HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Brewing beer, curing meat, or making cheese? Get great advice
TELL US

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

anthonyrza Oct 19, 2006 08:19 PM

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~

  1. s
    sel Oct 19, 2006 08:40 PM

    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. c
      coconutz Oct 19, 2006 09:22 PM

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

      1 Reply
      1. re: coconutz
        c
        coconutz Oct 21, 2006 07:19 AM

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

      2. n
        niki rothman Oct 20, 2006 03:59 PM

        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
          anthonyrza Oct 21, 2006 01:03 AM

          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
            n
            niki rothman Oct 21, 2006 01:33 AM

            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
            c
            coconutz Oct 21, 2006 07:17 AM

            Which resto's do it right, please? iyo

            1. re: coconutz
              n
              niki rothman Oct 21, 2006 01:12 PM

              See my post to Anthony directly above.

          3. a
            amoncada Oct 20, 2006 05:28 PM

            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
              n
              niki rothman Oct 20, 2006 05:58 PM

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

              1. re: niki rothman
                w
                Walters Oct 20, 2006 07:42 PM

                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
                  a
                  amoncada Oct 23, 2006 07:42 PM

                  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
                    n
                    niki rothman Oct 23, 2006 09:55 PM

                    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
                    a
                    amoncada Oct 23, 2006 07:44 PM

                    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. thunderbug84 Oct 20, 2006 05:55 PM

                  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
                    anthonyrza Oct 21, 2006 01:00 AM

                    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.

                  2. w
                    wayne keyser Oct 21, 2006 02:10 AM

                    Tried a new one tonight that might also do the trick for you:

                    Round steak cut about 3/4" (it was on special this week, just marked "meat for braising" at 99c/pound)

                    Cut it in strips, put it in a cast-iron skillet, add some crushed tomatoes I found half a can of in the fridge, and a good splash of wine (I'm glad I used white, I think red might have been a bit much) and some quartered onion and strips of green pepper, chile powder and garlic, and baked covered 250' for 3 1/2 hours. Served with small flour tortillas and refried black beans. Came out very tender and flavorful.

                    Thinking of doing this next week over rice with curry spices, adding some plain yogurt to the sauce at the end.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: wayne keyser
                      t
                      thunkened Mar 30, 2010 11:22 AM

                      lol. you've never tried authentic carne asada have you?

                      round is awful for this. hardly any marbling, and a very dry cut/not one you want to put on the grill....it's labeled for braising because you need to get it close to 180 to break down the meat, while at the same time not losing the limited moisture in the cut.

                      for this you want at least chuck or the best is flap meat - which others are calling "ranchera" here.

                      the key to a good carne asada marinade is simple.. the citrus(oranges and lime) and the savory. all of hte places that people are raving about all use MSG.. some use MSG powder and others use soy sauce for it's naturally ocurring MSG i use the soy sauce. chuck is a good value cut because its pretty much a rib eye but further back on the cow hence tougher hence hteh reason youre marinading it and grilling it to begin with. unless you're using arrachera/ranchera/flap meat, you'll want to make sure it's cooked to medium at least, sot hat it will be "done" after sitting. you don't want to eat tough meats rare, as it just makes them chewy AND tough instead of just tough. the meats i just listed are great rare, but the cheaper cuts need to be cooked all the way or they'll be even chewier.

                    2. toodie jane Oct 21, 2006 02:46 PM

                      try using tri-tip. It is very flavorful meat, and bbq's very well. I too think it must be bbq'd rather than pan-seared.

                      1. Candice Oct 23, 2006 09:35 PM

                        Inspired by this thread, I stopped by some carnicerias in SF yesterday to check out some different cuts of meat. I ended up with some kind of "flat meat" that the guy said was for carne asada. I was skeptical b/c it was really lean but it was about $4/lb so I tried it out. I rubbed 1.5 lbs of meat with smoked spanish paprika, seasoned salt, chili powder, cumen, cayenne pepper, and some fresh oregano and poured about 1/4 cup of fresh oj and the juice of a half of a lemon in the bag with it. The rub was assembled until it smelled about right to me, with no ingredient seeming more prominent than the rest.

                        I let is sit for about 2.5 hours and cooked it over high heat in a cast iron skillet. At first I pulled it off after about 3 minutes per side for piece about an inch thick, this was much too rare inside (and I like rare) so I threw it back on for another 5 or so minutes. The exterior had some nice charry bits and it was very juicy (even after it had been cut) and not at all tough. I was pleasantly surprised. I made a salsa out of some roasted red jalapenos and also picked up a cup of salsa verde from Cancun to round things out.

                        1. Eat_Nopal Oct 23, 2006 09:43 PM

                          Hey Anthony,

                          Is it in the marinade? (lime juice? lemon juice? beer? orange juice? all of them?!)

