Inside vs Outside Skirt Steak: What’s the Difference?


A steak comes from the most active muscle in a cow, which works its entire lifetime and is located between the chest and abdomen. This cut of meat helps cows breathe since it’s made with connective tissues that are rich in marbling. There are two varieties: inside and outside skirt steaks depending on where they’re cut.

We’ll help explain these differences below so you can decide what type would be best suited to your preferences when going down grocery shopping.

What Is Skirt Steak?

Skirt steak is beef meat derived from the cow’s chest diaphragm and areas around the lungs. The steak runs along the belly, and they have fat deposits between and within the muscle strands. The presence of the fat makes the steak good for grilling.

You can grill the skirt steak over high heat to create tender meat for your family. You can marinate the steak to your liking and season it to break the proteins making it juicy.

The Inside Skirt Steak

The inside skirt steak is derived from the beef meat inside the chest wall of the steer. The inside skirt steak runs parallel to the belly and has fat embedded into the muscle grains. The inside steak is soft and has fat embedded within the muscles, thus giving tender meat after searing.

This is the most preferred skirt steak by chefs, and you can opt for it when buying meat from the butcher. It offers a beefy taste, but you can marinate it to get the desired flavors.

The Outside Skirt Steak

You can find the outside skirt steak on the chest walls as it orients diagonally from the lower to the upper ribs. It is less moist meat and has a strong beefy flavor; thus, you can marinate to your preferred taste. The outside skirt is attached to the ribcage and has a thick membrane, making it tough.

However, you will remove the membrane before preparing the meat to lead to a juicy outcome. You would ask the butcher to cut the membranes and trim the outside skirt steak before buying.

Difference Between the Inside and Outside Skirt Steak

Their Location

The cow’s body location is the first difference between the inside and outside skirt steaks. For instance, the outside steak is located between the 6th and 12th rib and lies diagonal in the chest. You can buy the meat with the membrane from the butchery as it is covered in a membrane.

You would remove the membrane to cook the meat evenly and extract the juices during cooking.

On the other hand, the inside skirt steak is located on the body wall across the lower ribs and diaphragm. You can remove the membrane to make the beef easy to trim during cooking. The membrane impacts cooking, making it challenging to achieve the desired cooking results.


At first glance, you will know if the meat is an inside or outside skirt steak. For instance, the outside steak is thin and long, while the inside is thick and wide. Both steaks are about 20 to 24 inches long and can be 3 to 7 inches wide when the membrane has been removed.

However, the inside steak is tougher and a bit cheap, while the outside skirt steak is tender, juicy, and expensive due to the juiciness. The outside skirt steak will appear tough due to the membrane which joins it to the ribcage, while the inside steak will appear and feel soft due to the embedded.

Where They are Used?

The steaks are not used in the same environment due to the meat’s composition. Chefs enjoy using the outside steak in the restaurants, as it is juicy, and customers enjoy the beefy taste and juicy meat. Moreover, it has a different texture which keeps the customers satisfied.

You would miss the inside skirt steak when you head to the butchery as it is mostly sold to regular restaurant customers. Thus, it is better to book the steaks properly to enjoy the beefiness. Although the outside skirt steak is hard to prepare, the chefs have mastered the art of preparation which maintains the grain.

The inside steak is sold to regular customers and is the least preferred by chefs; thus, you will likely find it when you visit the butcher. The outside steak is tough and less juicy and thus does not have a huge market. It is a bit tricky to cook, but you can convert the meat to a juicy treat for the whole family with the right skills.

Thus, you should learn how to cook the inside steak or ask for tips from your butcher as they know how to do it and will guide you on the appropriate preparation techniques.

Where Does Skirt Steak Come From?

Skirt steaks come from around the ribcage and the cow’s diaphragm, and it is tender meat with fat strips embedded in the meat. However, the inside skirt steak is more tender and is found on the body wall across the lower ribs and diaphragm.

The outside skirt steak is found between the 6th and 12th ribs along the rib cage and is tougher due to the membrane that connects it to the ribcage.

Which is More Expensive Inside or Outside Skirt Steak?

Both skirt steaks are expensive as they are only four pieces found in one cow; two inside steaks and one outside steak. However, the inside steak tends to be more expensive than the outside steak; this might be attributed to its tenderness.

The inside steak has fat deposits embedded on the flesh, making it juicy; moreover, it has a defined grain which makes it textured and most preferred by chefs. Thus butchers sell this skirt steak to regular customers, mostly from the hotels and restaurants, and you would need to book it ahead of time.

On the other hand, the outside steak would be cheaper as it is lean and less meaty than the inside skirt steak. Moreover, the membrane which connects it to the rib cage makes it hardy meat.

Your butcher will work on the inside steak to make it more tender; thus, you should first ensure its membrane is removed before buying it or ask the butcher for membrane removal tips.

What is the Most Tender Skirt Steak?

