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My Great Street Taco Experiment

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    My Great Street Taco Experiment

    Years ago, I was very privileged to travel to Cancun, Mexico and stay at an all-inclusive resort for four days. (Arguably the best part about this was that it cost me nothing as it was a business trip.)

    In the middle of the resort was a taco stand that served what I now know are called "street tacos." They are amazing in their simplicity: corn tortillas, topped with fajita meat, diced onion, cilantro, and that's it. They were absolutely delicious and I ate so much of those over that trip I felt embarrassed.

    I've often wanted to try to recreate this at home, but skirt steak flummoxes me. I either overcook or undercook it. Or it's stupidly chewy.

    I've decided to revisit this and see how close I can get. Tonight was experiment number one: a piece of inside skirt steak seasoned with just salt. This was to be my baseline. (A great deal of skirt steak recipes are marinated.)

    It came out better than I expected. I got my cast iron pan up to 500-525 F and after a dash of avocado oil, placed the steak in the pan.

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    Ninety seconds later, I flipped. Decent crust, I think, for my first time doing this.

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    After an additional ninety seconds, I pulled it off to rest for a moment while I heated up the corn tortillas.

    I then cut the steak into 1/2" cubes and put them in the tacos, topping with white onion and cilantro.

    The steak was a bit rarer than I would have liked, basically on the rare side of medium-rare. I can see why people want to take this cut of meat to medium. When rare, it is chewy, even in 1/2" cubes. (The more well-done pieces were not chewy at all, but they were....well, well-done.)

    So the next iteration is to marinate the remaining half of the skirt steak (soy sauce, lime juice, oregano) overnight and cook it slightly longer, perhaps two minutes a side and see how that works out.

    Oh, here's the plating of the first iteration. Even with the chewy bits, it was very good.

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    That sounds like a fun set of experiments.


      Yummy. Sign me up for your next go round.


        Use outside skirt steaks, not inside. They'll be a lot better.


        • Draznnl
          Draznnl commented
          Editing a comment

        • Michael_in_TX
          Michael_in_TX commented
          Editing a comment
          That is what everyone on the interwebs says! Local store doesn't carry it, but I have not checked out the local meat markets yet.

        • jfmorris
          jfmorris commented
          Editing a comment
          I've noticed that Sam's and other places I buy meat tend too only have the inside skirt steak. I bought some once, and the wife cut it up and made beed stew out of it before I knew what had happened - I had bought it for fajitas!

        The skirt steak I bought was about a pound and I cut it in half. It looks like the portion I used tonight was the thinner of the two halves. So I definitely will be doing two minutes per side tomorrow.

        The current remaining half is currently taking a bath in a 2:1:1 mixture of canola oil, lime juice, and soy sauce....with some cumin and ancho chili powder thrown in.

        The experiment continues.


          (Ack, I was not thinking. This marinade has lime juice in it. It's been two hours. I gotta cook this. This is going to be one heck of a midnight snack.)


          • mnavarre
            mnavarre commented
            Editing a comment
            Nope. The oil is going to slow down anything that the citrus and soy sauce will do.

          Update.....I mean, if you aren't cooking fajitas at 12:30 in the morning, are you even living your best life?

          (Okay, this got a bit ridiculous. lol.)

          First off, the marinade made a huge difference. I was shocked at how much a difference it made in just two hours. Night and day compared to the just salted version I made hours earlier.

          I also got the doneness a bit better. This was the thicker half, and I did two minutes a side, but the interior was still 70 F, so I basically flipped it every thirty seconds until the interior got to 130 F.

          Pretty, isn't it?

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          I let it rest for a bit (actually should have let it rest for more than a bit) and cut it into 1/2" cubes like I did the previous one. I did the same taco treatment: raw onions and cilantro.

          The marinade made a huge difference in flavor. But still, this was a tough cut of meat. Very chewy.

          Thinking of where I should go next.....


          • ilooklikeelvis
            ilooklikeelvis commented
            Editing a comment
            That looks awesome!

