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Carne Asada

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Grill up carne asada that rivals the flavor and tenderness of your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant—perfect for fajitas, tacos, burritos, nachos, and more.

Carne Asada

Photo by Johnny Miller, Clarkson Potter 2021)

Carne asada, which translates from Spanish as “grilled meat,” is a staple in Latin American cuisine and commonly refers to beef that has been marinated and grilled. It is typically served in slices and accompanied by tortillas, rice, beans, salsa, guacamole, pickled onions, and more for a satisfying, hands-on meal. While carne asada is traditionally made with skirt steak, I opt for flat iron steak. This cut is not only flavorful, but it’s also super tender, making it an excellent choice for grilling—and it’s so much more forgiving than skirt steak. (Wondering why your home-cooked skirt steak is never as tender as the restaurant’s? See the FAQs below.)

In another departure from tradition, I use soy sauce in my marinade—an unusual choice, I know, but it works wonders to bring out the meat’s umami flavor. I also incorporate a bit of sugar into the marinade, which helps the meat caramelize beautifully on the grill, creating those irresistible charred edges that my family loves.

“Jenn, you ruined my date nights…Mexican used to be our date night out. Now my husband prefers this carne asada! Exceptional as always!”

Cassandra

What You’ll Need to Make Carne Asada

ingredients to make carne asada.
  • Soy Sauce: Adds saltiness and umami, serving as the base for the marinade and helping to tenderize the steak. Umami is one of the five basic tastes, alongside sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Think of it as a savory or meaty taste that deepens flavor.
  • Lime Juice: Contributes acidity, which helps tenderize the meat and adds a bright, citrusy flavor that complements the savory elements.
  • Vegetable Oil: Helps keep the meat moist during cooking and carries the flavors of the spices and aromatics throughout the marinade.
  • Sugar: Balances the acidity and saltiness of the marinade. Additionally, sugar aids in the caramelization process when the meat is grilled, contributing to a beautifully browned exterior.
  • Cumin: Adds a warm, earthy flavor characteristic of traditional carne asada seasoning.
  • Ancho Chile Powder: Provides a mild heat and smoky depth.
  • Garlic: Infuses the marinade with a sharp, aromatic flavor that is essential to the carne asada’s rich taste.
  • Flat Iron Steak: A tender, flavorful cut of beef that is ideal for absorbing the marinade’s flavors and grilling to perfection. You’ll likely need to buy two flat iron steaks, but even if you’re able to find a large one, it’s best to cut it in half; the steaks will cook faster and you’ll have more surface area to char on the grill.
  • Jump to the printable recipe for precise measurements

Step-by-Step Instructions

poking Carne Asada with fork

To begin, using a fork, poke holes about an inch apart all over the steak (one side only). This not only breaks up the fibers of the steak, it also helps the steak soak up the flavor of the umami-packed marinade.

carne asada marinade ingredients in large dish

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

whisking marinade ingredients

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.

steaks marinading in dish

Lightly oil the grill grates and preheat the grill to high. Make sure to wait until the grill is fully preheated, as the high heat what will give you a beautifully charred, smoky-flavored exterior. Grill the steak, covered, for 5 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare.

carne asada on the grill

Let the meat rest on a cutting board, tented with aluminum foil, for about 5 minutes, and then slice thinly against the grain. If you’re not sure where the grain is, just look closely at the meat; you’ll see lines running in one direction across it. Those are muscle fibers. Cut perpendicular to the lines to break up the muscle fibers and make the much more tender.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best cut of beef for carne asada?

In restaurants, skirt steak is the preferred cut for carne asada. But at home, you might notice that skirt steak is never as tender as it is in restaurants. That’s because restaurants buy skirt steaks pre-marinated and tenderized using a special process from commercial meat processors. According to BBQ expert Robb Walsh, these processors marinate tough skirt steak with 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. This process is impossible to replicate at home—that’s why I recommend the flat iron steak as a much better option. It’s super tender, flavorful, and ideal for grilling.

Can I cook carne asada indoors?

Yes, if grilling outdoors is not an option, carne asada can be cooked indoors using a grill pan or cast-iron skillet over high heat. This method will still give you a nice sear and some of the charred flavor that is characteristic of carne asada. Be sure your ventilation is good, as this method can produce a lot of smoke!

