If you walk past the skirt steaks at the meat counter and go straight for the New York strips, you’ll be missing out on a cut that has a delicious beefy flavor, is versatile and offers wonderful value.
Skirt steak is an inexpensive cut of beef cut from the diaphragm muscle. You will find two types sold — the inside and the outside. The thicker outside skirt comes with a tough membrane that needs to be trimmed before it can be cooked. This cut generally is not found in the supermarket (usually reserved for restaurants).
The inside skirt generally comes with the membrane removed, making trimming an easy job at home. Both cuts come in long, narrow strips, each weighing about 3/4 pound. Before cooking, trim the fat and any remaining membrane (just pinch it with your fingers and pull it off).
Skirt steaks make a great stir-fry and fajitas. Because they are so thin, they make an idea sandwich cut. Just place a quickly grilled slab between two slices of rustic bread with a smear of horseradish mayo and some peppery arugula and you are in sandwich heaven.
Skirt steaks absorb marinades particularly well and are excellent canvasses for flavor-packed sauces from around the world. Asian-style marinades, Tex-Mex spice rubs or peppercorn crusts are delicious when paired with skirt steaks. Marinades containing olive oil, fresh herbs, lemon or lime juice and balsamic vinegar all work well. Skirt steak should not be marinated longer than 20 minutes, or the meat flavors will get lost.
The best skirt steaks I’ve had came off a flaming grill or an incredibly hot cast iron pan. This maximizes the nice charred crust, while still helping the center of the steak maintain a medium-rare to medium, buttery texture.
Since you are cooking the steak so quickly, you should let the steak reach room temperature before cooking. Because the meat is thin, it’s quite easy to overcook it, so keep a close eye on the process. Let the cooked steak rest for several minutes before slicing so the juices can be settled. Slice into 3 to 4 inch portions with the grain, then slice against the grain into 1/4-inch strips.
Today’s Special is a Tribune News Service column by Carole Kotkin, manager of the Ocean Reef Club cooking school and co-host of Food & Wine Talk on southfloridagourmet.com.