Best Carne Asada

5 stars based on 17 votes

tender carne asada

Have you ever grilled a skirt steak at home for carne asada or beef fajitas and wondered why it’s never as tender as the steak served at your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant? I have. In fact, I’ve cooked countless skirt steaks over the years in a quest to replicate my favorite taqueria steak recipes. Despite trying every tenderizing trick in the book, my skirt steaks have always been so tough that they’re almost inedible. Since every reputable food publication has a recipe for carne asada that calls for skirt steak, I was starting to wonder if I was either being too picky (always a possibility!) or if I was just skirt steak-challenged.

But I recently stumbled upon the answer in an article entitled, So What Exactly Are You Eating When You Order Fajitas In A Tex-Mex Restaurant? by Robb Walsh, a food writer, restaurateur and BBQ expert. According to Walsh, most Tex-Mex restaurants buy their skirt steaks already marinated from commercial meat processors. These processors marinate tough skirt steak with commercial or natural enzymes that tenderize the meat – and they do their marinating in a commercial vacuum tumbler, which breaks up and stretches out the protein fibers. Furthermore, salt and phosphate are added to increase moisture retention, making the meat juicier.

tender carne asada

This process is impossible to replicate at home, so I happily decided to give up on skirt steak and find a way to make carne asada using a different cut. My solution: a flat-iron steak. An affordable, widely-available cut that’s almost as tender as filet mignon, the flat-iron steak is ideal for high heat, quick-cooking methods like grilling. And pricking it all over with a fork helps it soak up the flavor of the umami-packed marinade. Finally, a carne asada that’s tender, easy to make, and packed with flavor!

tender carne asada

The main ingredient in the marinade for this carne asada is soy sauce, which might seem strange for a Tex-Mex recipe. But soy sauce lends that umami — or meaty, full-bodied and savory — flavor that somehow just makes the meat taste so much better. I promise, it doesn’t give the dish an Asian flavor.

tender carne asada

In a dish large enough to hold the steak, whisk together the soy sauce, lime juice, vegetable oil, sugar, cumin, chili powder, and garlic.

tender carne asada

Using a fork, poke holes about an inch apart all over the steak (one side only). Place the steak in the marinade and turn to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 8 hours, turning the steak at least once.

tender carne asada

Lightly oil the grill grates preheat the grill to high. Grill the steak, covered, for about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare.

tender carne asada

Let the meat rest on a cutting board, tented with aluminum foil, for about 5 minutes. Slice thinly against the grain and serve.

tender carne asada

My Recipe Videos

Best Carne Asada

Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 25 Minutes, plus at least 4 hours to marinate

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (use gluten-free if necessary)
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice, from 2 limes
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 pounds flat iron steak (see note)

Instructions

  1. In a dish large enough to hold the steak, whisk together the soy sauce, lime juice, vegetable oil, sugar, cumin, chili powder, and garlic.
  2. Using a fork, poke holes about an inch apart all over the steak on one side only. Place the steak in the marinade and turn to coat evenly (it doesn't matter which side is up). Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 8 hours, turning the steak at least once.
  3. Lightly oil the grill grates preheat the grill to high. Grill the steak, covered, for about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let the meat rest on a cutting board, tented with aluminum foil, for about 5 minutes. Slice thinly against the grain and serve.
  4. Note: You may need to buy 2 separate flat iron steaks to get 2 pounds. Even if you're able to find one large steak, it's best to cut it in half into two smaller steaks -- they will cook faster and you'll have more surface area to char on the grill (we fight over the charred end pieces!).
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Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (Nutritional data assumes only 1/3 of marinade is absorbed by steak -- 4 servings)
  • Calories: 387
  • Fat: 22 g
  • Saturated fat: 8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 1 g
  • Sugar: 1 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 46 g
  • Sodium: 524 mg
  • Cholesterol: 154 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    In Canada it is a top blade steak. Also Jen always love your recipes thank you

    - Gillian on August 18, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    OMG this was amazing I used flat iron steaks cut into two thinner pieces & served on flat breads with salad. Thank you so much

    - Louise on August 15, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Everything I’ve tried on this site is so delicious and this was no exception! My picky 3 year old ate it right up. Thanks Jen for another fantastic simple recipe!

    - Barb on July 22, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I’ve made this recipe twice using the flat iron steak (We love it.) How do you think it would work with a thin beef strip steak? Thanks so much!

    - Carol on July 21, 2018 Reply
    • Should work well, Carol. I’d love to know how it turns out. 🙂

      - Jenn on July 22, 2018 Reply
      • 5 stars

        I think I grilled it a little too long, but it was still good.

        - Carol on July 23, 2018 Reply
  • Can you use a flank steak?

    - Laura on July 17, 2018 Reply
    • Sure (it just won’t be quite as tender). Enjoy!

      - Jenn on July 18, 2018 Reply
  • Does it matter if I use canola oil instead of vegetable oil in this recipe? I’m not sure what the difference is. Can’t wait to try this. Love your site!

    - Tricia on July 14, 2018 Reply
    • Hi Tricia, Canola oil is perfectly fine. Hope you enjoy it!

      - Jenn on July 14, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    We enjoyed a double recipe of your Carne Asada last night with kids and grandkids and it got a BIG thumbs up from everyone. So tender and flavorful! I’ve already purchased more flat-iron steak for a repeat in the near future. Thank you for another winning recipe – my grandkids think I’m a great cook.

    - Judy on July 8, 2018 Reply
    • ☺️

      - Jenn on July 9, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Jenn, as I mentioned at the Ebell book signing in LA, I made your carne asada for a 5-family BBQ last weekend. I was so worried about running out of food (a family curse!) that I made 4X the recipe. It was a HUGE hit! Everyone was so happy to get a good take-home portion too. The marinade was really easy to put together and the flat iron steak was the perfect choice to feed a crowd without sacrificing tender, juicy meat or breaking the bank! This will now be one of my go-to BBQ staples – thank you! (and great meeting you too!)

