I decided to ask my friends and family all over Mexico for their preferred list of ingredients when marinating meat for grilling, and the answers were just what I expected: just add salt, some bitter orange or lime juice, and a bit of your favorite beer. Other options include ground pepper and steak sauce. For more sophisticated palates, you can use herbs like rosemary, coarse sea salt, fresh or powder garlic, or prepared store-bought steak seasonings.
The second question I get is: charcoal or gas?, and the answer is obviously charcoal (or wood, if you can). Even though gas grills are growing in popularity, charcoal is still the main grilling method.
The third question I get is about what to serve alongside carne asada. Usually it would be guacamole, some grilled green onions, a fresh made salsa, corn tortillas, and another dish that may vary with region. In Central Mexico, this could be grilled nopales; or small clay pots with the famous queso fundido and frijoles charros (common in the northern states) or baked potatoes and white onions wrapped in aluminum foil and placed on the grill to cook.
Here in the United States, I’ve found Arrachera/Fajita to be a favorite among Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants.
There are many different types of cuts for grilling in Mexico, and their quality is selected according to the amount of fat marbling that each cut has. The amount of fat will contribute to the taste, softness, and juiciness of the meat. Following are some common cuts for grilling:
Rib Eye, also known as Bife Chorizo, is one of the best cuts for grilling for its juiciness, and is sold in 3/4 inch steaks. It is also one of the most expensive cuts in the market. Then we have Porter House, also known as T-Bone, whose T-shaped bone helps retain heat and shorten cooking time on the grill. Sirloin, also known as Churrasco or Aguayon, is a clean cut with lower fat content; it is recommended to be bought in 3/4 inch steaks to preserve softness while grilling. Then we have the famous Fajita, or Arrachera. This cut is very common and is usually marinated before grilling. It is sold whole or in a specialty cut, which butchers call “fileteado”. Short Ribs are tender with a nice marbling, and are usually cut across the ribs, 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick. And finally we have a cut known as Aguja Norteña, or Chuck Steak, a very popular and low cost cut of meat. Sold with or without the bone, this cut becomes very flavorful and soft when grilled.
Now, you might be wondering: “Where is the recipe for carne asada?” “If Mexican cooks just add salt and a bit of lime, then what do they put in the Fajitas at the Mexican restaurant that makes them taste so good?”
Well, besides their own personal marinade, many of them have something special that they add to it. And that special ingredient is soy sauce. Yep. A long time ago, a foodie friend was telling me about her family Mexican restaurant and I asked the same question about the carne asada. She told me that the secret is adding soy sauce, and right before the meat is going to be served at the table, it is placed on a very hot cast iron skillet when a few drops of soy sauce are added. That is why the whole cast iron plate is sizzling and smelling so good when the waiter is bringing your meat to the table.
For this recipe we’ll be using Soy Sauce since it is a very versatile ingredient that can be used in many types of cuisines, and better yet, is readily available anywhere here in the US.
- 2 pounds of flank steak or skirt steak
- The juice of 1 orange
- The juice of 2 limes
- 1/4 cup of light beer
- 2 tablespoons of Kikkoman Soy Sauce
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 large white onion sliced (optional)
- Vegetable oil to brush the grill before grilling
- Corn tortillas
- Lime wedges
- Grilled green onions and nopales or a salad of your choice.
- There’s no salt in this recipe as the Soy Sauce — besides being a flavor enhancer — takes the place of salt. By using 1/2 tsp. of Kikkoman Soy Sauce in place of 1/2 tsp. of regular table salt in your recipes you will reduce the sodium content of the recipe by 1000mg. Of course, you can still add salt if your taste desires it. For more recipes using Kikkoman Soy Sauce, visit Kikkoman Sabor.
- This recipe is my own, and I hope you enjoy it.
1. Place the flank steak in a large baking dish and, if using the sliced onion, spread the slices over the meat.
2. In a medium sized bowl mix together the orange juice, lime juice, light beer, Kikkoman Soy Sauce, vegetable oil, and freshly ground black pepper.
3. Pour the marinate over the meat; cover with a plastic film and refrigerate for at least one hour.
4. Light up your charcoal grill, or preheat your gas grill. (You can also use a cast iron grill pan, the ones you use over the stove top). And brush your grill with a little vegetable oil as this will prevent the meat from sticking.
5. Remove meat from marinade and pat dry. Place meat on the grill and cook for 8 to 10 minutes per side. (Cooking time will depend on the meat thickness and your personal preferences, either medium or well done). Remove meat from grill and place it on your cutting board. Slice it and serve it with corn tortillas and other garnishes mentioned above.
6. If you would like to have the same effect as that of the Mexican American restaurant, place the cooked meat on a preheated cast iron pan, add a few drops of Soy Sauce and serve immediately. Enjoy!
Note: It is best to enjoy a cut of roast meat that’s freshly cooked and served while still smoking.
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