I promise, this Carne Asada recipe is going to taste even BETTER than your favorite Mexican restaurant. I'm sharing a mojo marinade and all my secrets to getting the most tender, juicy, flavorful Carne Asada tacos you've ever had!
Start by choosing your cut of beef. See notes for more details. If you can find outside skirt steak (call a real butcher!) then definitely use that! Make sure whatever cut of meat you choose is well marbled with fat. Fat=flavor.
Make the marinade. In a blender, add 1 tablespoon orange zest, 3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, 3 tablespoons lime juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons Maggi seasoning (or soy sauce), 5 cloves garlic, 1 small bunch cilantro leaves, 2 tablespoons oregano, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper.
Place 2 ounces dried ancho chiles (usually about 4-5 chiles) on a plate and microwave for about 30 seconds. Use scissors to snip off the stem at the top, and dump out all the seeds. Tear the chiles into a few strips. Microwave again for another 20 seconds or so to make them nice and pliable. Add the chiles to the blender and blend well until everything is combined. It's okay if it's a little chunky, the pieces of chili that don't get blended will become soft and pliable as they sit in the marinade.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the marinade and store in the fridge.
Unroll your outside skirt steak. Use a sharp knife to chop the meat into 6 inch long steaks, slicing WITH the grain. (You can skip this step if you like. I find it's easier to grill smaller steaks but if you want to try to fit a 2 foot long behemoth on your grill, be my guest. I also like chopping into smaller steaks because some sections are thinner or thicker than others, and we want everything to cook evenly. You can take a super thin section of steak off the grill way earlier than a thick section. Individual steaks also make it way easier to slice against the grain later.)
Place the steaks in a large casserole dish or in a ziplock. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon kosher salt on top of the steaks, flip each one over, then sprinkle the other teaspoon of kosher salt on the other side. Make sure you are using kosher salt. (if using table salt, use less.) Salt makes the meat even more tender in addition to enhancing the flavor.
Add the marinade on top of the steaks and stir and flip around to coat. Seal the bag or cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
Before grilling, prep all your garnishes: Make the Pico de Gallo. Prepare the salsa. Make the guacamole. Slice the radishes. Chop the cilantro. Slice the limes into wedges. Use a fork to break up the queso fresco and add to a bowl. Set out the sour cream and extra mojo marinade. This steak cooks quickly, we want to be ready!
Preheat your grill to high heat, abut 450 to 500 degrees. Let it preheat for at least 20 minutes.
Remove the steaks from the marinade. You can either toss the marinade, or you can transfer it to a small pot and bring to a boil for about 3-5 minutes then serve with the tacos. It's so good, I don't like to waste it.
Use paper towels to pat each steak dry. It won't be perfect, but the drier they are when they hit the grill, the more browning effect we will get. Let the steaks sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes while your grill preheats.
Just before you are ready to put the steak on the grill, oil the grates. I like to add a little olive oil to a bowl, use tongs to dip a paper towel in it lightly (don't soak it) and rub the grill grates where the steak is going to go.
Brush each steak lightly with a neutral oil so they don't stick.
Place your steak on the grill and shut the lid (if using a charcoal grill, you can leave the lid off). Set a timer for 1 minute, then check each steak. If there is significant browning, it is ready to flip. If not, let cook 1 more minute. Flip each steak (thin steaks first) and shut the lid and set another timer for 1-2 minutes depending on the thickness of the steak. As a general rule for outside skirt steak, once the meat is browned on both sides, you can safely assume that the steak is cooked to about medium rare in the center. If you are nervous, use a meat thermometer and take it off the heat when it registers about 115 degrees F. (It will continue cooking while it rests.)
Remove the meat from the grill and place on a cutting board. Tent with foil and let rest about 10 minutes.
Char the tortillas. Brush each tortilla with a little bit of oil. (I actually stirred together about 1 teaspoon of the mojo marinade with 1/4 cup of oil and brushed the tortillas with that. It's optional.) Char the tortillas on the grill for about 30 seconds per side. If you see the tortillas start to bubble, that's when it's ready to flip it/take it off heat. Line a plate with a tea towel and wrap each tortilla with the towel as it comes off the grill.
Slice the carne asada into very thin strips. See photos. Make sure you are slicing AGAINST the grain. You should see a pattern of little squares and rectangles on a cross section of the meat if you are slicing it correctly. Use a sharp knife to slice the steak into very thin strips, on the bias against the grain. "On a bias" means you should be cutting at a 45 degree angle, not straight up and down like you would slice bread. (This increases the surface area of each bite, and shortens the muscle fibers, enhancing tenderness.) "Against the grain" means that your knife should be cutting the meat perpendicular to the lines of muscle ("grain") that you can see on the steak. See photo.
Assemble the tacos. Layer two charred tortillas on a plate. Top with strips of carne asada, Pico de gallo, salsa, guacamole, radishes, cilantro, lime wedges, queso fresco, sour cream, and extra (cooked) mojo marinade, if desired.
What other cuts of beef can I use for carne asada?If you can't find (or afford) outside skirt steak, here are the other cuts of meat you could use, in order of preference:
inside skirt steak
flap meat (sometimes called sirloin bavette or sirloin tip)
flat iron steak
flank steak, but you must only cook to medium rare. For all the cuts of meat on this list (besides outside skirt!), follow the grilling instructions on my post for How to Cook Flank Steak. (basically you need to sear on both sides over hot hot heat, then lower the heat to finish cooking the inside. See more details on the post.)