          1/2" with the grain (as in your cubes) is too much, in my opinion. I would suggest thinner strips (~1/4") across the grain.


          • jfmorris
            jfmorris commented
            Editing a comment
            Agreed. When I am cutting flank (or inside skirt) I cut it thin at an angle across the grain, probably less than 1/4 inch thick strips.

          • shify
            shify commented
            Editing a comment
            Exactly. Cut across the grain, maybe 1/4 inch thick or less. Plus, unless I want it to look prettier, I cut straight up and down vs. at an angle which makes it slightly more tender, as well (shorter length of the muscle fibers by cutting vertically rather than at an angle)

          • wu7y
            wu7y commented
            Editing a comment
            This is my experience as well. I've done fajitas with both flank and skirt steak. I have always cut it cross grain and as thin is I can get it. I like it on the rare side of medium rare but that's just me. As long as it is not cooked past medium (very slight pink) it should avoid the chewiness.

          Tacos!!!!!!! Taco Tuesday any day!

          I’d take that, they both look great, but yes, medium seems to be better. And lots of seasonings and sauces you can pair with these. And like you did, the Asian flavor profile is wonderful! Can take you into a completely different area.

          Hope you enjoy breakfast tacos!



            This will do about 5 lbs. of outside skirt steaks. Taking it an Asian way.

            1 cup brown sugar, packed
            1 cup soy sauce
            ½ cup water
            ¼ cup mirin (rice wine)
            1 small onion, peeled and finely grated
            1 small Asian pear, peeled and finely grated
            4 Tbs. minced garlic
            2 Tbs. dark sesame oil
            ¼ tsp. black pepper
            2 green onions, thinly sliced (optional)

            1. Sprinkle brown sugar over beef and rub well to evenly coat. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes while preparing the marinade.
            2. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Transfer beef into a large sealable freezer bag (you may need 2).
            3. Add marinade, press out excess air from bags and seal. Turn bag over several times to ensure beef is evenly coated. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably over night.
            4. Cook at 350-400 degrees over direct heat for 10 to 15 minutes a side or desired doneness. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions, if desired


              I am not sure if it is available locally for you. However. I have always bought skirt steak at the local Mexican grocery store and it comes in long strips of meat maybe 1/4 inch thick with each strip roughly the width and length of a rack of ribs though some can be longer and they will tenderize it for me. It have been ablle to find it in CA and IL.

              I marinate it overnight with a Goya marinade. I then sear it until the edges of the meat are crispy and it is reddish and beginning to char all over. We cut it up using scissors and serve in tacos with our favorite toppings. Usually, onion, cilantro and avacado salsa.

              Long story short, it should not be chewy or that thick. I would definitely try and cut it thinner.


                Maybe try flap meat. Usually much thinner. That's all I use for carne asada. Definitely should chop in to smaller pieces than 1/2".


                  That is exactly what I made for dinner for the family last night..... street tacos. Small corn tortillas, grilled flap meat, diced white onion and cilantro and a splash of chile verde and hot sauce. Delicious


                    You could also try flank steak. That's what i used recently in Troutman's Tacos al Carbon recipe. Was very tender.


                      Okay, you've already gotten the advice to try for outside skirts, which are much better than inside skirts.
                      You've already been told about slicing rather than cubing, and against the grain...

                      I have two further ideas.

                      One is from ChefSteps... filet the skirt steak to make it thinner. It will take marinade faster, and it will grill with more crispy deliciousness.

                      The other is really to slice it on a bias. I dunno where I got this idea from, but I've found that a 30-45* angle from vertical makes a lot of difference, and makes prettier slices. They don't have to be super thin, in fact, Rick Bayless does them a bit thick...

                      Last thing is, you can really just season it with salt, and then serve it with salsa, some raw onions, a bit of cilantro, and a lime wedge and call it finished. Because of the high heat, nearly anything you put on it other than salt is liable to burn.



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