Skirt steak is grilled to a perfect medium rare and served with my version of chimichurri, made with Italian flavors, enhanced by a vibrant tomato salad.
Best beef for family cookouts
This Skirt Steak with Italian Chimichurri uses my absolute favorite cut of beef for sharing with a group. If I’m eating my own steak, I’ll pick NY strip every time, but for a slice-and-serve steak, it’s gotta be skirt steak. Why? Skirt steak comes from a very busy muscle in the cow (the diaphragm), and busy muscles are naturally packed with flavor. When cooked and sliced properly (more about that below), skirt steak is tender, delicious, and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
I absolutely love steak, in all its forms, but the sneaky star of this recipe is the Italian Chimichurri I developed. You’ll have an amazing steak on your plate. You’ll have a great, fresh, vibrant tomato salad next to it. But, then you drizzle on the Italian Chimichurri sauce… 🤦🏻♀️ Oh. My.
Commonly found in Uraguay and Argentina, chimichurri is an oil based sauce, made with fresh herbs, that is brightened with a splash of red wine vinegar and fresh chilis or dried red pepper flakes. I adapted this traditional recipe to use herbs that are more commonly associated with Italian cooking. I swapped out the red wine vinegar with a bright white balsamic vinegar and used Calabrian chili paste for a touch of spice. It’s perfect with grilled meats and amazing mixed with mayonnaise or aioli for a sandwich, if you have leftover steak!
- Skirt Steak Skirt steak is a very long piece of meat, so to marinate it, I have you slice it into 3-4 pieces – just the right size to fit into a zip top bag with the marinade. In general, I like to have about ¼-½ pound of steak for each person.
- Lemon juice and zest I have yet to find a bottled lemon juice that is even half as good as fresh lemon juice. And do you know what comes free with the purchase of a lemon? Zest! Buy a lemon.
- Olive oil I normally use extra virgin olive oil for the marinade, the chimichurri, and the tomatoes, but you should use the best olive oil that you can afford. The flavor of the olive oil is most prevalent in the tomato salad and chimichurri, so if you can only afford a bit of the good stuff, use it there.
- White balsamic vinegar This is a lighter, gentler version of regular dark balsamic vinegar. It has a more floral, milder flavor than its darker cousin, and won’t discolor the tomatoes and herbs we use in the recipe.
- Grape tomatoes Smaller and meatier than cherry tomatoes, they have a delightfully sweet flavor. I like the variety pack I find in the Mega Market, with four or five colors and sizes. Technically, those aren’t grape tomatoes, but you get it. Use small tomatoes that you slice in half.
- Calabrian chilis Found in a jar in the “Ethnic” or “International” aisle of your local Mega Market or in the condiment aisle, most likely near the hot sauces, this stuff is SPICY 🔥, but man, is it delicious! Use caution when adding this to your chimichurri. If you are sensitive to spicy foods, start with a little and add more if you want. I’m not in your kitchen, nor do I use your mouth for eating. Only you can judge your 🔥 tolerance. You can also use crushed red pepper flakes. Or don’t use it at all. I’m also not the Pepper Police 👮♀️
How to prep for cooking
Prepping is the most important part of cooking. In professional kitchens it’s called mise en place, or “putting in place” all of the ingredients you’ll need to prepare a meal ahead of time so you won’t find yourself scrambling last minute. Here’s how I do it:
- Marinating the steak The steak will probably be in 2 pieces when you buy it. If not, cut into pieces about 4-6 inches long and place in a gallon sized zip top bag. Put all of the marinade ingredients in the bag with the steaks and smoosh it around a bit with your hands, from the outside of course. Close the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and give the steak and marinade another good smooshing, making sure all sides of the meat are covered. Allow the steak to marinate at least one hour, up to all day. If you’ll be cooking the steak within the hour, just leave it out on the counter to marinate.
- Making the tomato salad To prepare the salad, place your halved tomatoes in a large bowl. Set basil aside for when you serve the salad later. Mix all your dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid, like a mason jar, or a small bowl. Shake, or whisk, the dressing ingredients together and pour over the tomatoes and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. When serving, cut the basil, add to the tomato salad, and toss again. The reason I don’t add the basil while marinating is that it tends to discolor and lose its freshness. Adding it at the end gives the salad that pop of color and the basil flavor is so bright and delicious!
