Skirt steak isn’t winning any beauty pageants. It’s a long, lanky, awkward contender for your grill. You won’t be able to give it those pronounced crosshatched grill lines, and its flat shape gives you thin, squiggly slices rather than nice, wide planks. If you want pretty and iconic, splurge on a rib or strip steak.
But for a weeknight dinner when you want a deep, beefy taste and succulent texture, you can’t get a better steak than skirt. It even trumps flank steak, my former go-to for throwing on the grill.
What flank and skirt steaks have in common are their brawny, mineral flavor and loose-knit flesh, which is ideal for absorbing marinade. While both are sliced from the underbelly of the cow, skirt steak has the advantage of being richer and more marbled with fat; that means you use marinade for flavor only, rather than relying on it to tenderize the meat. (That’s not the case with leaner flank steak.)
When I’m pressed for time, I’ll often just unwrap my skirt steak, pat it down with salt and pepper and throw it onto the grill. It needs nothing more.
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In this recipe, I rub down the meat with a classic basil-flecked herb paste, heavy on the garlic. If you have the time, you should marinate your meat the day before you plan to cook it. This gives it plenty of time to soak up the flavors. But you can also just slather on the herb paste as you’re getting ready to cook.
A word about the grill: If you have one, use it. There’s simply no better way to get a deep char on the ample surface of a skirt steak. If you don’t, you can cook the meat in batches in a menacingly hot cast-iron pan, as long as you open the windows and turn off the smoke alarm first. Or try it under the broiler, positioning the steak as close to the flames as possible without touching them.
Whatever your heat source, pull the steak off once the center hits rare to medium-rare. Don’t veer into medium-well territory with this cut or you risk the steak turning chewy and tough.
Finally, slice the meat across the grainy muscle fibers at a 45-degree angle, rather than straight up and down. Not only will this give you attractive slices, it will also maximize tenderness.
If you want glamour, grill a big, pretty rib-eye. But in the categories of succulence, taste and cost, skirt steak takes the crown, No contest.
GRILLED SKIRT STEAK WITH GARLIC AND HERBS
Makes 8 servings
1 cup basil leaves, more for garnish
3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced, more for garnish
2 tablespoons lemon thyme leaves, more for garnish
2 fat garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pepperoncini (1 to 2 peppers), pickled jalapeño or other pickled peppers
2½ teaspoons kosher salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of half a lemon
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2½ pounds skirt steak
1. In a blender or food processor, combine basil, scallions, lemon thyme, garlic, pepperoncini, salt and lemon zest and juice. Pour olive oil over mixture; blend until it turns to paste.
2. Using paper towels, pat steak dry and place in a large bowl; slather paste mixture all over meat. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.
3. Light the grill. Use a paper towel to pat steak dry. (You can leave some paste, but for the best sear, meat should be dry when it hits the grill.) Grill over direct heat until char lines appear and meat is done to taste, three to five minutes per side. Let rest for five minutes. Slice against the grain and garnish with herbs and scallions.