Carne Asada marinated and spice rubbed for the most juicy, tender, flavorful Carne Asada EVER!
Carne asada that is restaurant quality at home! This Carne Asada recipe is perfect for tacos, burritos, nachos, salads, etc. at a fraction of the price and fabulous for crowds!
I always hesitate by putting “best” in the tile of a recipe because “Best” is such a personal preference. We each have our own “best” – some may like spicier, some may like sweeter, some may like saltier. But this is the “Best” Carne Asada recipe I have ever made or tried and I hope you will agree!
My husband, Patrick, is Mexican food connoisseur. I’ve created recipes for Tacos Al Pastor, Slow Cooker Carnitas, Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef, Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken, Baja Fish Tacos, Chicken Fajitas, Chicken Tortilla Soup and now this carne asada recipe because his heaven is eating Mexican food every. single. day. He devours carne asada burritos, California burritos (carne asado burritos with French fries, etc.), carne asada fries, carne asada nachos or carne asada street tacos at least once a week either after surfing or on our Friday night dates. Living in Carlsbad/San Diego, we have a plethora of Mexican restaurants and he is always on the hunt for the “best” carne asada.
The hunt stops here.
To please my carne asada critic, I perfected this recipe with 4 different attempts. We didn’t mind the attempts as they were all tender, and charred and delicious. Still, they lacked a certain “umph” of flavor – restaurant quality flavor. Finally, I decided to not only marinate the steak but also rub the steak with spices right before grilling. So not only does the steak marinate in orange juice, lime juice, soy sauce and a splash of liquid smoke, it gets marinated with and then rubbed with cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic and onion. And that is when “good” became Patrick’s approved “best” carne asada.
What does Carne Asada mean?
In Spanish, Carne literally means “flesh/meat/beef” and Asada means “roast/broiled/grilled,” so “grilled meat.” When it comes to “carne asada” in cooking, the term refers to grilled and sliced beef, usually skirt, flank or flap steak. The steak is associated with a charred flavor from searing the meat on the grill.
What Type of Meat Should I use for Carne Asada?
Carne asada is traditionally made using skirt or flank steak. I prefer flank steak with its wide, flat shape, rich buttery flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture. Flank steak is a little leaner than skirt steak but because we are using a marinade to maximize the flavor, it emerges wonderfully juicy and flavorful.
The Best Carne Asada Marinade
Because flank steak is a leaner, less expensive cut of steak, we need a dynamite marinade to transform this steak into a juicy, flavor bomb. Marinades need to accomplish three things: tenderize the meat, infuse it with flavor and chemically change the structure so it retains juices and actually becomes juicier. Mission accomplished.
To tenderize the meat we use orange juice, lime juice and soy sauce. The acid in the juices breaks down the tough connective tissue. They also infuse the meat with bright floral tones characteristic of carne asada that compliment the earthy seasonings. The soy sauce enzymatically breaks down the proteins to further tenderize while also adding a rich depth of flavor.
To infuse the steak with further flavor, we whisk up a spice blend of ground cumin, garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, salt, onion powder, pepper and cayenne. 3 tablespoons of this Spice Mix is added to our marinade and the rest gets rubbed all over our steak before grilling. This allows the seasonings to both penetrate the meat inside and out and is the key to this Best Carne Asada ever.
Oil is also crucial in all marinades as it spreads the oil-soluble flavors more evenly across the meat and also promotes even browning when cooked.
How Long to Marinate Carne Asada?
4-12 hour is the optimal time to marinate Carne Asada. After 4 hours, the flank steak has absorbed most of the flavor that it is going to – so whether you marinate it longer than 4 hours or not is strictly for convenience purposes. You definitely don’t want to marinate it longer than 12 hours though because the acid in the marinade will begin to change the structure of the meat to the point of mushiness – no bueno!
How to Grill Carne Asada
How to Cut Carne Asada?
How to Serve Carne Asada
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