Inside vs Outside Skirt Steak: Knowing The Difference

The famous skirt steak often gets a place amongst the most flavorful cuts. It comes in two varieties, the inside skirt steak and the outside skirt steak. Given that they both come from a similar source, what’s the difference between them?

These are often thin and long cuts of meat, usually perfect for grilling. Let’s take a closer look at this steak and see what defines the different types as well.

Inside vs Outside Skirt Steak: The Key Points

Locations Of the Inside and Outside Steak

Skirt steak in general comes from the chest of the animal. To be more specific, it comes from the plate primal, located in the short plate below the cow’s rib. 

This area gets continuous movement and exercise due to the cow’s breathing, so in a way the muscle works throughout the lifetime of the animal. Although, this movement doesn’t put it under a lot of pressure and strain. Due to this, the steak gets a unique texture.

Outside skirt steak gets sourced from the diaphragm muscle, located between the sixth and twelfth ribs. It’s often placed diagonally on the body and covered by a membrane. This membrane must be trimmed before cooking the steak.

Inside skirt steak is on the walls of the cow’s body, below the ribs. It’s relatively easier to trim since there is no membrane for this cut. However, it has an irregular shape and is thinner and tougher than the outside skirt steak. 

Appearance And Texture

While they may look remarkably similar from a distance, you can mostly tell the difference between these two types of skirt steak if they’re placed together. Inside skirt steak is longer, as well as thinner as compared to the outside skirt steak. Although, the length isn’t an ever-reliable option here, since both these cuts can be 20-24 inches long.

As for the texture, outside skirt steak is relatively more tender and has a “beefier” taste. It’s also fairly juicy, which is why it’s usually the more expensive and desirable cut. Inner skirt steak has something of a chewy texture since it has a fair bit of connective tissue fibers. Though it has a similar “beefy” taste as the outside skirt steak, it’s usually not as flavorful or tender.

On Flavoring And Pricing Of The Skirt Steaks

There’s excellent marbling and fat on the outside skirt steak, making it rather suitable for grilling. This meat is tender, juicy, and has a strong beefy taste. On the other hand, the inside skirt steak is a bit more chewy and lacks the juiciness that outside skirt steak presents.

As you can well imagine, the above characteristics make the outside skirt steak a more attractive pick for most people. As such, it is more expensive.

Interestingly, when cooking, the inside skirt steak shrinks significantly while the outside skirt steak sees less shrinkage. This is largely due to the higher fat content on the inside steak. It’s also a reason why commercial kitchens give a higher preference to outside skirt steak.

Defining The Skirt Steaks

What Is A Skirt Steak?

The skirt steak is a cut that comes from the chest of the cow. This area gets a lot of work and movement due to the breathing of the cow, as such these muscles never stop working when the animal is alive. 

There are fat deposits within the muscle and between muscles, so this steak can be fairly tender, or even chewy because of the exercise these muscles receive. The difference often comes down to the location of the skirt steak and whether it’s an inside or outside cut.

What Is Outside Skirt Steak?

Outside skirt steak is the type of skirt steak sourced from the diaphragm and located between the sixth and twelfth rib. The muscle runs diagonally from the sixth to twelfth rib, making this a long cut. 

There’s a fair amount of fat and marbling here and the cut tends to be thick, at least in comparison to the inside skirt steak. Outside steak is usually 20-24 inches in length and can go up to 3 inches wide, though it’s usually around one inch. It’s covered in a  membrane that should be trimmed before cooking.

What Is Inside Skirt Steak?

Inside skirt steak is another type of skirt steak sourced from the walls of the body below the ribs. It’s fairly fatty, though chewy and it lacks a membrane. This cut too is fairly long, measuring 20-24 inches in length and about 3 inches wide, though the width is usually lower. Generally, inside steak is sold without a membrane, so it’s quicker to prepare as it needs no trimming.

How To Cook Skirt Steak

The best way you can cook skirt steak, whether it’s inside or outside steak, is to grill it. If you know your way around a grill, you pretty much have a good hold on cooking skirt steak. Here are a few steps to go along for the cooking experience.

  • Marinate It: Marinating skirt steak is a good idea to make it more flavorful and delicious. It’s a good idea to let it marinade for about 30 minutes before grilling. Some people prefer to marinade the steak for only 10 minutes, and that works too, but try to hit at least 30 minutes.
  • Dry Rub: Using a dry rub for the steak might be a good idea. A dry dub with black pepper and salt can help highlight the original flavors of the steak. This creates a flavorful crust that contrasts wonderfully with the inside of the steak.
  • Grill It: Grill or sear the meat over high heat. Using a cast iron skillet for cooking the skirt steak usually helps manage the process and cook it evenly. Each side of the steak usually needs about two to five minutes on the grill. This time will depend on the thickness of the cut. Generally, you’d want a char on the outer surface, while the inner steak remains juicy. This is a tough meat, so don’t overdo it or it will become hard.
  • Cutting It: When serving the steak, cut in between the grain and against the grain. This will help the steak feel more tender and soft when eaten, as there are fewer mini membranes to deal with.

FAQ

Best Part Of Skirt Steak?

In most cases, the outside skirt steak is considered to be the better skirt steak. It’s tender, juicier, and very flavorful. While the inside skirt steak is also flavorful, it tends to be chewier and lacks the juicy flavor and taste that outside skirt steak brings to the table.

Skirt Steak vs Flank Steak?

Skirt steak and flank steak are very similar, lean and tough cuts and it’s often possible to use them interchangeably. However, they do differ in several key aspects. 

Skirt steak is from chest, while Flank steak is a cut from the bottom abdominal. As a cut of meat, flank steak is usually thicker, wider, and heavier as compared to skirt steak. Also, skirt steak tends to have a more intense beefy flavor and higher fat content when compared to flank steak.

Where To Buy Outside Skirt Steak?

Outside skirt steak is more difficult to get hold of as compared to inside skirt steak. Since outside skirt steak is juicier and flavorful, it’s relatively more expensive and has a higher demand. As such, most of the outside skirt steak is sold to commercial kitchens and a fair bit is also exported. 

Most stores usually only sell inside skirt steak. You’ll likely have to approach a specialty seller or store to get a good cut of outside skirt steak. Be prepared to pay significantly more than the average inside skirt steak.

Conclusion

While they are both incredibly similar meats and come from the same part of the cow, there are significant differences in an inside vs outside skirt steak comparison. These meats differ in texture, taste, and to some degree, their flavor. Outside skirt steak is the more expensive and juicier cut, though inside skirt steak is pretty good too.

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