Carne Asada

Carne Asada

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Carne Asada is probably one of our favorite Mexican recipes to make at home outside on our grill. The flavor of the meat has so many levels of flavor. It is tender, juicy, and truly amazing. Best of all, it makes for a quick and easy weeknight meal from your backyard grill!

carne asada resting on cutting board

What is Carne Asada?

Carne asada is Spanish for “grilled meat” that originates in Mexico. The phrase almost always refers to grilled beef that has been marinated in a mixture of fresh lime juice, oil, jalapenos, cilantro, and other spices.

How To Make the Steak Tender

A thin cut of beef such as a flank steak or skirt steak is the most common cut used to make carne asada. Both cuts of meat have wonderful flavor.

Flank steaks and skirt steaks are lean due to their lower fat content. Both benefit from tenderizing with a mallet and marinating in citrus.

Tip: For super tender meat, whack the meat with a mallet a few times before adding it to the marinade.

The Carne Asada Marinade

Marinades for carne asada often contain lime juice which helps to tenderize the meat. It becomes a rich medium brown on the outside and juicy and pink on the inside on the grill. When served, it is sliced across the grain, further enhancing its tenderness.

zested limes on cutting board with zester

TIP: It’s extremely important to use fresh limes for freshly squeezed lime juice. Freshly squeezed lime juice provides citric acid that aids in tenderizing the meat as well as flavor.

pouring marinade over flank steak in casserole dish

How to Marinate the Steak

  • Lay the flank steak in a shallow ceramic or dish just large enough to hold the steak. Do not use metal; it can react with the acids in the marinade and impart off-flavor.
  • Season the Meat Directly: Sprinkle the steak directly with salt and pepper to taste. Seasoning the meat directly ensures it is seasoned evenly.
  • Even Coverage: Combine marinade ingredients and pour the marinade over the steak. Coat both sides of the meat well.
  • Cover and Marinate: Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours. Turn the meat occasionally to ensure that the marinade touches as much of its surface area as possible.
hand holding flank steak with tongs beside grill with mountain view

How To Grill Carne Asada

Remove the steak in its marinade from the refrigerator 1 hour before grilling. If you bring the steak up to room temperature before grilling helps it to cook more evenly.

Grill Prep:

Prepare a charcoal grill for indirect heat, with charcoal on one side of the grill for high heat and a cooler side without hot charcoal.

carne asada cooking on grill

Tips For Grilling the steak:

  • Reduce flame flare-up: Allow any excess marinade to drip off the steak before placing it on the grill. Discard the marinade.
  • Sear the steak: Place the steak over the hottest area of the grill. Be careful; the oil will cause the grill to flame up. Allow a few flames to lick the meat and then cover.
  • Sear the steak: Grill the steak over direct heat until the underside has seared (the moisture from the marinade prevents a dark brown surface crust from forming); about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Flip with Tongs: Use the tongs to turn over the steak. A fork pierces the meat, and it can leak out good juices from the holes.
  • Check the steak for doneness: Insert an instant-read thermometer horizontally into the center of the steak. At medium-rare, the thermometer should register 130 – 135 degrees F. If the steak is not ready, cover the grill, let it cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then test again. Remember, the meat’s temperature can rise even after it has left the grill, so keep that in mind.
  • A rested steak is the best steak: Transfer it to a carving board tent with foil and let it rest for 3 to 5 minutes. If cut too soon, the steak will not have its optimal juiciness, and the color inside will be uneven. This little siesta before serving allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. The temperature of the steak will also rise about 5 degrees while resting.
checking temperature of steak with instant-read thermometer

How to Slice A Flank Steak

  • Position the steak on the carving board so that the long end is facing you and the direction of the muscle fibers runs horizontally. The meat’s fibers are referred to as the meat’s grain because they resemble a wood plank.
  • Use a thin-bladed carving knife, place the knife perpendicular to the steak at a 45-degree angle, and cut the steak across the grain into thin slices about ⅛-inch thick. Cutting the meat this way shortens the long, tough muscle fibers and makes the meat easier to chew.
  • Transfer the sliced steak to the warmed plates. Pour any juices from the board over the slices and serve immediately.

Watch Our Video On How to Grill Carne Asada

How to Cook Carne Asada on a Stovetop

I must say that once you’ve had it over charcoal, you’ve reached a point of no return. However, the weather isn’t always great, or you may not like to grill. NO WORRIES! You can still enjoy carne asada cooked on your stovetop!

