This is the third in our new series on steak and potatoes.
This robust steak from the underbelly of the steer (we call it skirt steak) has everything a carnivore hungers for: a bold flavor and no-nonsense texture you can sink your teeth into at a price you can afford. Anyone can look like a genius cooking a tender filet mignon. It takes skill—even cojones—to turn out a good skirt steak.
You need to remember only two words when cooking skirt steak: hot and fast.
If you’re a fan of authentic Mexican food, you’ve likely eaten skirt steak, a popular cut of meat for fajitas. In fact, faja means a belt or girdle in Spanish, which accurately describes the long, flat, cinch-like skirt steak in its raw state.
This hard-working muscle comes from the primal plate just under the rib cage. As butchers know, some of the richest-tasting, most flavorful meat is located in this section of the cow. In fact, skirt steak is often called “butcher’s steak” because butchers would save it for themselves.
Confusingly, there are two kinds of skirt steak—the “outside” skirt steak (NAMP #121C) and the “inside” skirt steak (NAMP #121D). The outside steak is attached to the chest wall and powers the cow’s diaphragm. It is encased in a tough membrane that must be removed before cooking. (Unless you have superior knife skills, we recommend you let your butcher handle the job.) The inside skirt steak is similar, but smaller, and of a less even thickness. This is why you are unlikely to find outside skirt steaks at your local meat market as most are sold to restaurants and hotels.
Skirt steak has a relatively coarse texture, making it a good candidate for marinating. Most of the time, though, we season it well with a rub (Steven’s Project Smoke Santa Fe Coffee Rub are two we recommend) or coarse salt and pepper. Here are three ways to cook it:
By the way, this particular cut is well-suited to winter grilling as it cooks quickly.
You can grill it directly on the embers—a technique Steven calls “caveman style”—a method that ensures the exterior will get a good sear while the interior remains pink. Light natural lump charcoal. When it ashes over, fan the coals until they glow. Lay the steak on the coals for 1 minute. Using tongs, flip the steak and cook for 1 minute more. Wrap in heavy duty foil and let the meat rest for 10 minutes. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and slice thinly on an angle across the grain. This shortens the meat fibers, maximizing the meat’s tenderness.
You can also cook skirt steak in your fireplace on a Tuscan grill, on a hibachi like the Lodge Sportsman, or even over the high heat of your chimney starter: simply place a small grate over the opening. (You may have to cut the steak into sections to make them fit.)
Skirt steak is so meaty-tasting, it needs few enhancements. But we do love it with Argentinean chimichurri sauce. Find the recipe here.
As for potatoes, smashed potatoes are hard to beat. Cook B-size Yukon golds or red potatoes until tender. You can boil them, bake them, or smoke-roast them indirectly on your grill or smoker. (You can guess our preference.) Using a potato masher or the bottom of a glass, gently crush each potato until it appears to have been run over, but still hangs together. Brush both sides of each potato with butter and season with coarse salt and pepper. If desired, sprinkle with a bit of chopped fresh rosemary or thyme. Grill for several minutes per side, or until the outside crisps slightly. The contrast of crispy exterior and creamy interior guarantee this easy side dish will become one of your favorites.
For more Steak and Potatoes:
- Steak and Potatoes: Florentine Steak and Garlic Fingerlings
- Steak and Potatoes: First Up, Tomahawks and Hasselbacks
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