The flavor of this Carne Asada is truly out of this world, and it’s an incredibly easy recipe to make. The fresh homemade marinade makes all the difference, and is flavored with citrus, garlic, cilantro, and spices. I’ll also share why I recommend using skirt steak for optimal flavor, which is the default cut of beef for this dish.
Carne asada is so good that I will literally eat the leftovers straight cold out of the fridge. It is one of my all-time favorite recipes and ways to make beef.
Carne asada translates to “grilled meat” and is usually marinated with fresh citrus juices of orange and lime, garlic, cilantro, and spices. Between the marinade and the cut of beef you use, it is incredibly flavorful, and one of my favorite things to make for company and celebrations.
What Kind of Meat to Use
Skirt steak is the classic type of beef to use for carne asada meat, though some people also use flank steak or flap steak. Skirt steak is a little tougher than these other cuts simply by nature, but it is cherished for its flavor, not its tenderness. And so long as you don’t overcook it, it is quite enjoyable.
I have recipe tested all three cuts here for the best carne asada steak, and I personally think skirt steak is the superior choice. There’s a reason it’s the default cut.
How to Make the Marinade
In a blender jar (or food processor), combine fresh orange juice, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, jalapeno, chili powder, ancho chili powder (you can just sub more chili powder if you don’t have it), cumin, coriander, and salt.
Then blend it up:
No blender? You can make the marinade by hand, but it will involve more chopping. You’ll need to mince the garlic and jalapeno finely, and finely chop the cilantro. It won’t be quite the same, but close enough, and still delicious.
I’ll also comment that unlike many recipes, I don’t use soy sauce here in the marinade ingredients. It’s not an authentic ingredient in this realm of cooking, and there’s plenty of umami without it.
Cut the Skirt Steak
If you look at the photo below, the blue lines show the grain of the meat. When you serve, you will want to cut where the green lines are, which is against the grain of the muscle fibers. This will make for a less chewy, more tender eating experience.
As you can see, the green slices would be very long if you kept the entire piece of skirt steak intact. The pieces from the store are usually at least a foot long, so I like to cut it into pieces about 6″ long.
Make sure when you do this, that you cut WITH the grain, the same direction the blue lines are going in.
Add the Marinade to the Meat
Place the skirt steak in a plastic bag and pour the carne asada marinade inside.
Marinate ideally for 18-24 hours, but for a minimum of 8 hours.
I know this is a long time, but if you’re not going to let the flavors permeate the meat, there’s not really a point to bothering with the recipe. Time is an essential player here for yielding a flavorful carne asada.
Cook the Meat (Grilling vs Other Methods)
Grilling carne asada is the superior choice, so if you have an outdoor grill, that’s the cooking method you’ll want to use to prepare this.
Here I use a gas grill, but a charcoal grill is fine too as long as you aim for the same temperature. I will offer other cooking methods below.
Preheat the grill for at least 10 minutes, until it’s at least 600F inside (medium-high heat).
Then add the marinated steak to the hot grill, close the lid, and let it sit for 90 seconds.
Open the lid, and the meat should have some good sear marks underneath from the hot grill grates. Now turn the meat 90 degrees, close the lid, and keep cooking it on the same side. This gives you more caramelization on that first side.
Flip the pieces over, and repeat the cook and turn on the other side.
Then you can begin checking the temperature of the pieces of meat using an instant read thermometer.
You can see below that I had a bit of variation in thickness between the pieces. The smaller pieces were done, but the thicker pieces still needed more time. Precise instructions for cooking all the pieces are in the recipe box.
Once each carne asada steak piece is 120F inside, measured with a meat thermometer, pull it off the grill and set on a plate or rack. The internal temperature will rise another 5-10 degrees from carryover cooking.
For best results, let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
Don’t have a grill?
The next best option would be a grill pan on the stove, or a plug-in grill plate. My father in law gave me this indoor grill (affiliate) for Christmas years ago, and it worked far better than I expected. You could also pan-sear the steaks in a skillet (cast iron skillet recommended), but you’ll need to add some cooking fat to the pan first, like tallow or ghee.
