Flap Steak Vs. Skirt Steak: What Are the Differences?

Once never preferred and left only for ground beef or for butchers to taste, certain meat cuts have now made their way to restaurants as the main menu. The not-so-famous steaks that have got the attention of every steak eater are skirt steak and flap steak.

Similar to famous meat cuts like New York strip, tenderloin, ribeye, and sirloin, these steaks have taken the fair share of the limelight. One of the reasons is to use the whole beef less expensively and utilize every meat cut or because steak eaters are bound to fashion.

These rich flavored yet fibrous and chewy steaks are equally common in Latin Americans, French, and Asians. If adequately prepared, these steaks would be rivals to star steak menus and that too without being heavy on your pocket.

As many of you might be completely unaware of the flap steak, many will consider that skirt steak and flap steak are probably the same. They are the same in many ways, but actually, they are different. There are subtle but crucial differences in them. You can understand it by the fact that no two muscle groups on a mammal are exactly the same.

Today, we will introduce you to what skirt and flap steak are and their subtle differences that we should know. We will also cover their nutritious value, marinating potential, way to cut, and a lot more:

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Flap Steak vs. Skirt Steak

Flap steak and skirt steak are quite interchangeable but also have key differences. Let’s have a brief overview of each meat cut:

Flap Steak

Flap Steak is a thin beef cut from the bottom sirloin. Tough its texture and flavor resemble skirt steak, it is less expensive and frequently used in carne asada, tacos, stir fry & sliced or chopped applications.

Flap meat cuts are usually very thinly sliced across the grain and must be cooked over high and dry heat. The optimal juicy tenderness comes with the medium-rare grilled cut. For its thinly sliced cuts, it absorbs marinades adequately and has great yield.

Other names for Flap steak are bavette (France), Faux hanger, and sirloin tip (New England).

Skirt Steak

Skirt steak is a beef cut from plate primal below the rib. A skirt is a long skinny cut that makes a dark-colored, fat marbled piece of meat. It also has a pronounced amount of grain that makes it tougher. Though not attractive, it makes up for its fantastic flavor. It is commonly used in steak tacos or fajitas.

Skirt steak can be classified as an inside skirt and an outside skirt.

Other names for Skirt Steak are:

  • Romanian tenderloin
  • Romanian steak
  • Philadelphia steak
  • Arrachera

These names are commonly used outside the US.

What Are The Similarities Between Flap Steak And Skirt Steak?

As mentioned above, flap steak and skirt steak are similar in many ways. With proper preparation, both of them have amazing taste and can be used for several recipes.

  1. Both the meat cuts are tough, relatively lean, and long. The flap part is also lean and muscular, and the skirt, located in the cow’s abdomen, is also lean. As both cuts are lean, if they are cooked for too long, they have the potential to become rubbery.
  2. To keep the steak tender and easy to chew, flap and skirt meat are always cut against the grain of muscle fibers to overcome the rugged texture. Grains are the long and tough muscle fibers that you can see throughout the meat piece. Cutting both steaks against the grain is important because if you cut it perpendicularly, it would be tiresome chewing the resilient fibers. Cutting against the grain makes the pieces small and breakdown the long fibers. It will not ruin the meat while cooking and also make it tender and more penetrating for marinades.
  3. Both steaks are optimal for high heat cooking, such as grilling and searing. However, always beware of not making them tougher or rubbery by preventing burning or overcooking.  Moreover, both flap and skirt are best when medium-rare or rare, so never make them medium or well done.
  4. Since the flavor is pretty the same, you would often see both meat cuts being used interchangeably. Recipes such as carne asada, tacos, steak fajitas, London broil, or steak salad often include any of these two steaks.
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What Are The Differences Between Flap Steak And Skirt Steak?

Have a look at the differences between the flap steak and skirt steak:

Where Are They Cut From?

Skirt steak comes from inside the chest that is the cow’s diaphragm muscle. It also includes the area below the abdominal cavity and has a lot of tough fibers. Since this meat cut is long, tough, and lean, many confuse it with flap steak. The long, tough fibers are loosely attached and thinly sliced. The average meat cut weighs around 1.25 pounds and makes three servings.

The outside skirt is a bit thicker, tender, and uniformly shaped than the inside skirt. It has less fat and more flavors.

As most of the outside skirt ends at restaurants, the skirt steak you get at the grocery store is short and thin inside the skirt. The hard fat and the membrane also need to be removed.

