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Skirt steak is thin and chewy, unless cut across the grain, but it is full of amazing flavor. The benefit of using sous vide on skirt steak is to cook it for long enough to tenderize it, this way you can enjoy the great flavor of a skirt steak without any of the chewiness. I often sous vide skirt steak for 12 to 24 hours, turning it into a tender, super flavorful steak.
Skirt steak is a very thin, relatively chewy piece of meat that is full of amazing flavor. It comes from the short plate primal located at the belly of the cow, which is where flank steak and hanger steak also come from.
Skirt steak is often used in fajitas or tacos and is a popular cut in many South American steakhouses. It is also usually sliced thinly against the grain to try and cut down on the toughness, though sous vide skirt steak is often tender enough to not worry about that.
The thinness of skirt steak leads to a few complications when using sous vide to cook it. If you are just going to heat skirt steak through, I generally recommend just cooking it in the traditional method because they are so thin.
Usually skirt steak is seared or grilled for a few minutes per side, which is enough time to fully cook it, making the sous vide process unnecessary, and perhaps detrimental due to the difficulty of searing it.
The benefit of using sous vide for skirt steak is to cook it for long enough to tenderize it. This way you can enjoy the great flavor of a skirt steak without any of the chewiness. I often sous vide skirt steak for 12 to 24 hours, turning it into a tender, super flavorful steak.
Once sous vided, I chill the skirt steak using step chilling, then I quickly sear it until the crust forms and it just heats through. It is now ready to be sliced and served.
As I mentioned, you can get away with just heating skirt steak through, though the real power comes from tenderizing it over time. To determine how long to cook skirt steak, you just need to figure out how tender you want it.
Heating it through results in a traditional skirt steak, chewy and flavorful, and you'd better cut it across the grain.
After 12 hours, the sous vide skirt steak has become much more tender. Cutting across the grain is still helpful, though you don't need to be nearly as careful. This is great when you still want some bite, but not a lot of chew. I love this in tacos or with chimichurri sauce on it.
After 24 hours, the skirt steak has become really tender, similar to a normal steak. It's lost most of its bite, while retaining all of the flavor. You can even sous vide skirt steak for longer, but it starts to become too tender for my taste.
Carne asada is traditionally a grilled and sliced skirt steak, though other types of steak can be used. It is usually marinated before grilling and cooked long enough to develop a nice char. I love to make sous vide carne asada because you can fully tenderize the meat before grilling it, making it even more delicious.
There are many variations on carne asada, but my favorite is using sous vide skirt steak and a citrus herb marinade, sous vided until tender and then finished on a hot grill.
The marinade is very important for transmitting the flavors in carne asada. I like to use a combination of lime juice, garlic, orange juice, cilantro (leave out if you don't like it), jalapeno, and olive oil. Before I add the steak, I'll usually set some aside to use as a sauce when I'm serving it.
Then I'll add the skirt steak and marinate it overnight. I usually will remove it from the marinade, seal it in a sous vide bag, and cook it for 12 to 24 hours, though some people prefer to sous vide it in the marinade.
At that point I'll fully chill it using the step chilling process. When I am ready to eat, I'll take the steaks from the bags and dry them off thoroughly. Then I'll fire up a grill to high heat, brush a little canola oil onto the steak, and toss it on the grill. After 30 seconds I'll flip it, and repeat until a crust has formed and it has just heated through, being careful not to overcook it.
Then it's ready to slice and serve with some of the reserved citrus marinade sprinkled over the top!
You can serve this by itself, in tacos or fajitas, or with a side of rice, beans, and grilled vegetables...or my favorite, just eating it straight off the serving platter with my fingers!
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