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Carne Asada

Grill up carne asada that rivals the flavor and tenderness of your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant—perfect for fajitas, tacos, burritos, nachos, and more.

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

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice, from 2 limes
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoons ancho chile 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 and preheat the grill to high. Grill the steak, covered, for 5 to 6 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!).

Pair with

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.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Comments

  • Hi Jenn,
    I’m a huge fan of yours and your recipes! This recipe is good but I can’t get over the soy sauce flavor (probably because I know it’s there and I love soy sauce just not in this recipe). Is there a way to substitute it with kosher/sea salt? Also we’re trying to reduce our refined sugar consumption so would you recommend using molasses (we love it in your beef chili recipe) or honey? I also make some extra marinade and add onions, mini bell peppers, oregano and black pepper to this recipe so I don’t know if I’m messing up. Sorry loaded questions but your help would really appreciate it as we love our Taco Tuesdays! ☺️

    • — Oleda on August 30, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Oleda, So glad you like the recipes! I think you could get away with replacing the soy sauce with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Also, it would be fine to replace the sugar with either molasses or honey. I’d love to hear how it turns out with these tweaks!

      • — Jenn on September 1, 2023
      • Reply
  • So I definitely didn’t get medium rare after 5 1/2 minutes per side. More like medium-well. But it was still delicious.

    • — Andrew on June 22, 2023
    • Reply
  • I’m looking forward to making this for Memorial Day. What side dishes should I serve with it and what taco fixings should I also serve. Many thanks for your outstanding recipes!

    • — Fiona Stephan on May 22, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Fiona, This would be great with Mexican rice and/or black bean and corn salad. In terms of taco fixings, I’d suggest guac, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, and/or sour cream. Hope you enjoy whatever you make!

      • — Jenn on May 23, 2023
      • Reply
      • Any reommendations for grilling earlier in the day so we’re not grilling while guests are here? Looks like only supposed to grill just prior to eating with 5 minutes resting???

        • — Pam on August 9, 2023
        • Reply
        • Hi Pam, I don’t recommend it – you’d need to reheat the meat before serving and cooking it more would make it tough – sorry!

          • — Jenn on August 11, 2023
          • Reply
          • Thank you Jenn! It turned out perfectly! I put the birthday boy to work manning the grill! 🙂 And the recipe was a big hit! Thank you for another great go to recipe!

            • — Pam Reel on August 12, 2023
  • Just made the marinade for this for the third time this month! Both my husband and I love it so much! At the moment our Sprout’s store has been carrying Flat Iron steaks. Stocking up on them little by little. Thank you Jenn for this great recipe. The steak is very flavorful and tender!

    • — Cheryl Skornik on April 30, 2023
    • Reply
  • Jenn, you ruined my date nights…
    Mexican used to be our date night out. Now my husband prefers this carne asada! Exceptional as always!
    I used your chicken fajita recipe for the veggies and it was a smashing hit. Thank you!

    • — Cassandra on April 15, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn-

    Forgive me if someone else has already asked… I don’t have an outdoor grill. If you have any suggestions for using an indoor grill pan or cast iron skillet that would be great. Thanks!

    • — Mindy on March 17, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Mindy, You can broil this in the oven. I’d set the oven rack about 5 inches from the heat source and broil 5 to 6 min per side for medium rare. If you’d prefer to cook it on the stove, I’d sear it on medium-high for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until nicely browned. If you want it cooked more than that, I’d finish it off in a 350° oven. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 17, 2023
      • Reply
      • Thank you so much, Jenn! I meant to send this earlier, as I’ve made this AMAZING recipe several times… with your great advice (no oven, as we prefer it med-rare also). My son seems to love cast iron on the stovetop best, but both methods work great. Thank you for your thoughtful response/ help!

        • — Mindy on April 18, 2023
        • Reply
        • My pleasure — so glad to hear it’s come out well!

          • — Jenn on April 19, 2023
          • Reply
  • Hi,
    Instead of Wesson vegetable cooking oil to marinate the meat, what other vegetable oils do you recommend? I don’t use Wesson oils in any of my cooking. And I avoid Canola oil too.
    This would be a general question for all your recipes calling for commercial (Wesson) cooking oil. Isn’t Wesson oil a canola oil? What are good pure oil substitutes? e.g. peanut? or ?

