The key to weeknight steak dinner is quick-cooking skirt. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post.
The key to weeknight steak dinner is quick-cooking skirt. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post.

Why skirt steak is the best for easy, weeknight cooking

By Ali Slagle Time of article published Mar 27, 2020

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Between the marinating and exact cooking, the resting and proper slicing, steak might not be the first cut of meat we turn to on a week night (hmm, chicken thighs - again?).

Skirt steak, however, messes with that preconception because it has all the things going for it that we seek for a midweek dinner: minimal prep, lightning-fast cooking, big flavour and a reasonable price tag.

Like flank, hanger and flap meat, all of which also come from well-exercised muscles, skirt steak delivers a good chew but isn't tough, if prepared and sliced properly. And, because skirt steak is so thin, it quickly reaches its optimal doneness, which is rare or medium-rare. 

By the time the outside is seared brown, you can bet the inside is ready, which means no futzing with a meat thermometer or internal temperatures.

The only essential instruction for cooking skirt steak is that you want a hot, dry environment so that the outside browns to deliciousness and the muscles don't have enough time to tighten and toughen.

To get a good char, you'll want to rid the meat of moisture and cook it over high, unrelenting heat — like in a hot cast-iron pan, under the broiler or on the grill. If there's liquid or the pan isn't hot enough, the steak will steam and end up gray and flabby.

So, here's your go-to recipe: 

Pat the steak dry, generously salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, sear over high heat for 3 minutes per side. Let rest a few minutes. Thinly slice it against the grain.

Just like that, skirt steak delivers deep, buttery, mineral flavour. It tastes like all-caps BEEF.

When thinly sliced — always against the grain — it is tender enough that it doesn't need the help of a marinade. Plus, a liquid marinade can inhibit that delicious browning. (Why marinate a steak for 15 or 30 minutes when, on its own, the meat can be great and ready in fewer than 10?)

Instead, incorporate flavour in punchier ways that don't mess up the optimal cooking environment (reminder: dry, hot).

For instance, cook the steak naked, then let it soak in a piquant sauce. 

As the steak rests, its juices mix with the dressing, giving the dish even more moxie. You can do this with just about any liquid marinade, sauce or salad dressing that you think complements steak like a deep red chimichurri, smoky with paprika and spicy from red pepper flakes.

Another option is to brush the steak with a thick glaze. Skirt steak has lots of nooks and crannies on the exterior for glaze to settle into and caramelize when it's hit by heat.

If you go this route, you'll want to cook the steak at a slightly lower temperature (medium-high) to avoid burning. Your glaze could simply be a slick of harissa or barbecue sauce. 

Could you add grated garlic and ginger? Sure, but it's not necessary. Soy sauce? Yes, but not much, as it'll add too much moisture.

With steak this flavourful and quick-cooking, why bother?

The Washington Post

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