7 Best Skirt Steak Substitutes For Tacos and Fajitas

November 25, 2022

When I can’t find a skirt steak for my Chinese stir-fries, carne asada, tacos, or fajitas, the best skirt steak substitute for me is the flank steak. If you can’t find that, a flap steak or hanger steak replaces a skirt steak perfectly. If you make fajita or pan-fried recipes a lot, you have to learn to get by with these skirt steak substitutes. Why? 

Not many people fancy skirt steaks because of their tough texture, slow-cooking requirement, and the required tenderizing procedure. So, the grocery store doesn’t stock them enough. People always want ribs, ribeye steak, tenderloin, NY strips, T-bone, or porterhouse and seldom choose lesser quality beef like the skirts. 

As a grill chef, I’m pretty used to these cuts of meat (the substitutes for skirt steak). So, I’ll break them all down to you, from the most noble to tough cuts. 

skirt steak substitutes

7 Best Substitutes for Skirt Steak

Below are some of the best substitutes for skirt steak recipes, whether it is stir-fries, tacos, or fajitas. They can replace skirt steak perfectly in your recipes:

1. Flank Steak 

Flank steak is an affordable skirt steak replacement. While it is usually a large cut of beef about 5 to 6 inches wide, skirts, especially the outside skirt steak, are usually longer and thinner. 

However, flank steak packs intense flavor. Like a skirt steak, this cut of beef can become tough and stringy when not cooked properly. 

Ensure that you marinate the meat and choose the appropriate cooking method and recipe. If there’s no flank steak at the store, a variety of other cuts of beef will make good substitutes for skirt steak.

Grilled Flank Steak

2. Hanger Steak

Hanger steak is also known as a hanging tenderloin or butcher’s steak. It is a little more expensive skirt steak alternative. Like the flank and skirt steak, this cut of meat needs care during preparation. When overcooked, it becomes pretty tough and unsalvageable. 

The steak is cut from the diaphragmatic column. It is also referred to as the lumbar part of the diaphragm. The meat is actually rather tough and has a large tendon running through it. However, if you salt and marinate this piece overnight, you get quickly grilled steaks with a fantastic taste of their own.

This tasty cut isn’t often seen at the meat counter of the local supermarket. You may visit a butcher shop to request or purchase the cut. 

Thankfully, like the skirt steak, it usually contains low saturated fat and cholesterol. Out of about 2 ounces of hanger steak, there are only about 1.34 grams of saturated fat

Medium rare meat hanger steak

3. Top Round Roast 

Also called butterball steak, this cut of beef is a good skirt steak substitute, especially if you want to grill London broil. It’s the largest muscle in the cow and is used for making roast beef and other large roast dishes. 

Like the skirt steak, it’s low in fat and has little marbling. Also, it can get tough when not prepared well.

Raw Top Round Steak with Spice and Herbs

4. Tri-tip Steak 

The tri-tip roast owes its name to the meat’s triangular shape. It is also called bottom sirloin roast, sirloin tip, triangle roast, orsometimes sirloin tip side steak. It’s a lean cut with small fat marbling. So it’s a good alternative to skirt steak in recipes. 

The good thing about sirloin tips is they’re more tender than a skirt. 

Grilled Tri-tip Steak

5. Beef Tenderloin 

Tenderloin may look like an unsuitably similar cut when looking for an alternative to skirt steaks. I know it’s quite tender, but unlike skirt steak, it also has low-fat caps and marbling. You’ll like how tender it is. 

However, there is the chuck tenderloin (taken from the shoulder region) which is often tougher. 

Tenderloin is taken from the sirloin cut. Also called the filet, Châteaubriand, or fillet, it is the finest part of beef. 

Free of fat, muscle strands, or tendons, it is particularly popular with girls due to its delicately buttery and fine taste. No joke! In some steakhouses, you have to use the term “ladies cut” on the menu. 

Sliced Beef Tenderloin

6. Strip Loin Steak 

The classic strip loin steaks are taken from the short loin. They are cut from the back of the rump steak (or from the hip with other cuts). However, it is cut boneless like a skirt steak. A striploin steak is also called a NY strip steak, club steak, Omaha steak, ambassador steak, and more. 

I don’t know why many see the striploin steak as a good skirt alternative. It’s probably because it has little fat running through the meat (marbling). However, a strip loin has a fat cap that gives it away. This should be no problem. Just trim them off!

Strip Loin Steak 

7. Flat Iron Steak

Like the flank steak, flat iron steak is a flat lean steak. However, this is a little marbled and has a rich flavor. A flat iron steak is taken from the chuck section of the cow, just like the Denver steak. It’s not in any way within the toughest cuts of meat.

A flat iron steak is a cut of meat with a really tender texture. It makes a great replacement for skirt steak because it’s quite flavorful.

Flat Iron Steak Cooking on Flaming Grill

What a Skirt Steak Replacement Should Look Like?