    • — Barbara on February 23, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Barbara, You can use any neutral-tasting oil for marinades that call for vegetable oil – peanut, sunflower, grapeseed, avocado, etc.

      • — Jenn on February 23, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    Where do you buy your flat iron? I’ve been able to find it in the past (Giant) but they no longer carry it.

    Thanks

    • — Dolly on February 16, 2023
    • Reply
    • Actually, I’ve typically gotten it at Giant too, so I’m disappointed they’re no longer carrying it! I believe I’ve also gotten it at Wegmans.

      • — Jenn on February 17, 2023
      • Reply
  • Excellent recipe. Rave reviews for family! I’ve never had better!
    Thanks again!!

    • — Ria Klein on October 19, 2022
    • Reply
  • This was absolutely outstanding! Used flank steak as I never see skirt steak here in Calgary. Made it for a large family group to unanimous rave reviews. Bought authentic Mexican corn tortillas and charred them over the hot BBQ while the meat rested. Prepped toppings earlier and was a super simple meal that everyone loved. Thanks Jenn. You always make me look good : )

    • — Kim on August 21, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I’ve made several of your recipes and they’ve all been easy and delicious. Tonight I made Carne Asada with a flat iron steak and it was terrific even though I was only able to marinate it for 4 hours! This one is a keeper.
    Thank you,
    Bob

    • — Bob on August 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • Outstanding. I used flank steak. Just perfect. Thank you.

    • — Jane on June 19, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this for dinner last night and it was delicious! I will definitely be making this regularly, thanks for the recipe.

    • — Andrea on June 12, 2022
    • Reply
  • We made this right after the recipe was published and liked it so much we made it again last night. It pairs really well with the black bean and corn salad. I had a great deal of trouble finding the flat iron steaks – three butchers in my area didn’t have it, nor did my usual grocery store – but I finally tracked it down at Walmart, of all places.

    • — Gail on May 24, 2022
    • Reply
  • can I use a london broil cut for this dish?

    • — Allise on May 12, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, Allise, that will work. 🙂

      • — Jenn on May 13, 2022
      • Reply
      • Thanks, Jenn. I’m in a meat CSA and the package just says London broil. I know London broil is often made with flank or top round, but I’ve no idea of exactly what cut I have. Trying it out tonight.

        • — Allise on May 14, 2022
        • Reply
  • This was excellent, maybe the best beef dish I’ve had in quite a while. Was it the marinade or the cut of beef? Probably a bit of both. I grilled it for about 8 minutes per side, as the 5-6 minutes was a bit too rare. I made a 2 lb roast for three diners and there was not a bite left. We rolled up the slices in tortillas. Will definitely make again!

    • — Alice on May 6, 2022
    • Reply
  • Not sure if you can answer this or not. We just purchased a Sous vide, and I’m wondering If I can marinate the meat for a few hours and then put it right into the water to cook in the marinade?

    Thanks!!!!

    • — Marianne on May 4, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Marianne, I wish I could help but I don’t have any experience with sous vide cooking. I’m sorry!

      • — Jenn on May 4, 2022
      • Reply
      • Hello, how long to grill for medium well, I don’t like rare or medium rare meat. Thank you.

        • — Mary on May 4, 2022
        • Reply
        • Hi Mary, I’d add another minute or so per side. Hope you enjoy!

          • — Jenn on May 4, 2022
          • Reply
        • I might have marinated too early! I put it in tonight to cook tomorrow so more than 8 hours. Should I just drain the marinade until we grill?

          • — Katie on May 29, 2022
          • Reply
          • Hi Katie, It might be a bit salty if it marinates overnight, so I would pull the meat out (save and refrigerate the marinade), and just place it back in the marinade tomorrow.

            • — Jenn on May 29, 2022
  • Hi Jenn,
    This recipe looks scrumptious. Since it’s only my husband and me, I want to cut the recipe in half. Is this doable for all the ingredients?
    If it works out, then I would surely make it for company.
    Will only use the flat iron steak.
    Thanks in advance.
    Sunny D.☀️🎾

    • — Sunny Drohan on May 4, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, Sunny, it’s perfectly fine to cut the recipe in half. Hope you enjoy it!

