What's The Difference Between An Inside And Outside Skirt Steak Cut?

Skirt steak is extremely versatile and can either be simply seasoned with salt and pepper (per Bon Appétit) or stand up to strong marinades and dry rubs. The skirt steak is also a favorite because of all the ways it can be cooked, whether it's seared in a pan or broiled in the oven. So long as it is cooked over high heat, you'll lock in those juices and have a phenomenal dining experience.

According to the Crowd Cow, skirt steak is a fatty cut of beef pulled from the "plate" which is just under the ribs. A 4oz cut of skirt steak contains 26 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat, and 200 calories which means that this cut of meat is fuel for your body as well as delicious. 

If you buy the inexpensive inner cut of a skirt steak you can make the best fajitas, Philly cheesesteaks, sandwiches, and tacos you've ever had, but if you get your hands on the outer cut, you'll be in for one of the most tender steaks you've ever had (via Easy & Delish).

Outside skirt steak

Now, you're probably thinking to yourself, "Is there really such a big difference between the inside and outside cut of the same steak?" And the answer is yes! MasterClass tells us that the outside cut of a skirt steak is visually thick and soft because the cow doesn't work the muscle too hard. Specifically, the outside skirt steak is pulled from the diaphragm muscle which is located along the ribs. It will usually have the membrane still connected, which will need to be removed before cooking.

According to Meat N' Bone, the outer skirt steak is considered the "premium skirt" because it is high-quality and famed to be especially tender and rich in flavor. This cut is not commonly found in your basic grocery store but you can usually find it at a high-end butcher store or served at pricey steakhouses

The outside skirt steak is best-served medium-rare and while delicious when marinated, it can be just as perfect with a quick dry-rub or simple herbs.

Inside skirt steak

The inside skirt steak is a different beast altogether. Grill Seeker says that the inside skirt is considerably shorter in length than its outer counterpart. Like the outer cut, the inner skirt steak is also sold with the membrane still attached (which must be removed before use) and it is also well-marbled, meaning that it will taste pretty juicy, but the muscles itself are much tougher and therefore needed to be prepared and cooked differently than the outside skirt steak.

Why is the inside cut of a skirt steak so different? Barbecue FAQ claims that it is because the slice is taken from the transverse abdominal muscle which has a lot more connective tissue, unlike the outside cut which is taken from the cow's diaphragm. 

Unlike the outer cut, the inner skirt steak can often be found sold at grocery stores and is perfect for tenderizing and marinating due to its tough nature. It is the perfect piece of meat to cook up for steak fajitas and spicy beef stir-fry.

Swapping in recipes

Since the inside and outside skirt steaks are pulled from different muscles of the cow, they have different textures, which makes switching out one for the other a bit tricky, according to Barbecue FAQ. How do you take one steak known to be tough and chewy and use it in a dish with a meat that is supposed to be tender and soft? 

According to Easy & Delish, if you have to swap an outer skirt steak for a tougher cut (this can mean an inner cut of skirt steak or a flank steak) it is wise to tenderize the beef. Using both the pointed and flattening sides of the steak mallet, thoroughly pound the steak to puncture the tough protein and even out the thickness. 

Another important step is marinating the inner cut. The outside flank steak is notably more flavorful and doesn't need much more than salt and herbs to make it shine, but you can make up for this by letting the inner cut soak up a variety of spices and sauces. When it's done marinating, sear the steak on a flaming hot cast-iron skillet for a juicy and tender dinner!