Even though skirt steak has become more popular over the years, it’s still not sourced everywhere! It can also happen when your local butchers or grocery store has just run out of stock. Frustrating, I know, but these things happen.
I’ve been a professional chef for many years and worked years on grill and bbq stations, so I’ve had my fair share of cooking and ordering steaks, including the skirt steak.
Sometimes our supplier may have run out of stock so we’ll need to find the best substitute. Luckily skirt steak, being the long, flat beefy cut it is, has some excellent replacements.
I’m going to share my best substitutes for skirt steak with you, but first, it’s always good to have a basic understanding of what you’re substituting to help you make the best choice for your recipe.
What is Skirt Steak?
Skirt steak is a long, flat cut of beef steak from the plate section of the cow. It has a tough membrane attached to one side that is usually peeled off before being sold. If you find the membrane is still attached, you can peel it off with a sharp boning knife.
Skirt steak can be sold as an “inside” or “outside” skirt, depending on where the cut is from; you may also find it labelled as “fajita steak” too.
What to Think about When Substituting Skirt Steak
Generally, skirt steak has a medium tenderness but can vary depending on if you use the inner or outer skirt. The outside skirt steak is the more tender version.
Skirt steak has a delicious beefy flavour due to its rich marbling, so we’ll want to substitute it with another flavoursome steak. It’s also excellent value dollar for dollar or pound for pound; I’ll only be listing other replacements within its price range.
5 Best Substitutes for Skirt Steak from a Grill Chef
Right, time to get down to business; what are the best substitutes, which recipes it’s best for and their ideal cooking temperatures!
1. Flank Steak
Flank steak is one of the closest cuts to the outside skirt steak, coming from the abdominal muscles. It’s slightly more tender and a little less flavourful.
It’s flat, wide, and rectangular in shape with strong grains, making it an excellent choice for marinading. Marinades have a large surface area to penetrate and flavour, and the strong grains allow herbs from marinades like chimichurri to cling to.
It’s essential to cut flank steak thinly and against the grain to have the most tender results because of that strong grain.
Flank steak is also a superb choice for stir-fries, and you may even find it labelled as “Stir-fry beef” in the grocery store.
Ideal Cooking Range: Rare to Medium
Recipes: Marinading, Stir-Fries, Grilling, Fajitas,
2. Hanger Steak
Hanger steak is one of the closest cuts of steak to the inside skirt and also comes from the plate section where it “hangs” off the diaphragm.
It’s the best all-purpose replacement and is a perfectly acceptable substitute for any skirt steak recipe that’s cooked from medium-rare to medium. I say medium-rare and medium because it has a slightly squishy texture when cooked too rare, making other substitutes like the flank steak a better choice.
Hanger steak has a similar tenderness, but the flavour is more intense than the already beefy skirt steak.
Ideal Cooking Range: Medium-Rare to Medium
Recipes: All Purpose (Pan-Searing, Grilling, Marinading, Sous-Vide, Fajitas, Stir-Fries)
3. Sirloin Flap Steak (Sirloin Tips)
Sirloin flap steak comes from the bottom of the sirloin and is sometimes called “sirloin tips”, “flap steak” or “faux hanger”.
It’s highly versatile and an excellent replacement for fast cooking or braising (which skirt is rarely used for). If you do come across any slow-cooked skirt steak recipes, then sirloin flap steak is your best substitute.
You can usually find it whole and pre-cut in slices in the grocery store or butchers.
Ideal Cooking Range: Medium-Rare to Medium when fast cooked or Well Done when braised
Recipes: Pan-Searing, Grilling, Marinading, Slow-Cooking, Skewers, Fajitas, Stir-Fries
4. Flat Iron Steak
Flat iron steaks come from deep inside the chuck section and are located in the shoulder blade. They are an excellent value choice and usually a little cheaper than skirt steaks.
Flat irons are more tender than skirt steaks and well marble, giving you a nice beefy flavour. It can be used as an all-purpose replacement to skirt steak.
Ideal Cooking Range: Rare and Medium
Recipes: Pan-Searing, Marinading, Grilling, Fajitas, Stir-Fries
5. Denver Steak
The Denver steak, like the flat iron, comes from the chuck section. It’s another very tender beef steak that offers an excellent value choice.
It’s slightly thicker than skirt steak, so you’ll need to adjust cooking times accordingly. Like the flat iron, it’s an excellent all-purpose substitute to the skirt steak.
Ideal Cooking Range: Rare and Medium
Recipes: Pan-Searing, Grilling, Sous Vide, Fajitas, Stir-Fries
Frequently Asked Questions
The inside skirt steak comes from the abdominal area. Ironically, it’s closer to the outside of the animal’s body than the outside skirt. The inside skirt steak is much more available in grocery stores than its counterpart.
The outside skirt steak is located at the diaphragm muscle of the cow. It’s the traditional cut for fajitas and generally reserved for restaurants and food retailers.
The inside and outside of the skirt steak come from slightly different locations; they both have a difference in texture and taste. They both have plenty of fat with a rich, deep beefy flavour, but the inside skirt is a tougher cut.
If you choose between the two, I recommend selecting the outside skirt steak due to its supreme tenderness.
Since skirt steak isn’t notorious for being cooked past medium, its best replacements don’t tend to be either. If you want to cook your steak past medium-well, use a high-fat content steak like a rib eye. The higher fat content will keep the steak moister when cooking to those higher temperatures.
Any of the steaks listed above make excellent substitutes for skirt steak, each with its slight cooking preferences. I suggest that you make your way down the list, with flank and hanger steak being the best two choices.