Both skirt and hanger steaks are often categorized as flat steaks. This category includes other budget cuts like flank and flatiron steaks. Up until fairly recently, both hanger and skirt steaks were among the cuts that butchers reserved for themselves rather than sell to the general public. How does hanger steak differ from skirt steak? Are there any differences in preparation methods for the two cuts? We will answer these and other questions below.
What is the difference between hanger and skirt steak?
Aside from their locations on the cow’s carcass, the big differences between skirt and hanger steaks have to do with the shape and amount meat that you get from each of these two cuts. Hanger steaks are relatively small and you only get one per cow, unlike skirt steaks. Hanger steaks are thicker than skirt steaks, but only measure about 7 inches long. Skirt steaks are longer, thinner pieces of meat. Skirt steaks can be up to 2 feet long and are about 3 to 4 inches across if they have been trimmed. In most cases, whole skirt steaks will weigh just shy of two pounds. A single cow will yield two of them.
Where do they come from on the cow?
Hanger steaks hang between the cow’s last rib and the loin, which is how the cut gets its name. It just hangs there. It also has a membrane running down the middle that a good butcher will remove.
Skirt steaks can come from one of two muscles. One muscle makes the inside skirt and the other the outside skirt. Skirt steaks consist of long, thin strips of muscle that the cow’s chest to its abdomen. The outside skirt is attached to the outside wall of the cow’s chest and runs from the 6th to the 12th rib. Its location is a little above and further forward from the inside skirt. The inside skirt is within the body wall, which is why it is called the inside skirt. It runs from the lower part of the ribs and extends all the way into the flank primal in the cow’s hindquarters.
There is little or no difference between inside and outside skirt steaks aside from the fact that one comes with membrane and one does not. If you buy your meat from a reputable butcher, he or she should take care of the membrane issue for you.
Is it easier to grill than the other?
Both hanger and skirt steaks have similar flavors and textures. They are rich and intensely beefy with large fibers. Both are perfect for cooking on the grill; in fact, the grill is arguably the best place to cook them. The key will be to cook them quickly over a high heat, and the level of doneness should be no more than medium rare. You can opt to cook each with or without a marinade.
Is one cut more expensive than the other?
Hanger steaks have recently become trendy, which means that it is both difficult to find and expensive, sometimes reaching double digits per pound. Grass-fed skirt steak is even more expensive, typically its price floor is at the top level of hanger steaks.
When should you use hanger steak and when should you use skirt steak?
Hanger steak is the traditional steak for Mexican fajitas and is arguably the better of the two for that purpose. Skirt steaks can be used for fajitas as well as for Chinese stir-fry.