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Restaurant quality juicy carne asada at home..Is it possible?!

I've attempted to make carne asada (for tacos or anything else) at home and it never quite turns out as juicy or flavorful as at my favorite mexican gruberies (El Parian, Las Fuentes).

Is it in the marinade? (lime juice? lemon juice? beer? orange juice? all of them?!)
the cooking style? (grilled? broiled?)
the cut (flank, skirt, flatiron etc..?)
What seasonings? (adobo..?)

The best tacos i've EVER eaten were in Rosarito at a little place called Tacos el Yaqui and it looked like they stuck the skirt or flank steak in a pot of liquid after grilling it. The steak was amazingly tender and delicious, I strongly urge any taco affecionado to check this place out. UNREAL..soo

Anyways, i'm trying to make juicy, yummy carne asada (to cut up in big chunks and throw in a taco) at home so any tips you wouldn't mind sharing would be greatly appreciated. thanks hounds

rZA~

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  1. As you're in L.A. hear over to the closest Vallarta Market or Mexican carniceria of your choice, and get the meat from the fresh meat counter, ask for the ranchera and ask them to season it. Cook it on a cast iron griddle with ridges, HOT and QUICK, about 3 min. per side. YUM!!!

    I have also provided a link for their recipe.

    http://www.vallartasupermarket.com/

    http://simplestupid.com/recipe.htm?bc...

    1. Don't know how to duplicate your picks, but this marinade is a good one, from The Complete Meat"

      1 Reply
      1. re: coconutz

        I'm sorry I missed the link, here ya go, for Nogales Tacos:
        http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/spe...

      2. Carne asada is VERY important to me. Only a couple of restaurants in SF do it right. It MUST be cooked over an open flame to taste right. A stove is never going to do it no matter how you tart up the meat. So, how you are going to do this at home I do not know, but I'll assume it's got to involve being able to run a BBQ grill. I live in an apartment so I have to depend on restaurants.

        Here's how I see it done so it's really delish: whole skirt steak, no marinade on it, or tenderizer, or anything that I can tell. On the grill. Turn once. Take off when still bloody rare. Edges should get charry. Chop roughly on a cutting board with a cleaver in each hand.

        4 Replies
        1. re: niki rothman

          nice thanks for the help. hey I'm actually from S.F. so I'd love to know which restaurants do carne asada right in the city. The mission is nearly world famous for it's mexican food, but I've had better luck in Los Angeles finding tasty south-of-the-border cuisine. what do you think?

          1. re: anthonyrza

            Hi Anthony,
            There is a burrito website for SF. If you ask on the SF board someone should give you the link. I don't have it. The 2 rest. that have carne asada done correctly that I know of are La Cumbre (16 & Val.) & La Corneta (Mission & 22nd.or 23).
            You have to tell both of them very clearly you want it cooked to order bloody rare. Otherwise you may get what is sitting around getting tough & dry dammit. Maybe you should start a thread about this on the SF board.

          2. re: niki rothman

            Which resto's do it right, please? iyo

            1. re: coconutz

              See my post to Anthony directly above.

          3. MOST IMPORTANT:
            1) Meat quality is number one. Higher grade meat in general is night and day as far as flavor and tenderness goes...it's more expensive but worth it and it requires less seasoning.
            2) Grill temperature should be high
            3) Medium thickness is ideal
            4) High quality meat requires very little seasoning. A bit of granualated garlic and onion, fresh ground black pepper, plus some coarse salt is all you need. Occasionally I add a bit of tequila or citrus juice like lime or orange. Flash cook the steak on high heat for just a couple of minutes on each side until desired doneness.

            My mom turned me on to Whole Foods skirt steak ($10.99 lb nicely trimmed and grill ready-medium thickness). It's perfectly tender and juicy but expensive. You can buy choice grade black angus skirt steak at many large chain grocery stores for $4 to $8 per pound. Keep in mind that skirt steak is tricky to trim so have the butcher do it for you.

            I cook my skirt steak over natural lump charcoal on a BIG GREEN EGG. I get my egg to about 500 degrees and then add some pre-soaked wood chips for extra smoke and flavor then toss on the meat, baby yukon gold potatoes, thick cut longways medium zucchini, and green onions and cook to desired doneness.

            Another trick I learned from my cousin while vacationing in Mexico was to rub raw onion and garlic over the cooking grates just before you add the meat. Cut a medium onion in half and cut the bottom 1/4 off of a whole head of garlic and then use a cooking glove to rub them over the grates.