On the other side, flap steak is cut from the bottom sirloin butt, an extension of the T-bone. Actually, it is the area in the belly of the animal. When you remove the flank and then the fat layers, the underlying meat you get is flap meat.

One of its names, Faux hanger, is often confused with hanger steak, which is a totally different meat cut.

Based on the area where you live, you may find it as whole meat cut at grocery stores. If you usually find it in the form of strips or cubes, you can ask the butcher to make you a trimmed flap steak.

Different Meat Structure

Another difference is in their meat structures. This is why both steaks taste a bit different.

Skirt steak has well-defined fibers, and the overall grain structure gives a compact look, but the fibers are not as tightly knit together as in flap steak. As a result, marinades seep well, and skirts respond better to marinades.

Flap steak fibers are long and clearly defined. This also makes cutting against the grain easier. But the fibers are tightly knit, and this close packing structure makes it difficult for the marinade to penetrate deeper.

Toughness and Taste 

Apparently, both steaks are tender, but you will notice the difference between the tenderness on the first bite. The flap is tenderer than skirt steak.

Regarding flavor, both are tempting, but skirt steak is more flavorful than flap steak. So, if you are a real steak eater and want an intense beef taste, the skirt is for you.

However, its toughness can be a hindrance to your flavor. If you have a weak tooth, it can be even more difficult. You can overcome this problem by marinating it half an hour before cooking it and then heating it over high heat to get the tenderly meaty flavor.

What Differs In Cooking Flap And Skirt?

If we generally talk about cooking methods, both can be grilled, seared, stir-fried, or cooked in a skillet over the stovetop. The main difference comes from the minor details in cooking either of the meat cuts.

For skirt steak, since it’s tougher, it will take a long time to be more tender and eatable. You can grill it, stir fry it or sear it and get the tender steak by marinating before cooking. It is cooked over high dry heat, but you can cook it even on the slow heat source, unlike flap cut. You just need to slow cook it and then braise.

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The ideal marinade for skirt steak will always have a reasonable amount of acids (fruit juice, vinegar) in them. And that is the reason why fajitas have a strong lime juice taste.

Whatever cooking style you choose, marinating it makes it tender but never overdoes it, else it will be mushy. The best results will be with marinade left for around 6-12 hours. Many prefer it as medium cooked with salads, while others like it in the form of fajitas.

Flap meat also gets tastier if marinated before and cooked on high dry heat. It would turn out terrible if you keep it rare. The meat will be raw and mushy. So you need to cook it from medium-rare to medium to make it firm enough to not squish it around in the mouth while chewing.

The flap is not grilled over extreme heat and can be cooked adequately with reasonable fire.

It will add a great taste to Mexican grilled meats, bistro steaks, and stir-fries. However, it turns out horrible in a stew. Stew with flap pieces tastes like an old shoe, and that’s why it is never recommended.

How to Grill Skirt Steak and Flap Steak?

Get a skirt meat cut, outside skirt if lucky enough, and remove the outer papery membrane attached to it. For the inside skirt, some extra fat might be sticking out; just bring it in shape.

Now marinate it because it’s tough, and to get the most of its flavor, you need to make it tender by marinating. Let it sit for 6-12 hours for the best results. You can also go with a dry rub such as kosher salt, but only if you prefer this way.

Now, it’s time to gill the skirt. Before you put the cut over the grill, the grill should be screaming hot. Put The steak on the grill, and don’t leave it as it is. If it’s a thin slice, you need to change the side every two minutes to make it medium-rare. Be careful not to cook it past medium-rare if you don’t want it rubbery or leathery.

Slice against the grain and serve it.

The same goes for the flap steak, except that Flap isn’t cooked over extreme heat as you can for the skirt steak. Just build a reasonable fire, keep it on one side of the grill, and lay on the flap. Flip it every minute until the heat gets from 125°F to 130°F on the fattest part.

How Much Meat And Fat Each Steak Holds?

If you are diet conscious and want skirt steak or flap steak without fat, it’s not possible. There is some quantity of fat in each one, and even if you have a thin meat cut, by no means will it be devoid of fat. So, don’t get fooled by the appearance of a lean cut.

Also, fat makes it more juicy and flavored.

