South-of-the-Border Skirt Steak

A tailgater’s best friend…

Skirt steak has long been one of my favorite cuts of beef. It’s juicy and flavorful, and it’s a great grilling steak. So, before grilling season completely skirts us, I want to share with you a skirt steak rub that I created a few years ago and has become a family favorite. I would also like to add that this makes excellent tailgate fare! It can be quick grilled on location or prepared in advance and served room temp. (You will want to multiply this recipe accordingly for a crowd.)

BeefCutPlateFirst, it’s important to clarify that there are two types of skirt steaks: the inner and the outer cut. Both come from the plate (below the ribs on the side of the belly between the brisket and the flank), but they have slight differences in shape, size and texture. The inner skirt steak is typically thinner and longer (up to 2 lbs. in weight) than the outer, and I find it to be more tender. Most grocers carry the inside skirt steak by default because a majority of the outside skirts go to restaurants, where it is preferred for its more even shape and thickness. If the packaging doesn’t specify one way or another, it’s a good bet that it’s the inside cut.

Skirt steak inherently has a thin outer membrane — the outside skirt more so than the inside — which can be easily removed (and should be) by simply sliding a sharp knife under it and peeling it off. Typically, your butcher will remove it before it is packaged and displayed in the meat counter, so you don’t have to. An inside skirt steak does not need to be marinated – a simple, flavorful rub will do. But if you purchase an outside skirt, which tends to be a little tougher in my opinion, you may want to marinate it in something slightly acidic for an hour or more before grilling, as you would a flank steak.


So, now that we’ve got the anatomy lesson out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff! I created this rub a few years back when inspired by a delicious skirt steak I had enjoyed in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I could immediately detect the distinct flavor of cumin, but there was something more subtle and balanced coming through, as well. Back at home, I decided to try to interpret the flavors myself, and I came up with this simple wet rub that packs a punch.

Based on Oaxacan custom, I decided to balance the strong flavor of the cumin with the more subtle flavors of chocolate and cinnamon, similar to a traditional mole. For heat, I added cayenne. The mixture of the cocoa, spices and garlic creates a dark, rich rub that infuses the meat with intense flavor.

Skirt steak with Oaxacan-inspired rub

Because it’s so thin, skirt steak takes only a few minutes to cook. It also shrinks quite a bit, so err on the side of buying more than you think you need. It makes amazing leftovers, so don’t be concerned if you buy too much. The next day, you will have delicious fajitas by simply wrapping the extra steak in warm tortillas with a little avocado and pico de gallo.

Since this rub is so flavorful, I like to serve the steak simply sliced thinly and paired with grilled cebolletos (Mexican knob onions) or scallions, avocado and grilled bread — makes for a great open-face sammie!


Or I recommend pairing it with a drizzle of my fragrant Chimichurri sauce made with parsley, cilantro, mint and basil (click here for the recipe) or my Grilled Tomatillo Salsa (below) — click here. All are super simple to make!

Grilled Tomatillo Salsa

To maximize tenderness, skirt steak needs to be cut on the diagonal once cooked. In the photo below, my husband shows how to slice on a 45-degree angle across the grain of the meat. I recommend medium rare for the juiciest and most flavorful outcome. Notice the juice collecting in the bowl of the cutting board. Don’t discard that! Drizzle it over the sliced meat before serving.

Slice skirt steak on a 45-degree angle

Whether you prepare this simple recipe for two or for a crowd, you will definitely score big points!

South of the Border Skirt Steak

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print

This Oaxacan-inspired skirt steak rub is so simple, yet it packs a flavor punch that will will have you saying holy mole! Tailgating has never smelled so good!


  • 1-1.5 lb. skirt steak, trimmed
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. cocoa powder (I prefer dark cocoa, but regular Hershey’s is just fine)
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (preferably Ceylon, if available*)
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper
  • 2+ Tbsp. olive oil


In a small bowl, blend the garlic, cumin, cocoa powder, cinnamon and cayenne with a large pinch of kosher salt and a couple grinds of fresh pepper to your liking. Add two tablespoons of the olive oil and blend together. The mixture should be thick and wet, but not too runny. It should be able to cling to the meat. However, if it’s too thick and not spreadable, add a bit more oil to ensure that there is enough rub to completely cover the meat.

Place the trimmed meat in a lined baking dish and spread the rub evenly over one side of the steak. If it’s particularly long, feel free to cut it into two pieces. Cover and let the steak sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the grill to high heat. Once the grill is nice and hot, oil the grates and place the skirt steak directly over the heat source. Leaving the cover open, grill for approximately 8-10 minutes, flipping once or twice, until it reaches the desired doneness. I recommend medium rare for the juiciest and most flavorful outcome. Note that since skirt steak has an uneven thickness, the thinner parts will naturally be done more quickly than the thicker parts. And remember that it will continue to cook once you have removed it from the grill, so allow for the residual cooking by removing it just shy of done.

Once you have removed the steak from the grill, let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing. You don’t want to lose all that beautiful juice! Slice the steak on a 45-degree angle into 1/2-inch slices.  Serve with grilled bread, sliced avocado and grilled scallions or knob onions.

*I recommend the Ceylon cinnamon from The Spice House for this and a whole slew of other recipes.

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