- Mixing the chimichurri Place the garlic and salt in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until the garlic is chopped. Rough chop your herbs a bit and add them to the food processor. Pulse 2 or 3 times, just to get them broken down a bit. Then add your Calabrian chili paste, as much or as little as you want, and the balsamic vinegar. Pulse once or twice to mix. With the food processor running, pour in your olive oil until fully incorporated. Allow the chimichurri to sit at room temperature until ready to eat. The longer it sits, the more the flavors will become best friends and have an amazing long term relationship 💕 Chimichurri will keep in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks in a tightly sealed container, just let it come to room temperature before using.
Cooking perfect skirt steak
- Remove the steaks from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking. Cold meat will cook faster on the outside than on the inside, giving you an uneven cook and making the steak more tough. Having a nicely charred steak with a raw, chewy inside is just awful.
- It’s time to grill or pan sear the steaks. If grilling, use a paper towel to spread a light film of vegetable oil on the grates before heating. Allow grill to heat on high for at least 10 minutes. If you’re using a cast iron skillet or grill pan inside, heat it on high and add a little vegetable oil right before you put your steaks on.
- Place the steaks on a paper towel lined baking sheet and pat them dry all over. A wet steak will never get the kind of char that you want and the moisture will likely steam the steak. Season well with salt and pepper and let’s go to the grill! Grill the steaks for 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of your steaks. Skirt steaks have a skinny end and a fat end, so I place the skinny ends to the outside of the grill, where the heat is less intense.
- If using a cast iron skillet or grill pan, cook on high for 3-5 minutes per side. Don’t overcrowd the pan or you will steam your steaks instead of getting a good sear. You can always cook in a few batches if needed. Allow the steaks to rest for about 10 minutes, so all those delicious steak juices can settle in.
Time to eat!
After the steaks have rested, you need to cut them against the grain. What does cutting “against the grain” mean, you ask? Well, if you look closely at any piece of meat, you will see that the muscle fibers go in a certain direction (called “the grain”) How you cut the meat, in relation to the direction of the grain, will affect how tender the meat is. So, we cut against the grain to make the strands of muscle fiber smaller, and each bite more tender. If you were to cut along the grain, you would have a much, much harder time chewing the meat. Thinly sliced, against the grain = tender skirt steak.
Serve your magnificently cooked and expertly sliced steak alongside a hefty spoonful of your delicious marinated tomatoes, a nice drizzle of the ✨ MAGICAL ✨ chimichurri sauce that you made, and maybe a few pieces of toasted bread to soak up all the juices.
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Skirt Steak with Italian Chimichurri and Tomato Salad
- 1-2 lbs Skirt steak
- Juice and zest from one large lemon
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic finely minced
- 2 tbsp basil finely chopped
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic finely minced or grated
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 cup grape tomatoes cut in half
- 1/4 cup basil julienned or thinly sliced (also called a chiffonade)
Italian Chimichurri (The absolute STAR 🌟 of this meal)
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup basil
- 1 cup parsley flat leaf
- 2 tbsp fresh oregano
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp Calabrian chili paste or red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
Marinating the steak
- Whisk marinade ingredients together. Place steaks in large ziplock bag and pour marinade on top. Close bag securely and massage bag to distribut marinade. Marinate for at least one hour, up to overnight.
Making the tomato salad
- Slice tomatoes in half and place in large bowl. Whisk or shake dressing ingredients together and pour over tomatoes. Mix gently and refrigerate until time to eat. Toss wieth fresh basil before serving.
- Place the garlic and salt in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until the garlic is chopped.Rough chop your herbs a bit and add them to the food processor. Pulse 2 or 3 times, just to get them broken down a bit. Then add your Calabrian chili paste, as much or as little as you want, and the balsamic vinegar. Pulse once or twice to mix.With the food processor running, pour in your olive oil until fully incorporated. Allow the chimichurri to sit at room temperature until ready to eat. The longer it sits, the more the flavors will become best friends and have an amazing long term relationship 💕 Chimichurri will keep in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks in a tightly sealed container. Yay!
Putting it all together
- Remove steaks from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. If grilling outside, use a paper towel to rub the grates with some vegetable oil, to prevent sticking. Turn grill on high and allow to preheat at least 10 minutes. Turn grill down to medium-high and grill steaks for 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of your steaks. Allow the steaks to rest for about 10 minutes, so all those delicious steak juices can settle in.If using a cast iron pan or indoor grill pan, allow pan to heat on high for at least 5 minutes. Just before placing your steaks in the pan, pour about one tablespoon of vegetable oil in the pan and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Place two steaks in the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes per side. Allow finished steaks to rest while you cook the rest of them.
- After the steaks have rested, slice against the grain, drizzle with chimichurri sauce, and serve with the tomato salad. Enjoy!