    - Mary Nelson on July 3, 2018 Reply
    • Mary – so great to hear from you! I loved meeting you in LA…hope our paths cross again soon! 💕

      - Jenn on July 4, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This looks amazing! I can’t wait to try, however I do not own a grill, I will be cooking it in a cast iron on a gas stove, can you give me directions/timing with this method? Thanks!

    - Claire on June 29, 2018 Reply
    • Hi Claire, I think it’d work beautifully in a cast iron pan — just sear over high heat on the first the side til nice and charred (be sure to turn your fan on!), then flip and reduce heat to medium and cook until desired doneness. Cook time should be about the same. Please LMK how it turns out!

      - Jenn on July 1, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Jen, Jen, Jen! Another great dinner thanks to you! For the two of us I only used 1 pound of flat iron steak. Make the full recipe of marinade and put about 1/4 cup in a zip lock bag with sliced onion, yellow, red and green pepper. Cooked them on the grill in a cast iron pan. Warmed up some black beans with added seasoning, mashed slightly completed our burrito. Husband said to add this to our dinner line up!

    - Nancy on June 28, 2018 Reply
    • Love that idea, Nancy – will try next time. Glad you enjoyed it!

      - Jenn on June 28, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This has become one of my family’s regular weeknight dinners this summer because it’s so easy and quick. We love the marinade that has a bit of kick to it. I’d never cooked flat-iron steaks so this recipe opened me up to a new entree choice. Love it!

    - Weezie Thompson on June 28, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Yay for another winner at our dinner table! Your “Best Carne Asada” was a big hit. Such a great, quick recipe for summer.

    - Weezie Thompson on June 20, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Okay Jenn, I didn’t find a flat iron steak at the store but, I did see a flap steak? What is that? I can’t wait to try this recipe.

    - Kerrie on June 20, 2018 Reply
    • Hi Kerrie, this article will give you a thorough description of flap steak. And although I’ve never cooked a flap steak, based on the description, I think it should work. Please LMK how it turns out!

      - Jenn on June 22, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this yeaesterday for Father’s Day! My meat market was out of Hanger Steak so I bought Skirt Steak. Marinated for 8 hours. Hands down, THE BEST CARNE ASADA EVER! Super moist and tender. EVERYONE loved and sad to say, no leftovers! Served with Vivian Howard’s Cilantro Lime Corn…..another fabulous recipe!!!!

    - Lynne Marsh on June 18, 2018 Reply
  • If you like a little more heat, could you add cayenne pepper? If so, how much?

    - Rachel Hartman on June 18, 2018 Reply
    • Sure, Rachel – I’d add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon.

      - Jenn on June 18, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    We made this yesterday and it was so tasty! I marinated the steak in a baggy for easy clean-up, and we also grilled green peppers and onions and had a salad as sides. My husband said it would make great fajitas. Thank you for another delicious recipe!

    - Traci on June 18, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    We made this Father’s Day and it was a huge hit. So much flavor and tender too – a keeper!

    - Liz on June 17, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I followed the recipe exactly but cooked it 3.5 minutes a side. Yum. So delicious! I will definitely make again. I served it with Mexican Street Corn and a spinach salad. Thanks for the great recipe!

    - Sally on June 17, 2018 Reply
  • I don’t have an outdoor/indoor grill. Will a grill pan work? Thanks.

    - Paula G on June 16, 2018 Reply
    • Sure, Paula – hope you enjoy it!

      - Jenn on June 16, 2018 Reply
  • truth is there are two different skirt steaks , inside skirt and outside skirt, outside is far more tender than inside, but, supermarkets and butchers dont sell it because there is only one per animal and commercial restaurants buy them up.

    - Howard Albright on June 14, 2018 Reply
    • 5 stars

      Thank you for this information; when I was reading Jen’s post I was really confused, because I buy my skirt steaks at Wegman’s and they are wonderful, not tough at all.

      - Laura Monrad on July 3, 2018 Reply
  • Is a flat iron steak the same as a flank steak?

    - Sharon on June 14, 2018 Reply
    • Hi Sharon, They are not the same but are often sold side by side in the market.

      - Jenn on June 14, 2018 Reply
  • I’m in Canada and have not ( although trying numerous times ) found a meat dept. employee or small independent meat shop owner who knows what a skirt steak or flat iron steak is.
    The answer I’m usually given is, they ( the recipe contributors ) probably meant flank steak, which even I not being in the meat business at all, know is not. Frustrating to say the least.

    - Joycelyn on June 14, 2018 Reply
    • Jocelyn, I’m in the same boat. I’m just going to use a flank steak. I’m sure it will be great!

      - Rochelle on July 12, 2018 Reply
  • What is a flat iron steak?? I am English I know most cuts but this has me beat. I always use skirt for a casserole.
    Kind wishes and love your site
    Jeanette

    - Jeanette on June 14, 2018 Reply
    • Hi Jeanette, I believe it is called butler’s steak in the UK. Hope that helps!

      - Jenn on June 14, 2018 Reply
  • Question: by “cutting it crosswise” are we talking horizontally to make 2 thin cutlets, or vertically to make 2 chunks of steak? Adding flat-iron steak to my shopping list! Thanks, love your recipes and your Caesar Salad Dressing is a staple in our refrigerator.

    - Linda F on June 13, 2018 Reply
    • Hi Linda, I mean vertically to make two chunks of steak. Sorry for the confusion and so glad you’re enjoying the recipes!

      - Jenn on June 13, 2018 Reply
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