            5 Replies
            1. re: amoncada

              OK, I'll bite: what is a BIG GREEN EGG?

              1. re: niki rothman

                Niki, The Big Green Egg is a ceramic BBQ that can also become a smoker, tandori oven, etc. Green Eggs have developed a cult following in America ever since the loss of the Branch Davidians. (It was obvious they got their Big Green Egg too hot.) There are entire web sites devoted to the cooker, egg recipes and cult BBQ worship.

                1. re: niki rothman

                  Go to biggreenegg.com and browse through the customer reviews. See for yourself why the Big Green Egg has such a cult following. I too am crazy for my egg shaped grill.

                  The Big Green Egg is a thick green egg shaped ceramic grill/smoker/bread oven/pizza oven/tandor oven, etc. The design is based on 3000 year old Japanese Clay Oven technology. The design maintains moisture nicely.

                  World War 2 Vets brought the older Japanese Egg shaped Clay ovens to America.

                  The whole idea of the grill is that the thick ceramic keeps constant temperature's up to 800 degrees and doesn't dry out your food. The natural lump charcoal add's restaurant quality flavors to the food. Soak some wood chips for 20-30 minutes and throw them on the hot coals for even more flavor. Cooking is done with the lid closed and the 2 air dampers opened to the desired settings (the wider you open the damper's the higher the temperature). The Big Green Egg uses natural lump wood charcoal (much better than the chemical laden processed brickets that most people use with toxic starter fluid) which easily lights with a bit of newspaper, a match, and a cheap cylindrical chimney.

                  1. re: amoncada

                    Thanks. Coincidentally, I did look at their website today and i do believe my dreams have been answered. They have a small table model for under $200. This is what I need because I only have an outside back landing on my apartment. I had been thinking about a hibachi for a long time but just didn't go for it. The only problem is the local dealer does not appear to be near me and the shipping is $47! Maybe I'll find out where that dealer is and we can go there on an excursion. I can't wait to finally make my own delicious BBQ!

                  2. re: niki rothman

                    Go to biggreenegg.com and browse through the customer reviews. See for yourself why the Big Green Egg has such a cult following. I too am crazy for my egg shaped grill.

                    The Big Green Egg is a thick green egg shaped ceramic grill/smoker/bread oven/pizza oven/tandor oven, etc. The design is based on 3000 year old Japanese Clay Oven technology. The design maintains moisture nicely.

                    World War 2 Vets brought the older Japanese Egg shaped Clay ovens to America.

                    The whole idea of the grill is that the thick ceramic keeps constant temperature's up to 800 degrees and doesn't dry out your food. The natural lump charcoal add's restaurant quality flavors to the food. Soak some wood chips for 20-30 minutes and throw them on the hot coals for even more flavor. Cooking is done with the lid closed and the 2 air dampers opened to the desired settings (the wider you open the damper's the higher the temperature). The Big Green Egg uses natural lump wood charcoal (much better than the chemical laden processed brickets that most people use with toxic starter fluid) which easily lights with a bit of newspaper, a match, and a cheap cylindrical chimney.

                2. I think that everything depends on the flavor you want. Sometimes I want a cut of meat in my taco that has little more than salt and pepper so I can really enjoy a nice cut of meat. Other times I want a ton of flavor. I'm also a firm believer in the fact that every cut of meat has its place. Since the other posts do a great job of describing some simple and clean seasoning, I'll let you in on my favorite and very flavorful steak recipe.

                  First, you need some chuck steak or something like it and cut it into cubes (I usually get cubed steak for stew). Its wicked cheap so its perfect for a large group of people. Throw it on a high heat charcoal bbq to get a nice charred outside (you may have to use skewers depending on how big the meat is cut up). Next throw it in a cast iron pan with some sautéed garlic and onions. Fill that pan up with beef or chicken broth so it covers the meat. Add generous amounts of paprika, cumin and your favorite types of chili peppers (obviously fresh is better, but dried chilies or chili powder always works great). Then, I let it simmer for about 4-5 hours, adding broth when needed (be sure to keep adding seasoning each time you add more broth). When the meat is tender it should be really flavorful. I usually throw on some lime juice and fresh chopped cilantro to top it off. Its a different style than some of the restaurants you spoke of, but it definitely has its place :)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: thunderbug84

                    ah yes so more in the direction of a shredded beef taco. different but equally delicious like you say. I tried marinated steak cooked on cast iron last night but I think I just need to char up a flank or so on the grill and chop it up nice and simple like niki suggested. Even if I can't get it like my favorite restaurants, at least I have something to look forward to when eating out.