating. The coarse grain and thin nature of the cut allows marinades to work well. It doesn’t take long to impart flavor into this coarse cut of beef.
Be mindful if you’re using citrus; don’t marinate more than a few hours or the acid will start breaking down the meat. That said, citrus-marinated skirt steak, seared on the grill and sliced thin for San Diego Style Street Tacos, is a real treat.