How to make the Best Carne Asada on Your Grill
What’s the secret to making spectacular, flavorful carne asada? We talked with three different culinary experts to discover how to make the absolute best carne asada at home.
Meet the Experts
Jet is a chef, culinary anthropologist and entrepreneur. He is part of the Food Network circle of chefs and has appeared in numerous shows on the network as well as Iron Chef and Destination Unknown. Jet has roots deeply embedded in the industry and ones that significantly establish him firmly in the artform he is most passionate about: storytelling through food. Jet was raised in Los Angeles where his family established the first Thai markets and restaurants in the U.S.
A native from the Napa Valley, Jorge Velazquez has been known for his mastery of butchery and skills as a chef. Jorge cooks for locals and visiting guests as he creates custom dinners at various wineries and private homes across the valley. Jorge has served as a restaurant consultant in butchery, developed recipes for cookbooks and assisted on culinary productions.
Salvador Alamilla was born and raised in Michoacan, Mexico. His first culinary teacher was his mother, who was expert and making amazing Mexican dishes. Sal worked his way into restaurant ownership by working front and back of house and today, along with his wife Becca, is the chef and proprietor of Amano Restaurant in Caldwell, Idaho. His menu shows influences of SoCal, Michoacan, and Oaxacan style Mexican food.
It’s the Beef
While any cut of beef can be used to make carne asada, all our experts agree, the single best cut to use is the outside skirt steak. This cut has a wealth of rich marbling and bastes itself with flavor when cooked. The outside skirt as a rich beef flavor and a coarse grain that accepts marinades well.
There are two different skirt steaks – the inside and outside – so make sure you buy the correct one. The inside skirt steak is sourced from the transverse abdominal muscle and has a tendency to have a more chewy texture. The outside skirt comes from the diaphragm and is more tender.
Since the primary ingredient for carne asada is the steak, it’s important to select a high-quality source. Snake River Farms American Wagyu outside skirt is levels above grocery store varieties. A cross of 50% Pure Wagyu and 50% high quality American cattle, it has the buttery essence that only comes from Japanese Wagyu and the rich beef flavor that hits home with American palates.
You can find other recipes that suggest any cut of steak like sirloin or ribeye can be used. Other than skirt steak, the next most recommended beef is the flank steak, a nice lean cut of uniform size with a strong grain. It’s a fine cut to use for carne asada, but has a lower amount of marbling. It works well as a single steak, which will address in preparation ideas later.
ADD THE FLAVOR WITH MARINADE
Carne asada starts with a great cut of beef, but the authentic spice and flavor comes from a good marinade recipe made with quality ingredients. The common marinade ingredients are garlic, chilis, onions and citrus juice. A marinade also provides the benefits of improving the texture of the steak, helping to retain internal, enhancing the amount of char and making the meat more tender.
The majority of marinades contain liquid and the steak is allowed to absorb flavor in the wet mixture overnight. Chef Sal Alamilla employs a dry rub that is applied to the beef eight hours before cooking.
Either way, these seasonings are critical to produce the authentic flavor of genuine carne asada.
BREAK OUT THE GRILL
It is certainly possible to sear your carne asada on a skillet indoors, but all our experts unanimously recommend a smoking hot wood or charcoal grill. The reason why is simple. A good hot grill produces the deep char required for perfect carne asada. This creates a flavorful crust and also produces an added textural crunch.
It’s important to note that the best way to cook outside skirt steak requires high heat. Outside skirt steak is thin, so in order to get a nice crisp exterior and not overcook the interior, the grill should be as hot as possible and the steak is seared on both sides until it’s golden brown all over and burnt on the edges.
USE THE BEST TORTILLAS AND INGREDIENTS
After you’ve spent all the time and effort to prepare and cook your carne asada, it’s important to maintain a high level of quality for the supporting ingredients. Good tortillas are a must when you serve your steak. Chefs Tila and Velazquez live in areas where they can buy handmade tortillas made fresh daily. Chef Alamilla takes it a step further by making his own, using corn sourced from Mexico, ground in his restaurant and made fresh to order.
Carne asada, like many great foods, is a very simple dish with a minimum amount of ingredients. To make the best carne asada you’ve ever tasted, start with high quality outside beef from Snake River Farms and follow one of the three recipes from our chefs. Once you’ve tasted how good carne asada can be, you’ll probably never order in a restaurant again.