What Kind of Meat is Carne Asada
The literal translation of carne asada is “grilled beef”, and in its simplest form, it really is just that: steak, doused in salt and pepper, cooked over a high heat. While you may occasionally see recipes that call for sirloin or tenderloin, traditionally, carne asada is made from skirt or flank steak, two very similar cuts in both taste and texture. While the meats are often used interchangeably, there are a couple of differences between them that are worth bearing in mind when it comes to cooking up your own carne asada. Flank steak tends to be the leaner of the two, with a rich, flavorsome meatiness. Skirt steak has the same intense, almost buttery taste but can sometimes be a little tough. To avoid any unpleasant chewiness, it’s best cooked rare or medium rare at most. Either way, both cuts benefit from being cut in thin slices (but not too thin- carne asada should be tender and thin enough that you can eat it in a taco, but substantial enough that you can enjoy it as a standalone steak) and always cut against the grain, not with it (going with the grain will leave the meat’s long muscle fibers intact, making it tough and rubbery).
How to Season Carne Asada
In Mexico, it’s quite common to limit seasoning to salt (especially when the meat is of the highest quality). When it comes to making your own version, carne asada can be seasoned almost any old way you choose. Some of the most popular seasoning options include chopped dried rosemary, coarse sea salt, fresh or powdered garlic, or even pre-prepared store-bought steak seasonings (certainly the easiest of the options and perhaps the best if you’re looking to whip up something delicious in the least amount of time possible). While seasoning obviously has its place, when it comes to cooking up a real storm, it’s all about the marinade, which brings us nicely around to our next point….
How to Marinate Carne Asada
A good soak in some flavorsome marinade can elevate your carne asada to truly exceptional heights. While the range of ingredients that go into the marinade is usually guided by both region and personal preferences, there are some key elements to consider when deciding what to add to the brew. A good marinade will consist of 6 basic types of ingredients, each of which plays an essential role in the three objectives of a marinate: to tenderize the meat, lock-in flavor, and improve surface browning. As long as you include at least one of the options from each of the below items, you’ll be on track to making the best casa asada you’ll ever taste.
- Sugar (to help with browning and improve the overall balance of flavor). Good options include brown or white sugar, honey, and maple syrup.
- Protease (to help tenderize the meat). Good options include soy sauce, and papaya and pineapple juice.
- Salt (to improve flavor and lock-in juices). Good options include soy sauce, fish sauce, and solid salt.
- Oil (to incorporate oil-soluble flavors into the meat and enhance surface browning). Options here are pretty limitless, but canola oil and mild olive oil both make good choices if you’re looking for a neutral flavored carrier.
- Acid (to tenderize tough connective tissues). Good options include white wine, citrus juice, and vinegar.
- Flavor (this one needs no introduction!). Good options include dried spices, garlic (either fresh or dried), ginger, onions, and herbs (both fresh and dried).
How To Marinate Carne Asada Mexican Style
Once you know the basic elements of a good marinade, you’re essentially unlimited in the types and varieties you can make. If, on the other hand, you want to stick to the tried and tested Mexican way of marinating case asada, just follow these simple steps:
Authentic Mexican Carne Asada Marinade
Ingredients (enough to marinade 6 portions of steak)
- 2 limes juiced
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 1/2 cup citrus juice
- 1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 dried chili, minced
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- Step 1: Add all ingredients to a gallon sized resealable bag and squeeze together to incorporate.
- Step 2: Add the steak to the marinade and seal the bag. Give the bag a good shake to ensure an even distribution and refrigerate overnight (or for a minimum of 2 hours if time is against you).
- Step 3: When you’re ready to start cooking, remove the bag from the refrigerator and drain the steak from the marinade.
Can You Cook Carne Asada On A Griddle?
Traditional carne asada is cooked over high flames, but if you don’t have access to an outside barbeque, a great (some would say even superior) alternative is your trusted stovetop griddle. The benefits? Let’s take a look…
- Superior Flavor: a griddle is a great way of locking-in all the flavorsome, buttery juices of meat, resulting in a melt-in-the-mouth texture with none of the dryness that can come from using other cooking methods.
- Cooked in a Flash: Marinating carne asada is a long, slow process, so the last thing you want is to delay the enjoyment even longer by using some tortuously slow cooking method. A griddle ensures fast, even cooking of the meat, meaning you get to tuck in that much sooner.
- Even Cooking: Depending on the cooking method you use, you may sometimes find the same cut of beef ends up blue-rare in parts and overdone in others. The griddle’s even distribution of heat will make sure all parts of the steak cook evenly, guaranteeing the perfect level of “doneness’ every time.
- Seared Perfection: One of the reasons carne asada is traditionally cooked over flames is that it’s a great way of delivering that perfect sear to the steak’s exterior. The other ideal cooking device for getting that sizzling sear (not to mention that delectable juicy interior)? You guessed it…
How to Cook Carne Asada On A Griddle
If this is your first-time cooking carne asada on a griddle, don’t be nervous. There’s nothing complicated or difficult about the process, and you’ll probably find it a lot easier and simpler than you imagined. If you’re still unsure, just take a griddle, a stovetop, a spatula, and these super- easy instructions.
- 1. Marinade the steak in the liquor of your choice.