How to Properly Slice the Skirt Steak
Remember from the image above where I showed that you want to cut against the grain?
You can see here that the grain runs from left to right. You can see the lines or fibers of the meat running that way, which is why I’m cutting the opposite way.
Aim for relatively thin slices for maximum tenderness in chewing.
Sides that Pair Well
We usually enjoy the steak on its own, but it is also wonderful as carne asada tacos using thin cut steak, corn tortillas, cotija cheese, onion, and tomato. You can also add fresh pico de gallo, sour cream, refried beans, or your other favorite fixings.
Here are more suggested carne asada sides:
Above all, make sure to serve the beef promptly, as it will taste best while it’s warm. Enjoy!
Recipe Tips and FAQ:
Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
First, I love eating it cold, straight out of the fridge. It reminds me of roast beef that you’d get from the deli, but more flavorful. But if you want to reheat, place in a 300F oven for 10 minutes, until warmed through, but still pink. Make sure you don’t cook the pink away.
Yes, like most other beef recipes, it freezes well. After cooking, let the beef cool to room temperature (about 15 minutes), then store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
I would say so, but it depends on your diet. This recipe is Whole30 compliant, paleo, dairy-free, gluten-free, low carb, and keto.
I don’t recommend this. Lemon beef is weird.
Carne Asada with Marinade
For the Carne Asada:
- ¼ cup orange juice (freshly squeezed preferred)
- ¼ cup lime juice (freshly squeezed preferred)
- 2 tbsp olive oil or other neutral oil of choice
- 6 large garlic cloves peeled
- 1 packed cup cilantro (you can include the stems along with the leaves)
- ½ seeded jalapeno** (ends up being about 2 tbsp chopped)
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp ancho chili powder (or sub more chili powder)
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp ground coriander optional
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2.25 lbs skirt steak*
- If you have a blender (or food processor): Combine all the ingredients except the skirt steak (the orange juice, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, jalapeno, chili powder, ancho chili powder, cumin, coriander, and salt) in the blender jar. Blend for about 30 seconds on high speed, to puree the ingredients.
- To make the marinade without a machine: You will combine all the ingredients except the skirt steak as well, but you will need to chop everything by hand. Mince the garlic and jalapeno as finely as you can, and finely chop the cilantro. I recommend only using the leaves in this case.
- Prep the skirt steak: When you buy skirt steak from the butcher, it will likely come in long pieces over a foot long. I recommend cutting these into smaller pieces now, about 6" in length. Cut with the grain (see blog photo).
- Marinate: Place the skirt steak in a plastic ziptop bag and add all of the marinade. Toss well to combine and make sure the steak is completely coated on all sides. Refrigerate for ideally 18-24 hours. I would say the bare minimum is 8 hours, but a day ahead is noticeably better.
- Cook: Preheat at least two burners of the grill on high for 10 minutes, to get the temperature up to a minimum of 600F. In the meantime, remove the carne asada from the marinade and place on paper towels to absorb excess liquid. There shouldn't be a ton of excess marinade anyway, but I recommend discarding it. I have tried cooking it to serve along with the beef, but in my opinion it's completely unnecessary and does not add anything to the dish.
- Once the grill is preheated, add all of the skirt steak and promptly close the lid. There should be no need to oil the grill or the meat here, so long as the grill has well-seasoned cast iron grates and is at least 600F. I personally don't have issues with sticking, and like to avoid oiling the meat to prevent flareups.
- Let the skirt steak cook with the lid closed for 90 seconds, then open the lid, and turn each piece of steak 90 degrees. Close the lid and let cook for another 90 seconds.
- Flip each piece of meat over and again close the lid for 90 seconds. Turn each pieces 90 degrees, and cook for another minute.
- Begin checking the temperature of the steaks. Because skirt steak is chewy by nature, I like to serve it rare and pull it off the grill at 120F. The thinner pieces will likely be done, but if you have thicker pieces, they may need further cooking. Flip again, close the lid, and keep cooking in 90 second intervals, rechecking the internal temperature as needed.
- Remove the skirt steak to a plate or rack, and let rest for 5 minutes. Then slice and serve promptly. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.