Authentic Grilled Carne Asada

Skirt steak bathed in the cilantro-lime marinade and grilled over hot charcoal to make an authentic style Carne Asada.
Carne Asada

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I love eating steak, there are so many variants and different ways of cooking them.

When grilling steak to make Carne Asada, I love how the herb fills the air and your mouth just starts salivating straight away. It is one of my favorite ways of preparing and cooking steak. Well a certain type of steak anyway.

To make a true Carne Asana, traditionally there are only a few cuts of beef that you should be using and we’ll go through them in this recipe.

So let’s get into how you can make this super tasty dish.

What is Carne Asada and where did it originate from? 

Carne Asada loosely translates to “grilled meat” in English. Tasty grilled meat would be my translation.

Usually made with a thin cut steak like flank or skirt, these both have a very heavy grained texture to them but both have a very natural beefy flavor that is nice and bold and perfect for this dish.

Carne Asada originated in Mexico. Some say it first appeared in the 1500’s. The meat was cooked over hot coals after being marinated in a lime infused sauce. 

This meat was then served in corn tortillas and the Carne Asada taco was born. They also top it with guacamole, onions and chilli peppers. Nothing like the taco we generally make these days. More basic, letting the flavors speak for themselves.

I see more and more people looking for authentic style recipes over the western changed varieties. I think that is a good thing, as this is one tasty dish that should be kept simple and tasty.

Items that will help you cook these are:

The Carne Asada marinade 

To make this an authentic styled Carne Asada marinade, we need to use cilantro, or the dreaded soapy tasting green leafed plant. Certain people cannot taste anything but soap when they eat this herb.

The good news is I have given this dish to friends who cannot eat cilantro and they couldn’t taste it, they were actually surprised that it had any in it. So was I, as it does have a fair bit in it.

Carne Asada marinade ingredients on a wooden board
If you are not a fan of cilantro, don’t worry, you can’t even taste it in this recipe

So if you have got this far, keep going because this may just be the dish you cilantro haters can actually enjoy.

Roughly chop up half a cup of cilantro leaves. Do not feel the need to use a food processor on them. I feel a more rustic chopped leaf brings a better taste and texture then turning it all into some green pulp.

Add to that a half a cup of olive oil, then 2 teaspoons of dried oregano. Also add 2 teaspoons of cumin and 4 cloves of garlic that have been crushed, then the zest of one lime and the juice as well.

Carne Asada marinade
Chopping cilantro leaves by hand will give the marinade a better taste and texture

Now add a tablespoon of brown sugar, this will help in the caramelisation of the meat and also helps cut through the acidity a little. Now top it all off with a teaspoon of salt flakes and finely cracked black pepper.

Give that a good mix up and it is just awaiting the meat.

What steak to use for Carne Asada

I used skirt steak for for Carne Asada although flank steak will also work well. Both are thin, long and have relatively the same characteristics as each other. That being, they are very grainy and have a bold beefy flavor.

two skirt steaks on a plastic board
Both skirt and flank steaks work well for Carne Asada

Always give the steak a good check over. Remove any silver skin and fatty pieces.

Most butchers these days tend to remove the thick membrane off the steak but there can always be a little bit of silver skin left behind.

Silver skin isn’t nice to eat, it will be chewy, so always take the time to remove it before cooking a steak. It will literally take you a couple of extra minutes.

two skirt steaks without the silver skin on a plastic board
We suggest removing the silver skin and fatty pieces from the steak

I don’t tend to even the steak up at all, I don’t mind the outer pieces charing up a bit more, it just adds to the overall texture of the bite.

But just make sure you are using a very sharp knife, it makes trimming off the thin silver skin so much easier.

Once trimmed up, place in the marinade, making sure each piece is fully covered and place in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.

skirt steak in Carne Asada marinade
Make sure the meat is fully covered in the marinade before placing it in a fridge

I normally make this up in the morning and cook it later in the day.

For the best flavor grill your steak over coals

Carne Asada loosely translates to “grilled meat” in English, so it’s a no-brainer to cook this dish over hot charcoal.