- 2. Heat the griddle (no need to oil it if your marinade contains oil – there’ll still be enough coating on the steak to prevent sticking). Make sure the griddle is piping hot before you add the steak- this will make sure you get a charred, smoky flavor on the outside while keeping the center pink, moist and juicy.
- 3. Cook the steak for 5 to 7 minutes for rare, 7 to 10 minutes for medium rare, and 10 to 12 minutes for medium. When the meat juices start to rise to the surface, sprinkle with salt, let it liquify on the surface, flip over, and repeat on the other side.
- 4. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and leave to rest for 8-10 minutes before slicing against the grain and serving. Due to the carryover temperature, the steak will continue to cook for a few minutes after being removed from the griddle.
Best Temperature To Cook Carne Asada
The cardinal sin when it comes to cooking carne asada in a griddle is using too low a temperature. The meat needs exposure to a high heat to get that gorgeous sear to its exterior, and that juicy, melt-in-the-mouth moistness to its interior. Preheat the griddle on a high heat and let it get smoking hot before adding the steak (test out the heat by flicking a drop of water onto the griddle’s surface – if it sizzles and evaporates immediately, you’re good to go). Turn down the heat slightly when you add the meat, but don’t go any lower than a medium-high.
What Temperature Should Carne Asada Be?
A thermometer is a great way of guaranteeing flawless results when it comes to cooking meat. Once you think the steak is almost done, pop a meat thermometer into its thickest part. Once the very center of the steak registers 110°F, remove it from the heat. The carryover cooking will then take it to the requisite 125 to 130°F for a medium rare steak. If you prefer a medium steak, bring it to 125 °F on the heat- the carryover cooking in this instance will take it to around 140°F.
The Best Carne Asada Recipe
For the most delicious carne asada you’ll ever taste, try this delicious recipe.
- 5-6 pounds skirt or flank steak
For the Marinade:
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup lime juice or lemon juice
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons peeled fresh garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 chopped dried chili
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 orange, sliced
- 1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
For the Wrap:
- Tortilla wraps
- Lime wedges
- Chopped cilantro
- Avocado slices
- Crumbled Cotija cheese
- 1. Combine all the ingredients, except the steak, in a large bowl and mix well.
- 2. Add the marinating mixture to a gallon sized resealable bag and drop in the meat. Squish the ingredients around the bag to make sure the meat is well covered. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least 2 hours.
- 3. Preheat the griddle to a high heat. Remove the meat from the marinade and add to the griddle, lowering the heat slightly as you do.
- 4. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes for rare, 7 to 10 minutes for medium-rare, 10 to 12 minutes for medium. Midway through cooking, and just as the meat juices start to rise to the surface, sprinkle the surface of the meat with salt, let it liquefy on the surface, flip over, sprinkle the other side with salt and allow to finish cooking.
- 5. Once cooked, transfer the meat to a chopping board and allow to rest for 8-10 minutes.
- 6. Slice the meat into strips, taking care to cut against the grain.
- 7. Add the meat to a tortilla, and top with chopped cilantro, diced white onions, lime wedges, avocado slices, and crumbled Cotija cheese. Wrap and enjoy!
Popular Serving Suggestions
If you’re looking for some new ways to serve carne asada, why not give some of these popular serving suggestions a try?
- Serve atop a simple green salad for a protein-packed light lunch. Add corn and nacho chips and top with salsa and ranch dressing to upgrade it to a Carne Asada Taco Salad.
- Serve with grilled tortillas, fresh pico de gallo and any, or all, of the following toppings: chopped cilantro, diced white onions, lime wedges, avocado slices, Cotija cheese or Quesco Freco.
- Add the beef to a batch of fresh French fries. Serve topped with guacamole and sour cream.
- Layer with scrambled eggs, onions, and peppers on a tortilla. Sprinkle over a good handful of shredded cheese and wrap into a burrito.
- Make some fully loaded Carne Asada Nachos with jalapenos, guacamole and pico de gallo.
Top Tips For Cooking Carne Asada On A Griddle
Need a recap on some of the best tips for cooking carne asada on a griddle? Then here you go…
- If you’re using an especially tough cut of meat, tenderize it beforehand with a meat tenderizer. If you don’t have a tenderizer to hand, simply use a fork to poke holes across the meat’s surface.
- Marinating is key- leave the meat to soak overnight if possible, but for a minimum of 2 hours if not.
- Most recipes call for the meat to be marinated in a resealable plastic bag. If you don’t have one to hand, a large bowl will suffice, but make sure you cover it before placing it in the refrigerator.
- All cooking times provided are an estimate only: actual cooking times will depend on the thickness of the meat. Use your judgment, and if possible, a meat thermometer, to guarantee perfect results.
- Always preheat the griddle to a high heat before adding the meat- test if it’s ready by flicking a drop of water or oil on its surface. If it sizzles and evaporates on contact, it’s ready.
- For a medium rare steak, remove from the heat once it reaches an internal temperature of 110°F. For a medium steak, remove at 125 °F.
- Resting the steak is paramount, both to finish off the cooking and allow the meat to relax (thereby ensuring the tenderest texture). Once you remove the steak from the griddle, leave it to rest for 8-10 minutes before slicing.
- Always slice against the grain (which presents itself by visible lines along the meat's surface). Cut perpendicular to these lines, never parallel to them. Cutting against the grain will provide lots of braking points in the meat, leading to a much tenderer mouthful.