Before rushing out for a skirt steak substitute, isn’t it better to know what a skirt steak is so you can replace it with a like-for-like steak?

Skirt steak is a tough but boneless cut of beeftaken from the cow’s front belly (plate) close to the brisket. They are divided into the outside skirt steak and the inside skirt steak.

Because it’s a beef cut taken from the load-bearing abdominal flap of the animal, skirt steak is a tough and stretchy cut of meat. It has almost no fat and you can’t dispute its strong beefy flavor. 

Out of every 2 ounces of skirt steak, there are only around 3.6 grams of saturated fats. So it’s a top choice for weight watchers. Needless to say, if you’ve always gone for skirts because of their low fat, you need a steak type with little fat too. 

Despite the lack of fat, skirt steaks have an amazing flavor that tastes a lot beefier than meats with marbling. This is why I think noble cuts with a tender texture like the ribeye steak don’t cut it here. 

Skirt beef may be tough but, with proper preparation and cooking method, it can become very tender. I like to have my skirt steaks tenderized with marinades

So, if you’re choosing a tough skirt steak alternative like a flank or flap steak, don’t skimp on your marinades. If you’re making a skirt steak-specific recipe, make sure the recipe allows this. 

Otherwise, if you don’t marinate or tenderize a tough steak, you may end up with a dish of “leather soles.”

When prepared appropriately, skirt steak is a fine cut for fajitas, a Mexican specialty. It’s also traditionally used for stir-fries, carne asada, arrachera, tacos, churrasco, and Cornish pasties

Should I Marinate My Skirt Steak Substitute Too?

Marinating is an essential procedure for skirt substitutes. Especially if you want to get tougher meat cuts like flank, chuck tenderloin (mock tender), or tip blade roast tender as butter. It also adds great flavor to your steak. 

However, we are talking about subtle marinades here that enhance the meat’s flavor and make your steak soft and tender, not about overloaded neck steak mush to cover up the inferior quality of products.

No matter which marinade you choose, the following ingredients should always be present:

Acid

Acid marinades include citrus juice and vinegar. On the one hand, the acid makes the meat more durable (kills bacteria). You no longer have to worry about the rapid spread of bacteria in the meat.

Acid breaks down the protein structures in the meat, making it softer. However, watch out for acidification. Too much acid will turn your meat into a gooey and mushy mess if you leave it for too long; more than two days, according to the USDA.

Sugar

On the one hand, sugar serves to balance acidity. On the other hand, it contributes to the browning of the meat through caramelization. Talk about one stone killing two birds!

Salt

Salt also breaks down the protein structure in meat and makes it tender. It also enhances the taste of the ingredients (flavor enhancer). It’s a natural or traditional ingredient for curing or marinating meat.  

Oil

Oil acts as a transmitter. You will find a proportion of oil in any marinade as it absorbs and transmits the flavors of the ingredients.

Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

How Is the Steak Prepared?

A normal zip-lock bag is best for marinating. Add the marinade, herbs, and meat together, close tightly, massage well, and place in the fridge for several hours.

The cooking times need to be longer under lower temperatures. The ideal is a medium rare steak cooked to an internal temperature of 130 to 135 degrees. At rare doneness, the fibers may not be cooked through. At medium doneness, you may end up with a steak that’s starting to dry out and toughen up. So, it’s best to stop at medium rare.

Related Reading

FAQs

1. What Can I Use Instead of Skirt or Flank Steak?

You should use a sirloin flap steak or hanger steak. A tri-tip roast or top-round roast will also do the job. 

2. What is Equal to Skirt Steak?

Flank steak is almost equal to skirt steak because they both come from the animal’s underbelly. Skirt steak comes from the frontal part of the belly in the plate region while the flank steak is at the second half of the belly towards the rear. So they’re almost the same cut, the same stretchiness, toughness, and beefy flavor with little fat. By the way, sirloin flap steaks are also quite similar to skirt meat. 

3. Is Skirt Steak the Same as Sirloin?

The sirloin flap steak looks identically similar to the skirt steak. However, they’re not the same. The sirloin is more tender and good for the grill. The bottom sirloin, which is a tri-tip cut, is more suitable for roasting. The skirt steak works for all these purposes and more (including sautéing and broiling).

4. What Can I Use Instead of Skirt Steak for Tacos?

If you can’t find a skirt steak, a flap steak, hanger, or top round makes a great skirt steak substitute for this recipe. 

Conclusion

You’re at the counter at the grocery store or your butcher’s shop. You’ve been told the last skirt steak is sold out. You can always replace skirt beef with a flank, hanger, flap, top round, tri-tip or flat iron steak

Don’t forget to marinate them before cooking. You can also simply prepare them using a slow-cooking method. Don’t overcook them either. Medium rare is enough and you’ll have a nice tender cut of cooked meat.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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