When we cook over hot coals, especially with meat that has been marinated, the juices fall down and hit the hot coals creating puffs of smoke that come up and lick the meat, giving it flavor that cannot be recreated in a frypan.

charcoal grill set up for carne asada
Grilling steaks over charcoal will give Carne Asada a special taste that cannot be achieved in a frying pan

It’s also such a primal way of cooking, staring at the coals while the juices drip down as you turn the meat over and the fire flares up, creating more smoke and flavor. 

I’m actually salivating right now thinking about it.

Charring food is all part of the Maillard reaction, where there is a chemical reaction between amino acids and the reducing sugars that give browned food its very distinctive flavor. Let’s not confuse burning, we are talking about charring up the meat slightly.

Burnt food tastes awful, charred food on the other hand is absolutely delightful.

Grilled Carne Asada

Today I opted for the 22” Weber kettle for some direct searing, using lump charcoal.

How I set up mine was to use two charcoal baskets as walls to hold the charcoal in the centre of the charcoal grate.

two charcoal baskets grill set up
We are using 2 charcoal baskets and some lump charcoal for this grill set up

I then filled a chimney starter with lump charcoal and lit it. Once it was fully ashed over, I dumped the charcoal between the charcoal baskets to create a perfect grilling area for the steaks.

I put the lid on and made sure all the vents were wide open, giving the grill about 10 minutes to heat up.

After 10 minutes, I placed the steaks directly over the hot coals. I tend to just keep flipping the steak, every 30 seconds to a minute. 

two skirt steaks on a Weber Kettle
Give the grill about 10 minutes to heat up before placing the steaks

It depends on how many flare ups you encounter. You will get a lot of smoke and some flare ups due to the oil content in the marinade, so just keep flipping the steaks and moving them around. Remember we want some charring but not burnt steaks.

The steaks will take between 6 and 10 minutes to cook, this will depend on the thickness of the steaks and how hot your coals are. Just keep an eye on the internal temp.

two skirt steaks on a grill with fire flare ups
Keep flipping the steaks on the grill until their internal temperature reaches 130°F – 140°F

I always use an instant read thermometer to check the temps of my steaks during the cook. Once these hit anywhere between 130°F and 140°F, they are ready to come off the heat for a rest.

Yes a rest, we have taken a lot of time getting these steaks to the grill, from trimming, making the marinade, allowing the steaks to soak up the flavors for a few hours and now grilling them, what is another 5 minutes to allow the steak fibres to relax and the juices to redistribute throughout the steak.

grilled skirt steaks resting on a wooden board
Rest your Carne Asada for 5 minutes to let the steak fibers relax before slicing it

The end result is so much better and the steak will not go cold, it is effectively still cooking when it comes off the grill. So it will still be hot 5 minutes later when it is time to slice it up.

When that time comes, slicing it across the grain is the way to go.

slicing grilled skirt steak
Section each steak first and then slice each piece across the grain

The grain on skirt steak runs across the steak, so you will have to section the steak first and then spin each piece around to start trimming it.

a slice of grilled skirt steak
Cut the steak into ¼ to ⅓ inch thick slices and enjoy!

Keep the slices thin, cut at roughly ¼ to ⅓ of an inch thick and you will have the perfect slices to enjoy. 

Carne Asada

Authentic Style Carne Asada

Skirt steak bathed in the cilantro-lime marinade and grilled over hot charcoal to make an authentic style Carne Asada.
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Marinate: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 701kcal
Author: Dean “Schuey” Schumann

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs skirt steak
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 lime zest and juice
  • 4 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt flakes
  • 1 tsp black pepper finely ground

Instructions

  • Trim the skirt steak, removing any silver skin and fat.
  • Put marinade ingredients into a container and mix thoroughly.
  • Add steak to marinade, make sure to fully cover and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or overnight.
  • Set up Weber to cook using high direct heat with lump charcoal.
  • Allow the grill to warm up for 10 minutes before cooking the steak.
  • Keep flipping steak every 30 seconds to a minute.
  • Keep moving steak if flare-ups begin.
  • Check the internal temp regularly with an instant read thermometer.
  • Remove from heat when internal temp of 130°F is reached.
  • Allow the steak to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
  • Cut the steak against the grain, with ¼ to ⅓ thick slices.
  • Enjoy.

To Serve:

  • On tacos
  • In bread rolls
  • As the main of a serving platter

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 701kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 62g | Fat: 48g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 179mg | Sodium: 774mg | Potassium: 909mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 199IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 6mg

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