      • — Jenn on May 4, 2022
      • Reply
  • Sorry for yet another “Can I use…???” question but I don’t know my cuts of beef that well so….Can I use steak tips? Also, your Chicken Fajita recipe is the first recipe (of many) you hooked me with–would these meats pair well together?

    Thanks Jenn!

    • — Rebecca on April 24, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Rebecca, steak tips would not be a great substitute for flat iron steak. You can use either flank steak or skirt steak. And, yes, this would pair nicely with the chicken fajitas. Hope that helps! 🙂

      • — Jenn on April 25, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I have been making a whole lot from your websites lately and everything has turned out perfectly. I hope I am not overstepping but may I please make a suggestion. The ability to be able to search in the comments – for example a grilling recipes and someone would like to know if they can bake. I also wish you had an App that would be awesome. Again, thanks for sharing your recipes with us.

    • Hi Susan, thanks for your nice words about the recipes so glad you are having success with them! And you’re not overstepping your bounds at all – I’m always open to suggestions for improvement. I will add your suggestion about making the comments searchable to my list of potential enhancements to the site. And although I don’t have an app, the website is mobile friendly which makes it very easy to use regardless of what device you’re viewing it on. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on March 6, 2022
      • Reply
    • I search comments all the time ! It’s a huge help.

      If on a computer, use Ctrl F and a box will appear for you to put a key word to search the comments.

      When on a phone or tablet, highlight the web address, type the word you’re searching for right over it, then “find on this page” will appear. Tap it.

      • — JR on May 9, 2022
      • Reply
  • Jen,
    Can I use Flap steak in this recipe?
    Thank you,
    Carla

    • Sure, a flap steak will work here. Hope you enjoy!

  • Hi Jenn,

    I am a forever fan of yours. We have made and loved so many recipes and I have both your cookbooks. I’m making your chicken quinoa burrito bowls for company (which we’ve made many times and all love). We have some more meat-eaters in our crowd. Would this carne asada be an ok addition to the chicken quinoa bowls? I haven’t made it before. Just wondering if the flavor profile would work with the green sauce and the chicken.

    Thanks so much!

    • So glad you like the recipes, Hilary!! Yes, I think the flavors in the Carne Asada would work will with the burrito bowls. Hope everyone enjoys!

  • Do you think ribeye steaks would work well here? Thank you in advance Chef!

    • Sure, I think you could get away with it. Please LMK how it turns out!

  • Hi,
    For quite some time I tried several recipes to prepare a asado and none of them satisfied me. I tried your recipe and was surprised to find soy sauce in the ingredients. I decided to give it a try, and what a surprise! It was the best recipe for marinating my asados that I have ever tried.
    Thank you for sharing your recipe with all of us.

    P.S. : do you have a particular recipe to prepare a Tomahawk ?

    • Hi Will, so glad to hear you enjoyed this! As of now, I don’t have a recipe of my own for tomahawk steaks. I’ll have to add that to my list of recipes to potentially develop – thanks for the suggestion!

  • Hi, can this be made in the oven? Thank you ❤️

    • Sure — I’d set the oven rack about 5 inches from the heat source and broil 5 to 6 min per side for medium rare. Hope you enjoy it!

      • I would appreciate it if you could routinely describe the oven option, if there is one, for all your grilling recipes. Thanks

        • — Marion Freedman-Gurspan on May 4, 2022
        • Reply
        • Hi Marion, I will keep that in mind as I work on new recipes – thanks!

          • — Jenn on May 4, 2022
          • Reply
  • Hi Jenn
    Thank you for getting back to me so quickly!
    Is a sirloin flap the same thing as a flank steak?

    • Hi Melissa, They are not exactly the same, but the sirloin flap will work nicely. Enjoy!

  • Hi Jenn
    I love this recipe! Unfortunately my grocery store is not getting flat iron steak in, is there something i could use in place that will be just as good?
    Thanks so much

    • — Melissa Pickard
    • Reply
    • Hi Melissa, I’d use flank steak instead; it won’t be quite as tender as with the flat iron steak, but it will definitely work. Hope you enjoy!

  • I’ve made this several times and it’s one of the best recipes in my rotation. Have a question though, I ran out of ancho chili powder, can I use chipotle or regular instead?

    • Glad you like this! You can use chipotle chili powder if you like heat — otherwise, just use regular chili powder.