Here is the nutritional information for flap steak and skirt steak:

Beef Flap Steak

Serving size: 3 oz. (85 grams)

Total Calories: 225

Calories from Fat: 116

Nutritional contentTotal amount% Daily Value
Total Fat 13grams20%
Saturated Fat 4.9 grams25%
Polyunsaturated Fat0.5grams 
Monounsaturated Fat6.6grams 
Cholesterol 58 milligrams19%
Sodium 61 milligrams3%
Potassium 371 milligrams11%
Total Carbohydrates 0gram0%
Protein 25grams 
Calcium 0.8%
Iron 17%

Skirt Steak

Serving size: 3 oz. (85 grams)

Total Calories: 202

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Calories from Fat: 112

Nutritional contentTotal amount% Daily Value
Total Fat 12grams18%
Saturated Fat 5 grams25%
Polyunsaturated Fat0.5grams 
Monounsaturated Fat6.2grams 
Cholesterol 51 milligrams17%
Sodium 71milligrams3%
Potassium 284milligrams8%
Total Carbohydrates 0gram0%
Protein 25grams 
Calcium 0.7%
Iron 13%

Where to Buy Flap Steak and Skirt Steak?

As both steaks are special meat cuts, it can be difficult for you to find them in every supermarket. The outside skirt mostly ends in commercial kitchens, so you will get an inside skirt at most supermarkets labeled as skirt steak. You will see that most of their surface fat will have already been removed by the butcher.

Flap meat is also not commonly available at supermarkets. You need to ask from time to time your local butcher if it’s available. In England, flap meat is often cut into serving-size pieces and then sold as steak tips.

The best way to get a steak of your choice is to ask your butcher. Or you can also order online from specialist butchers.

Which One Is Expensive?

If we look at their prices, skirt steak is slightly pricier than flap steak. The skirt takes a bit longer for the butcher to cut and clean the meat compared to flap meat.

The skirt steak was once cheaper, but as people are catching on to this delicious option more, it is not cheap anymore. However, it still gives value for money compared to other popular and expensive steaks.

To be precise, flap meat is underrated, and that is the reason for its low price. If we look at its flavor, it has a taste that you cannot find in various overrated steaks. So, it can be a superb substitute to skirt steak or hanger steak.

Flap meat will cost $5-$16 per pound, whereas skirt steak costs $15-$2 depending on the quality and beef type.

Flap and Skirt Steak Sizes:

Both inside and outside skirt steak are long and flat slices with thick grain throughout the length of the meat cut. Their pieces can be 20 – 24 inches long and 3-4 inches wide after being cleaned and trimmed. They are typically 1-2 pounds in weight that reduces up to a quarter after being cooked.

Flap steak is generally very thin, coarsely grained with obviously directed fibers. The grain runs throughout the steak in a crosswise manner. The standard flap meat size is 2-3pounds, and you get 5-6 pounds per steer.

How to Slice Them?

As the flap meat fibers run crosswise all the way in the steak, it’s difficult to cut it into thin-sized pieces. The best way to cut it is to first divide it into three to four big pieces by slicing with grain. Then rotate them to 90 degrees and slice further against the grain.

Skirt steak also has a distinct grain and should also be sliced against the grain.

Some Famous Skirt Steaks

  • Skirt Steak Tacos
  • Garlic marinated skirt steak
  • Chipotle Seasoned Skirt Steak with Warm Mango Salsa
  • Grilled Tequila-Lime Skirt Steak with Avocado Chopped Salad

Some Famous Flap Steaks

  • Southwest flap steak
  • Grilled Marinated Sirloin Flap Steaks
  • Chef John’s Grilled Flap Steak
  • Carne Asada Tacos

Which One Is Better: Flap Steak Or Skirt Steak?

Flap steak and skirt steak are amazingly rich in flavor with bit differences in their tenderness, nutritious value, sizes, and prices. Many people weren’t familiar with them before, but now they are gaining much-needed attention. What really makes a difference in your choice of a specific recipe and the way you prepare it.

While flap steak can be an excellent replacement for skirt steak, we prefer skirt steak for dishes like cheesesteak, bibimbap, and fajitas.

Flap with fat has a fantastic beefy taste and tenderness that would be best to be rolled and stuffed.

If you just want a tender meat slice, the flap would serve the purpose, and if you want a rich beefy flavor, skirt steak will go best.

You must cook both steaks the right way to get the desired results, and they will not take much time to be destroyed if cooked incorrectly. Properly cooked steak tastes heavenly and is worth all the effort.

So, are you going to try it today? Please share with us which steak would make it to your today’s menu and why.