Skirt steak has become an increasingly popular cut of beef in recent years. Its rich, beefy flavor and relatively low price point make it appealing to many home cooks and restaurants. But is skirt steak actually a healthy option? Here’s a comprehensive look at the nutritional profile of skirt steak and whether it deserves a place in a balanced diet.
The Basics of Skirt Steak
Skirt steak comes from the diaphragm muscles of the cow. It’s a long, thin cut that is actually part of the flank section of the animal. Skirt steaks are sometimes also called fajita meat or Philadelphia steak. They are very flavorful with lots of marbling, but can be tough if not cooked properly.
There are two main types of skirt steak – inside and outside skirt. Inside skirt tends to be more tender since the muscle does less work. Outside skirt is larger but slightly tougher due to more extensive muscle use. Both varieties of skirt steak benefit from brief marinades and quick, high-heat cooking methods like grilling or broiling.
Nutritional Profile of Skirt Steak
Here is how 3 ounces (85 grams) of cooked skirt steak stacks up nutritionally:
- Calories: 201
- Fat: 12g
- Saturated Fat: 4.5g
- Cholesterol: 62mg
- Sodium: 51mg
- Carbohydrates: 0g
- Fiber: 0g
- Sugars: 0g
- Protein: 21g
As you can see, skirt steak is a good source of protein but also relatively high in fat, especially saturated fat. It has no carbohydrates.
The Good – High in Protein, Iron, and B Vitamins
Here are some of the positives when it comes to the nutritional attributes of skirt steak:
- High in protein – A 3 ounce serving provides 21 grams of protein. Protein helps build muscle mass and provides lasting energy.
- Good source of iron – Skirt steak contains 2.7 mg of iron per serving. Iron carries oxygen to muscles and supports immune health.
- Rich in B vitamins – It supplies a decent amount of B12, riboflavin, and niacin – vitamins vital for energy production.
The high protein and iron levels make skirt steak a smart choice for active individuals concerned about muscle recovery and energy levels. The B vitamins help extract energy from food.
The Bad – High in Saturated Fat
Skirt steak’s primary nutritional downside is its high saturated fat content. The 4.5 grams in a 3 ounce serving represents 22% of the daily value. Saturated fat raises LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, increasing risk of heart disease.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to no more than 13 grams per day. Eating a 3 ounce serving of skirt steak would provide over a third of that in just one meal!
Ways to Make Skirt Steak Healthier
Here are some tips for enjoying skirt steak while limiting negative health impacts:
- Go for the leanest cuts like inside skirt steak.
- Trim off any excess external fat before cooking.
- Use healthier cooking methods like grilling instead of pan frying.
- Limit portion size to 3-4 ounces.
- Incorporate into dishes with vegetables, whole grains, etc.
- Balance it out by eating less saturated fat in other meals.
Healthier Skirt Steak Recipes
Here are some recipe ideas to health-ify skirt steak meals:
Grilled Skirt Steak Salad
Serve sliced grilled skirt steak over a bed of leafy greens, tomatoes, avocado, and onions. Drizzle with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette.
Fajita Stuffed Bell Peppers
Fill roasted bell peppers with sautéed skirt steak, onions, peppers, beans, and low-fat cheese for a fiber and veggie boost.
Skirt Steak Stir Fry
Quickly stir fry marinated skirt steak strips with broccoli, carrots, ginger, and reduced sodium soy sauce.
Skirt Steak Kebabs
Alternate cubes of marinated skirt steak with mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and onions on skewers for an easy grilled meal.
Skirt steak offers some nutritional positives like high protein, iron, and B vitamins. However, its high saturated fat content is concerning, especially for a red meat. Portion control, leaner cuts, and healthier cooking techniques can help mitigate the downsides.
Overall, skirt steak is fine in moderation as part of a varied diet. Just be mindful of saturated fat consumption and balance it out with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other lean proteins.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is skirt steak healthier than other beef cuts?
Not necessarily. Many common cuts of beef like sirloin, tenderloin, and 90% lean ground beef have less saturated fat than skirt steak. But skirt steak does have more iron and B vitamins than some other cuts of beef.
Is skirt steak considered a lean cut of beef?
No, it is not. Skirt steak contains a significant amount of fat marbled throughout, including saturated fat. Much leaner cuts include eye of round, sirloin tip, and top round.
Is it OK to eat skirt steak every day?
Eating skirt steak daily is not recommended. The high saturated fat content could contribute to heart disease risk if consumed regularly. It’s best to eat skirt steak only occasionally as part of a varied diet.
Is skirt steak healthier grilled or pan fried?
Grilled skirt steak is healthier than pan fried. Grilling allows excess fat to drip away while pan frying cooks the steak in its own rendered fat. Choose grilled or broiled to avoid extra calories and saturated fat.
What are the healthiest ways to cook skirt steak?
The healthiest cooking methods for skirt steak are grilling, broiling, and pan searing. Avoid deep frying or cooking in a lot of oil. Marinating adds flavor without extra fat. Make sure to trim any excess fat before cooking.
Nutritional Information Tables
|Amount in 3 oz Skirt Steak
|% Daily Value
|Calories in 3 oz Skirt Steak
Tips for Cooking Healthy Skirt Steak
Follow these tips for keeping skirt steak as healthy as possible when cooking:
- Select “Choice” graded steak rather than “Prime” to reduce marbling.
- Trim off any excess outer fat before cooking.
- Rub spice blends into the meat instead of oil-based marinades.
- Grill or broil on a rack to allow fat to drip off.
- Flip frequently to avoid charring or burning.
- Cook to medium rare doneness to prevent drying out.
- Let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing across the grain.
- Add salsa, chimichurri, or hot sauce for extra flavor.
Healthy Skirt Steak Recipe
Balsamic and Herb Marinated Skirt Steak
This flavorful marinade adds tons of taste without extra calories, fat, or sodium. Broiling is one of the healthiest cooking methods.
- 1 1/2 lbs skirt steak
- 1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1⁄4 tsp black pepper
- Mix balsamic vinegar, garlic, rosemary, thyme, Dijon, and pepper in a baking dish. Add skirt steak and turn to coat.
- Cover and marinate for at least 20 minutes up to 2 hours.
- Preheat broiler on high heat. Place marinated steak on a broiler pan.
- Broil for 5-7 minutes per side until browned and cooked to desired doneness.
- Let rest for 5 minutes then slice across the grain to serve.
The Bottom Line
Skirt steak offers a tasty, affordable cut of beef containing protein, iron, and B vitamins. However, its high saturated fat content can make it an unhealthy choice if consumed regularly or in large portions.
Using leaner cuts, trimming excess fat, limiting portion size, and cooking in healthy ways can help maximize the benefits of skirt steak while reducing the downsides. Enjoy it moderately as part of an overall balanced diet.