  • Hi Jen,
    I’ve made this dish before and it’s simply perfect. I’m having a party for 13 guests and would like to make the carne asada for a taco bar. Can I bbq the day before and warm in a crock pot the next day so I can enjoy my party? Also, for 13 people would you recommend six lbs. of meat? Thanks. Love, love, love all of your recipes!

    • — Glorianne Naughton
    • Reply
    • So glad you like it! If you want to cook it a day in advance and reheat it in a slow cooker, I’d undercook it a bit as it will continue to cook a bit as it reheats. And I think you can get away with 5 pounds of meat. Hope everyone enjoys!

  • First time I’ve tried to make carne asada and it turned out perfect. Easy recipe that everyone loved. Great flavor!

  • This marinade does make a delectable grilled flat iron steak. However, the soy sauce sort of overwhelms the other flavors. Nonetheless I will make this again (especially because the cold grilled steak with fresh pico de gallo made a splendid lunch the next day). Thank you!

  • Jenn, no grill in my apartment. Am I better off using a grill pan or the broiler. Grill pan…what burner setting and how long? Assume the timing if using the broiler will be the same as on a grill. Which should be my first choice? Trader Joe’s has flat irons. Can hardly wait to make this. Picking up a steak tomorrow

    • — Carol Winkelman
    • Reply
    • Hi Carol, I’d go with a grill pan as that’s the best way to get a nice sear on the meet. I’d sear it on medium-high for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until nicely browned. If you want it cooked more than that, I’d finish it off in a 350° oven. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

  • We love your recipe and use it often. We had guests last night and we served this. Our friends said this was the best steak they have ever eaten. Thank you! I also love your salsa recipes.

  • This was spectacular! Follow this recipe and don’t deviate. I used skirt steak and couldn’t have been happier with it. Definitely adding this to the rotation!

  • Had bought two TBone steaks on sale. We shared one and it was horrible, don’t think it was even choice. Didn’t know how I was going to use the second one but I always wanted to try this recipe so what the heck. Probably the best application for the steak. Made it a little more tender and the flavors were amazing!!! We enjoyed the second TBone so much more. Will definitely make this again with the skirt or flat iron steak!!

  • Made it for the first time tonight. My wife really loved it as did I. It was only the second time grilling a flat iron steak and it turned out amazing! Thank you! I will be trying more of your recipes for sure!

  • We are a taco-loving family and this is our FAVORITE!! Absolutely delicious!

  • This is my go to recipe now! The soy sauce really penetrates the meat and makes a difference.

  • So appreciate your recipes Jenn! This carne asada, chicken fajitas, shrimp skewers, black bean and corn salad along with guacamole/nacho chips and Restaurant-style salsa have become a staple for our summer gatherings. My Mom enjoyed the food so much that I ended up giving her your cookbook 🙂

  • Excellent – love how this turns out. I received and indoor grill last year as a gift and this grills up like a dream on it. I’ve made it a few times now and will be making it again this weekend.

  • This was a pretty decent marinade. I will disagree about the soy sauce giving it an “asiany” taste. If you take a bite of it by itself, the soy sauce is really strong and gives it a strong asiany taste. When you put it on the taco itself, it cuts that down to a more Mexican flavor.

    • Made it and we loved it. The second time I added 4 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce. Gave it a great balance of flavor. I do look up recipes from your site & I add or take away ingredients. Keep up your wonderful recipes.

  • I make a lot of recipes from your website (thank you!), but this is my family’s FAVORITE!!! Both (semi-adult) kids have been home for the last few months and I have made this so many times! I often make it with your restaurant-style salsa and the chicken fajita recipe as well. Unfortunately, I can’t always find Flat Iron at my supermarket, but whenever I see it, I grab a few packages to keep in the freezer. This recipe is foolproof!

  • This was super-delicious! Great flavor. Would adding beer to the marinade make the meat more tender? If so, what quantity of beer? Also, how would this dish differ if you used top sirloin or flank steak instead of flat iron? Like some of the other reviewers, I also served this fajita-style with corn tortillas, sour cream and guac. Thanks for all the awesome recipes.

    • Hi Laurie, glad you like this! I don’t think adding beer would make a significant difference in terms of tenderness but feel free to add a few tablespoons to the marinade if you’d like. And this would also be good with top sirloin or flank steak but will definitely be the most tender with the flat iron cut. Hope that helps!

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