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Finding a good substitute for skirt steak isn’t as hard as you might think. While skirt steak is a highly versatile beef cut – and there are a handful of candidates that can replicate a similar tenderness and flavor profile.
With that being said, there are some alternative cuts that work better with certain dishes than others. So if you want the best possible results, it’s important to know what exactly you’re going to use your skirt steak substitute for beforehand.
A Quick Overview of Skirt Steak
Skirt steak is a long and thin cut of beef that comes from a cow’s diaphragm muscle on the inside of the abdominal cavity. This section of a steer is also known as the plate.
The muscle skirt steak comes from is worked quite a bit throughout the life of a steer, which is why it’s naturally leaner and less tender than some other beef cuts.
Even though it’s a leaner cut, skirt often features a hearty amount of fat marbling running through the meat. That’s a good thing because it renders out and helps to keep the meat as tender as possible while it cooks.
Skirt steak is relatively inexpensive on a per pound basis – making it an economical choice for those looking to have some tasty steak for dinner. Here are some of the most common dishes skirt steak is used for:
- Stir fry
- On its own as a main dish
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If you’re looking for a substitute that works in just about every situation, flank steak is probably the way to go. It’s very commonly available and quite similar to skirt steak in flavor, texture, and a few other important qualities.
Flank is a thinner cut of beef – although it’s thicker than skirt, and it’s best cooked quickly over high heat. It’s just a tiny bit more tender than skirt, and a little bit less strong on beefy flavor.
With all of that being said, these two cuts are close enough to one another that you could change them out for just about any recipe. Flank steak is especially good in fajitas and tacos or on it’s own as a main dish.
If you want to learn more about how these two cuts of beef compare, check out our comparison guide of skirt vs flank steak next!
Like skirt steak, hanger steak comes from the diaphragm muscle of a steer. This muscle is typically butchered into two separate cuts – a skirt and a hanger steak.
So as you can imagine, the two are quite similar to one another when it comes to flavor, tenderness, and fat content. The “catch” with hanger steak is that it’s not as readily available as some of the other alternatives on this list – you’d probably have to plan ahead to snag one unless you got lucky at your local butcher.
Hanger steak is popular in Mexican cuisine and is used for arrachera tacos and fajitas.
Flap steak is another popular substitute that is often confused with skirt steak – while they don’t come from the exact same part of a steer, their aesthetics and flavor profiles are quite similar to one another.
The flap steak comes from the internal abdomen muscle from the bottom sirloin section of a steer, which is closer to the backside of the animal compared to the diaphragm.
Generally speaking, flap steak is thin, fibrous, and chewy – but it’s quite flavorful and easy to eat in bites as long as you cut it against the grain.
Flat Iron Steak
It’s been said by some that flat iron is the second most tender steak cut – only the filet mignon from the tenderloin is more tender.
That makes flat iron a great skirt steak substitute for stir fries or potentially even fajitas and quesadillas.
Like many of the other types of steak on this list, flat iron is packed with flavor and quite affordable compared to the NY Strips and Ribeyes of the world.
If you’re looking for a main course substitute for skirt steak then a strip steak, also known as a NY Strip, is a great choice.
It’s known for it’s beefy forward flavor, and while it’s more tender than a skirt steak, it’s less tender than a ribeye or a filet mignon.
NY Strip is going to be significantly more expensive per pound than skirt because it’s one of the most prized cuts of steak that comes from a steer – but it will also be slightly less expensive than ribeyes and filets.
Sirloin Tip Steak
Sirloin tip steak can be a good substitute for skirt if you’re looking for a budget alternative for some stir fry.
It’s quite inexpensive, but it’s tough, lean, and doesn’t have a lot of intramuscular fat that will render during the cooking process.
Sirloin is most commonly used for kabobs, stew meat, or cubed steak dishes – and it’s also a reasonable choice for stir fry.
Tenderloin is without a doubt one of the most, if not the most prized cut of a steer. So many outstanding dishes come from the parts of a broken down tenderloin.
Specifically, tenderloin beef tips are an excellent substitute for skirt if you’re looking to elevate a stir fry. Tenderloin beef tips are some of the most tender bites of beef you’ll ever come across, and they are spectacular in a variety of Asian inspired dishes.
The catch here is that tenderloin is significantly more expensive than skirt steak. But if you don’t mind spending the extra cash, it’s sure to elevate your dish.
That concludes our list of the best skirt steak substitutes. While I’m sure there are other cuts that you could get away with as an alternative for some dishes, you should have all your bases covered with one of the cuts we’ve laid out above.
At the end of the day, flank steak, hanger steak, and flap steak are probably the best overall substitutes because they are so similar in flavor, tenderness, and price to skirt. You can use these cuts in almost any recipe you’d use skirt steak for.
Some of the other choices are better suited for specific dishes like stir fry, or to be enjoyed as a main course.