Carne asada translates to “grilled meat,” and it’s the most important part of an authentic street taco. The meat should be rich, beefy, and juicy. More often than not, the cut of choice is skirt steak—it’s a cut you really need to know. It has full, beefy flavor and is less expensive than many other steak cuts available that are comparable in flavor quality. The trick to maximizing the delicious qualities of skirt steak is in knowing the critical temperatures to cooking it just right.
4 Most Important Carne Asada Temperature Tips:
- Cook quickly over high heat
- Use a Thermapen® to spot-check temperatures
- Pull at 125°F (52°C) for medium-rare doneness
- Skirt steak is best-served medium-rare or medium (pull at 130°F [54°C] for medium doneness)
- Rest for 5 minutes before slicing thinly against the grain
What Cut of Beef is Best for Carne Asada?
When it comes to tacos, the meat shouldn’t be there merely to stuff a tortilla, it should take center stage. Kenji Lopez-Alt of SeriousEats.com tested several cuts of meat (hanger, flank steak, tri-tip, short ribs, and flap meat) to find which was best for carne asada.
Skirt steak, as suspected, was the clear winner here, with the richest, most buttery flavor, a really nice surface area-to-volume ratio that maximizes the flavor of the marinade, plenty of thin edges to crisp up and char, and, when cooked properly, a melt-in-your-mouth texture. —Kenji Lopez-Alt, Serious Eats
We agree with Kenji—skirt steak is perfect for marinading and grilling. The amount of exposed surface area is perfect for a flavorful marinade, and you get the most out of the rich, smoky flavors of a brown, grilled crust.
What is Skirt Steak?
Skirt steak is part of the plate primal cut. It is the boneless portion of a steer’s diaphragm (see the illustration at right). Skirt steak is long, thin, and well-marbled. It’s full of rich, buttery, beefy, flavor (we’re talking high-quality rib eye steak flavor), is ultra-juicy, and has a more tender texture than flank steak. Trim away the excess fat and you’re ready to start cooking. Easy!
Quick-Cooking Over High Heat
Skirt steak is a very thin cut of meat that needs to be cooked quickly. Low-temperature cooking methods will lead to overcooked, dry, tough meat that no one wants to eat. Skirt steak is tender enough for high-temperature cooking methods such as pan-searing and grilling. After cooking, it needs a proper rest and should be sliced thinly against the grain for the best eating quality.
Skirt steak is a long, boneless, flat cut that has meat fibers running in one direction. The key [to] tender ribbons of steak is to cut across the grain. —SteamyKitchen.com
Use a Thermapen
The Thermapen is always our #1 choice for grilling because its Super-Fast® 2-3 second readings keep your hands from burning while spot-checking internal temperatures. Its high accuracy thermocouple sensor is in the very 1/8″ of the probe’s reduced tip making it perfect for checking temperatures in very thin cuts of meat—like skirt steak.
Skirt Steak Carne Asada Recipe
- 1-1/2 to 2 pounds skirt steak
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 limes, juiced (about 2 tbsp)
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
- 1/2 bunch cilantro leaves finely chopped
Marinate the Steak
- Prepare the marinade. Stir together all marinade ingredients well to combine.
- Place skirt steak into a gallon-size zipper-lock bag and pour marinade over the steak. Force the air out of the bag, zip it shut, and roll the bag around on the counter top to evenly disperse the marinade around the meat.
- Place in a container with sides to catch any possible drips, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight.
Grill the Steak
- Preheat your grill to high heat.
- Remove the skirt steak from the marinade and let the excess drip off.
- Place the steak on the grill and cook for about 4 minutes on each side.
- This is a very quick-cooking steak. Don’t walk away from your grill!
- Spot-check the steak’s internal temperature with a Thermapen. Pull the steak from the grill when it reaches 125°F (52°C) for medium-rare doneness.
- Cover with aluminum foil and let the steak rest for 5 minutes.
- Slice the meat very thinly against the grain into ribbons.
- Serve with tortillas, shredded lettuce or cabbage, avocado, queso fresco, pico de gallo, and lime wedges. Enjoy!
If you haven’t grilled skirt steak before, now is the time! Understanding how to cook this cut makes it easy to add some festive flair to your dinner any night of the week. Use your Thermapen to cook it just right and it will always be tender and juicy.