  1. Pat dry: Pull the flank or skirt steak out of the marinade. Use paper towels to pat the steak dry. Removing as much moisture as possible will give you a good sear and help keep the oil from spattering.
  2. Preheat the pan: Preheat a heavy cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add a little oil to the pan, but not much so that it won’t spatter too much.
  3. Sear steaks: Add steak to the hot pan. Sear each side for 3 to 5 minutes on each side until a brown crust has formed.
  4. Rest the Steak: Allow the steak to rest 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

How to Serve Carne Asada

Carne asada can be served as a quick and easy weeknight meal from the grill as a main dish or as an ingredient. It is used in several Mexican dishes, including tacos, fajitas burritos, and salads!

carne asada tacos

For Carne Asada Tacos:

  1. Place a corn tortilla on the hot grill directly over the heat. Warm each side until slightly browned and crisp, about 1 minute on each side. (throw on some shredded cheese
  2. Top the tortilla with a few slices of steak and any other toppings you desire. The possibilities are endless! We use extra cheddar cheese, roasted poblanos, pickled jalapeños, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, and cilantro.
carne asada tacos

We hope you enjoy this quick and easy Mexican meal from your grill in your own backyard. Try this recipe for Cinco de Mayo!

carne asada cooking on grill
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Carne Asada

Carne asada can be served as a quick and easy weeknight meal from the grill as a main dish or as an ingredient in tacos, fajitas and burritos!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword beef, Carne Asada, flank steak, grilled, mexican
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Marinating Time 24 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 380kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds flank steak

Marinade

  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ cup cilantro fresh, leaves and stems, finely chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest (zest lime before juicing)
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice about two limes (± doesn't have to exact)
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon honey (or granulated sugar)
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

Marinate the steak:

  • Lay the flank steak in a shallow ceramic or dish just large enough to hold the steak. Do not use metal; it can react with the acids in the marinade and impart off-flavor.
  • Sprinkle the steak directly with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
  • Combine marinade ingredients and pour the marinade over the steak. Coat both sides of the meat well. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
    Turn the meat occasionally to ensure that the marinade touches as much of its surface area as possible.

Prep The Grill:

  • Prepare a charcoal grill for indirect heat, with charcoal on one side of the grill for high heat and a cooler side without hot charcoal.
  • Remove the grill grate and set it aside. Next, light the charcoal using a chimney starter and let them burn until they are covered with white ash. Pour the coals into the fire bed. Using long-handled utility tongs, spread the hot coals onto one side of the grill, leaving the remaining side cool with no coals.
  • Replace the grill grate and scrub the grill grate with a wire brush to clean it. Then, lightly rub the grill grate with paper towels coated with canola or vegetable oil.
  • Test the grill temperature. Hold your hand about 4 inches above the fire. If you can count only to 1 before pulling your hand away (very high heat), the coals are ready.

Grill the Carne Asada:

  • When the grill is ready, remove the steak from the marinade and let the excess marinade drip off. Discard the marinade. Place the steak over the hottest area of the grill. Be careful the oil will cause the grill to flame up. Allow a few flames to lick the meat and then cover. Grill the steak until the underside has seared (the moisture from the marinade prevents a dark brown surface crust from forming), about 3 to 5 minutes. Use the tongs to turn over the steak and grill until the other side is browned, about 5 more minutes for medium-rare.

Stovetop Directions:

  • Pull the flank or skirt steak out of the marinade. Use paper towels to pat the steak dry. Removing as much moisture as possible will give you a good sear and help keep the oil from spattering.
  • Preheat a heavy cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add a little oil to the pan, but not much so that it won’t spatter too much.
  • Add steak to the hot pan. Sear each side for 3 to 5 minutes on each side until a brown crust has formed.

Check the steak for doneness

  •  Insert an instant-read thermometer horizontally into the center of the steak. At medium-rare, the thermometer should register 130 – 135 degrees F. If the steak is not ready, cover the grill, let it cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then test again. Remember, the meat’s temperature can rise even after it has left the grill, so keep that in mind.

Rest the Steak:

  • Transfer it to a carving board tent with foil and let it rest for 3 to 5 minutes. If cut too soon, the steak will not have its optimal juiciness, and the color inside will be uneven. This little siesta before serving allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. The temperature of the steak will also rise about 5 degrees while resting.

Slice the Steak and Serve:

  • Position the steak on the carving board so that the long end is facing you and the direction of the muscle fibers runs horizontally. The meat’s fibers are referred to as the meat’s grain because they resemble a wood plank.
    Use a thin-bladed carving knife, place the knife perpendicular to the steak at a 45-degree angle, and cut the steak across the grain into thin slices about ⅛-inch thick. Cutting the meat this way shortens the long, tough muscle fibers and makes the meat easier to chew.
    Transfer the sliced steak to the warmed plates. Pour any juices from the board over the slices and serve immediately.

Notes

For super tender meat, whack the meat with a mallet a few times before adding it to the marinade.
It’s extremely important to use fresh limes for freshly squeezed lime juice. Freshly squeezed lime juice provides citric acid that aids in tenderizing the meat as well as flavor.

Nutrition

Calories: 380kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 90mg | Sodium: 82mg | Potassium: 552mg | Vitamin A: 80IU | Vitamin C: 10.1mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 2.8mg
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