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Skirt steak is a thin cut of beef that is perfect for grilling. It cooks extremely fast so you need to watch it closely to make sure you don’t overcook it. With that being said, exactly at what temperature is a skirt steak done?
Skirt steak is at its most flavorful at an internal temperature of between 125 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on personal taste preferences.
Skirt steak is a versatile cut of meat that can be prepared in many ways. Because of its loose, grainy texture, it is perfect for absorbing marinades as well as dry rubs.
Because skirt steak is so thin, you can cook it over direct heat for the entire length of the cooking process, unlike thicker cuts of beef, such as a tri tip.
In this article, I will discuss the best cooking methods for skirt steak and why the best internal temperature for skirt steak when done is between 125 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
What is Skirt Steak?
Skirt steak is a cut of beef that comes from the plate section of a cow, below the ribs. It is long and thin with a craggy texture that is perfect for absorbing marinades or dry rubs.
Due to its thinness, skirt steak will cook extremely fast. It is also because of its thinness that it has a large surface area to volume ratio. This means you will need to cook it over high heat to ensure this large area is well-browned. You generally cannot achieve this browning and have an internal temperature of your skirt steak be anything lower than 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’re pulling your skirt steak off the heat at an internal temperature of 115 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re missing out on some flavorful browning. It will also be chewier at a lower temperature.
There are actually two cuts of skirt steak per each side of beef. There is the inside skirt that comes from the diaphragm section and an outer skirt that comes from the abdominal section of the cow.
Inside vs. Outside Skirt Steak
These two skirt steak cuts are noticeably different in size and texture. The inside skirt is wider and thinner than the outside skirt steak cut. The outer skirt will be longer and thicker.
The inside skirt steak is also chewier than the more sought-after outside skirt steak. The difference in textures between the two is due to where they are located on a steer.
They are both located in the front section of the beef plate on a steer, where you would find beef plate ribs.
The more desirable outside skirt is attached to the inner surface of the rib cage, or the steer’s diaphragm. The outside skirt is more tender because the muscles there do less work than where the inside skirt is located, in the abdominal section.
Another thing to note is that the outside skirt steak comprises the cow’s diaphragm section along with the highly-prized and tender hanger steak.
Here is a video showing a butcher cutting the inside and outside skirts away from the steer.
Skirt Steak vs. Flank Steak
Flank steak has a similar-looking texture to skirt steak but will usually be a wider and thicker cut of beef in the meat case.
The flank portion is behind the plate section on a cow. Which steak is more tender? Well, it depends on which skirt steak we are talking about.
The outside skirt steak cut from the diaphragm section will be more tender than flank steak. However, a flank steak will be more tender than the inside skirt steak.
This is not to demonize the inside skirt steak cut, there is enough of that going around on the internet. In fact, the most prevalent cut of skirt steak you will find in the grocery store is the inside skirt.
There isn’t anything wrong with this cut, in fact, it is the cut I used for this article. Granted, the outside skirt steak is a superior cut but you can make the inside skirt work as well.
Also contributing to the confusion between flank steak and skirt steak is that flank steak is used interchangeably in recipes that call for skirt steak such as fajitas and beef stir fry.
How Long to Cook Skirt Steak?
Skirt steak is very thin in comparison to other cuts of beef. How long should you cook skirt steak? Generally, 2 to 3 minutes on each side over very high heat will yield a nice medium-rare temperature.
To test for doneness, pull the skirt steak off the heat and take multiple temperature readings in different spots. You’re looking for around 125 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s not there yet, sear it on each side for 30 seconds and test it again.
Let it rest for 5 minutes and slice against the grain.
Marinating Skirt Steak
As I mentioned earlier, skirt steak is perfect for marinating. This is because it is thin with a large surface area to soak up marinades.
Something I must mention is that if you are someone that likes a good char on your meat then you might want to skip the marinade and go with a dry rub.
Because skirt steak has a lot of nooks and crannies for the marinade to go it has a tendency to steam on a hot grill from all the excess moisture.
I’m not saying you can’t get a decent char on the outside of marinated skirt steak, you just have to be careful to wipe off any excess moisture from the surface of the meat.
Ok, with that disclaimer out of the way here’s a good marinade for skirt steak. You really don’t need to leave them in the marinade that long, usually, 30 minutes is plenty.
Skirt Steak Marinade #1
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp. Honey
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
- Salt and Pepper
Skirt Steak Dry Rub #1
- 1 tbsp Chili Powder
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Juice 1 lime over the skirt steak after applying the dry rub.
How to Cook Skirt Steak
Whether you’re cooking skirt steak on the grill or stovetop the main thing to remember is to cook it hot and fast.
We are talking 2 to 3 minutes a side on a very hot grill or skillet. You’re looking for a temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit for skirt steak. Pull it off the heat to check the temperature.
Once you’ve hit 125 degrees Fahrenheit, pull it off the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes. Slice it across the grain at a 45-degree angle and serve.
Cooking Skirt Steak on a Stovetop
Skirt steak is a very long piece of meat so if you are cooking on a stovetop in a pan you will have to cut it into portions.
The best pan you can use is a heavy one like cast iron. You want a very hot skillet to get a good char. Because skirt steak is so thin you should be able to get a nice crust on the outside with a nice medium-rare interior with just a few minutes of cooking per side.
I would go for about 2 to 3 minutes per side and then check the temperature. Once you’ve hit 125 degrees Fahrenheit, let the skirt steak rest for 5 minutes.
Cut the skirt steak against the grain at a 45-degree angle and serve.
Cooking Skirt Steak on the Grill
Skirt steak is best when it’s cooked on a grill, preferably a charcoal or hardwood fire, mesquite is great.
You want to get your grill as hot as possible. For a propane grill, that means every knob turned to high. For a charcoal grill, mound up a chimney starter and get the briquets white-hot.
Again, only 2 to 3 minutes a side should suffice. Pull the skirt steak off the grill when it reaches 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
Let it rest for 5 minutes, this will give you a nice skirt steak medium-rare temperature of between 130 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
Slice across the grain of the meat at a 45-degree angle to serve.
Skirt steak is a perfect weeknight meal option because you can have dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less. Because it is thin with plenty of surface area for rubs and marinades to go, it is the perfect cut for a variety of dishes like fajitas and stir-fries.
Just remember to cook it hot and fast. Because skirt steak is thin with a large outside surface area compared to its interior, you need to ensure you’re browning the outside. You can’t achieve proper browning without the skirt steak reaching an internal temperature of at least 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
This should give you a nicely charred outside with a flavorful juicy interior.
Follow this temperature advice and I think you’ll like the results.