                          > Yes, almost all successful carne asadas are marinated in some way or another. What is the base for a marinade... it changes but most successful versions involve either orange juice or beer... not so much lime or lemon because they can "cook" the meat & give it a rubbery texture.

                          the cooking style? (grilled? broiled?)

                          > Griddling (particularly A la Plancha) or Broiling can certainly deliver some decent results but to be true Carne Asada... it has to be grilled... after all that is what the name means.... Grilled Meat. The best results come with Mesquite Coals.

                          the cut (flank, skirt, flatiron etc..?)

                          > The star cut of meat is certainly Arrachera aka Skirt Steak. It is a full-flavored gamey piece of meat... arguably the most flavorful cut of steak in the cow... and if it is from the right breed, it is prepared adequately and is cut against the grain... it can be surprisingly tender (not like a Filet... but certainly not tough). In this respect... I really like the New Zealand beef skirt steaks at Whole Foods.

                          What seasonings? (adobo..?)

                          You can go as simple as salt & pepper... or with one of the complex seasonings and have a great Carne Asada... it depends on your taste buds, but do try to avoid cheap seasonings with onion & garlic powder etc.,.. there are better ways to flavor the meat.

                          Now let me put it all together... there are two versions of Carne Asada that I like the most:

                          > Skirt Steak marinated with beer, onion juice, onion slices, cilantro, salt & pepper... grilled over mesquite.

                          > Skirt Steak marinated in orange juice, crushed garlic, oregano, achiote, coriander, cumin, salt, pepper... grilled over mesquite.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Eat_Nopal
                            anthonyrza Oct 24, 2006 05:13 AM

                            sweet. thanks for all the knowledge nopal.

                            so after marination, is it necessary to pat the meat dry for optimal browning even though I'll be grilling it? I always go back and forth on whether I should pat it or leave it wet. I want the char, but I also want the flavor (which hopefully will have penetrated enough into the meat). I guess that's the point of marination, to get the flavors into the meat, but I never quite trust it i guess...

                            1. re: anthonyrza
                              Eat_Nopal Oct 24, 2006 04:59 PM

                              I don't think you need to pat it dry... the meat will get charred if the grill is hot enough & if there is enough fat dripping to cause some flair ups. The best cuts of skirt steak in Mexico...keep a thick ring of fat on one edge... not only is it a good source of flare ups... but it tastes really, really good! You can also add oil to the marinade if you are working with a particularly trim piece of meat.

                              BTW, I forgot to mention Papaya & Mango... they have an enzyme that tenderizes meat & adds nice sweet flavor. If you are lazy you can purchase the enzyme in powder form... it goes by the name Papain... it works well, the only problem is that its not as natural because of preservatives etc.,

                            2. re: Eat_Nopal
                              blackbookali Sep 2, 2011 06:22 PM

                              I salivate and trust both these recipes already EN. Do you have any recipes with measurements/ratios/etc?

                            3. Perilagu Khan Mar 30, 2010 11:38 AM

                              Carne asada sounds an awful lot like fajitas to me.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                deckape Mar 30, 2010 01:32 PM

                                Not even close except that it has beef in common...all else is entirely different.

                                1. re: deckape
                                  Perilagu Khan Mar 30, 2010 02:04 PM

                                  Wrong. Both use skirt steak, both are frequently marinated in a Southwestern/Latin marinade, both are grilled, both are diced or sliced, and both are often placed in flour tortillas. The meat and its treatment seems almost identical; the possible difference lies in the condiments of grilled peppers and onions, cheese and sour cream.

                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                    f
                                    fadedflunky Jul 2, 2010 03:04 PM

                                    Seeing as how your from texas i can see how u can stand by a statement like carne asada is just like fajitas. This style of carne asada is only found in Southern California or Baja California, Mexico, and tastes absolutely nothing like fajitas, indeed they are served very similar to each other as you so thoroughly explained to us, yet they taste absolutely nothing alike.

                                    1. re: fadedflunky
                                      r
                                      Retroh777 Jan 27, 2011 03:17 AM

                                      The standard " Fajita" sold to us gringoes in USA is horrible. My kid, daughter 30 wanted some Tex Mex something for her birthday. I started the quest to make my own Carne Asada. I came across three recipes, all similar, and then of course I used that as a base and went my own direction. This incessant recipe changing attitude/ habit drives my g/f insane. I guess variety is the spice of life in my hacienda and specifically my kitchen.
                                      I definately go with the citrus/ orange; also Kiwi fruit has terriffic enzymes that tenderize the meat. I like these posts because they back my theory; less is more. Too many spices spoil the palate. Thanks to all. retroh

                              Show Hidden Posts