The inside steak is the most tender skirt steak due to the fat embedded in the meat and does not have a tough membrane. Moreover, its grains are well defined; thus, the outcome after searing is always a tender and juicy meat. The chefs prefer the inside steak as it is easy to cook and leads to the customers’ juicy meat.

On the other hand, the outside steak is the least tender because it is tough meat due to the membrane that connects the meat to the ribcage. Moreover, it does not have defined grains and has less fat embedded into the meat.

Thus it would need more time to smoke due to the toughness, and in most cases, it does not result in a tender dish. This meat needs appropriate preparation skills, and if you don’t know how to prepare, it would be better to seek advice from the butcher or hire someone who can prepare it for you.

Tips for Cooking the Best Skirt Steak

A chef would cut and trim the skirt steak, and if the meat still has the membrane intact, you can start by removing it before marinating. Cutting the skirt steak is a delicate process, and one mistake might ruin the skirt steak. However, you can trim and achieve a clean cut with appropriate techniques.

You will cut the inside skirt steak along a specific fat lining to reduce the amount of trimming you need to achieve the desired results. You can get rid of some fat deposits, but if you like your steak juicy, you can leave the fat deposits on your steak when trimming and cutting.

Since the outside skirt steak is a hard beef, you should use a sharp knife, but after removing the thick membrane, it should be easy to cut the meat into the desired portions. The thick membrane separates the cow’s rib cage from the outside skirt steak, your butcher should trim off some of the membranes, but you might find some membrane still attached to the meat.

Since most of the outside skirt steak is made of membranes, it might have as little fat making it tougher to cook. The white lines on the outside steak will not reduce the meat’s value as it does not make the meat less beefy.

You can use high heat to sear the skirt steak as it is juicy meat; the high heat will break the fats leading to moist meat. Most people enjoy skirt steak, which is cooked past medium-rare. Moreover, the beef meat cut is suitable for marinating due to the grain and thin cuts that allow the marinade to work well.

You can use marinade similar to the tacos or quesadillas to achieve a well-cooked skirt steak. Marinating makes the outside skirt steak tender and infuses the desired flavors. The marinade might not go deep into the meat; thus, you will still enjoy the deep beefy flavor.

Therefore, it is better only to marinate the skirt steak for 30 minutes; however, you can increase the marinating time for the outside skirt steak. The inside steak is easy to marinade as it disintegrates in marinade salt dissolving the proteins and connective tissues, leading to a more tender outcome.

These tips will make your skirt steak juicy and yummy:

  • Start by slicing the skirt steak into small pieces to make it easy to marinate and cook. If you enjoy your meat spicy, you can add spices or go for salt sprinkle and pepper if you want to soak in the beefy taste.
  • Pat the skirt steak dry after marinating. Pasting with dry paper removes the excess moisture and allows the meat to make a crust easily. Moisture can make it hard to achieve a crispy crust.
  • Heat the grill well before placing the skirt steak. You would cook the skirt steak for about 5 minutes to achieve the medium rare cook. You can adjust the time accordingly based on the desired final results.
  • Remove the skirt steak from the grill and allow the juices to distribute in the meat; a warm plate might help the juices distribute in the steak properly. Then slice the skirt steak against its grain and enjoy the perfectly cooked steak. You would serve it with the preferred side dish like grilled potatoes or grilled vegetables, sauteed onions, salad, or fajitas.

How Long Can You Marinate Skirt Steak?

You can marinate the skirt steak for about 30 minutes. However, the time could differ based on your desired results. The 30 minutes is appropriate for the inside steak that is tender and easy to cook, but you might add a few minutes when marinating the outside steak, which tends to be hardy.

How Long Does It Take To Smoke Skirt Steak?

You can smoke the steak for about 2 to 5 minutes based on the desired taste and preference. Since the inside skirt steak is tenderer, it would take a little time to smoke than the outside skirt steak, which can be hardy.

How to Store Skirt Steak?

If you bought skirt steak that gives more than one serving, you would cook it and store it in the freezer. During preparation, you will cut the skirt steak into small portions, marinate, and smoke in the grill.

Since the skirt steak is in small cuttings, it would be easy to store in small portions. You can package the steak in small portions, which equates to one serving so that you remove and preheat it whenever you need. 


If you choose to enjoy a piece of skirt steak, you would want to know the difference between the inside and outside skirt steak. The skirt steak comes from the area around the ribcage, and they are one of the juiciest beef. However, they might be expensive as each cow has two inside skirt steaks and two outside skirt steaks.

The inside steak tends to be moist, juicy, and is easy to prepare. On the other hand, the outside skirt steak is joined to the ribcage with a thick membrane and thus is tough, less moist, and offers a beefy flavor.

Bobby Johnson

When he's not writing about barbecue, you can find Bobby smoking meat for friends and family. He's been a backyard pitmaster for roughly half his life, and has worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands-on guide to teach them BBQ, but that's what Bobby hopes to do with Electric Smoker HQ. He wants to help people create amazing food that they can be proud of.