Easy recipe for skirt steak tacos or arrachera tacos as they are called in Mexico. A very flavorful marinade and simple toppings help create the ultimate steak street tacos.
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Read on for recipe relevant information and step-by-step pictures (2 mins)
About These Arrachera Tacos & What Cut of Beef is Arrachera
In Mexico traditional arrachera tacos are made with thinly sliced marinated and grilled beef skirt steak.
The Spanish word arrachera typically means skirt steak but in certain regions it can be applied to flank steak. Both are popular carne asada cuts. This recipe supports the realm of the former – both the inside (the dominant and cheaper choice) and the outside skirt cuts.
We mix an authentic, brightly flavored marinade to impart flavor to the meat. It is citrus and aromatics heavy and uses easy to find ingredients, typical in Mexican cooking. Upon assembly of the tacos we keep the toppings to a robustly tasting minimum.
Skirt Steak for Tacos
In terms of rich beefy flavor skirt steak is one of the best endowed cuts of the animal.
There are two types depending on the primal section they come from and their role. You can learn the exact differences between them in this helpful post about Inside vs Outside Skirt Steak.
For the purposes of this recipe lets simply establish that the key difference between outside skirt and inside skirt is their tenderness. The former is known for its superb melt-in-your-mouth quality, while the inside skirt is much tougher and requires some love and attention to prepare.
How Do You Make Skirt Steak Tender?
There are several principal ways to tenderize inside skirt steak.
The first one is blade tenderization, also known as mechanical tenderization, in which the steak is passed through a machine equiped with steel needles. They pierce the muscle fibers and break them down a bit.
The second way is to rub the steak with salt which penetrates the surface and works its way towards the center, breaking up the proteins. This of course also salts the meat so the method should be used with caution.
A common third way is to use an acidic marinade, but it really only works on the surface of the meat.
Most inside skirt steak is sold already ‘needled’ at retail outlets and you do not need to do anything further, but a marinade is always helpful.
Outside skirt steak by its nature is already extremely tender and does not require manipulation of any sort.
Workflow for Skirt Steak Tacos
- First you will make the marinade and allow the skirt steak to bathe in.
- Before you cook it later that day you will prepare the caramelized onions and pico de gallo (if making your own).
- Shortly before you begin grilling the steak you should warm up the tortillas. If you have someone helping you the tortillas piece can be done while the meat is on the grill and the brief rest afterwards.
Marinade for Skirt Steak for Tacos
This is an authentic Mexican concotion for arrachera tacos. You do not have to use it with the very tender outside skirt, but if your arrachera meat is inside skirt, defnitely put it to work because the acid and salt in it will help denature the long proteins.
The combination of mild acidity from orange juice and limes is enhanced by white wine vinegar and together they comprise a flavorful backdrop for the aromatics and olive oil. Shown below are also the onions and corn tortillas you will need to accompany the skirt steak.
To make the marinade: Finely chop the cilantro leaves and deseeded jalapeno, mice the garlic and add them to a mixing bowl along with the dried Mexican oregano, salt and pepper, olive oil, lime juice, orange juice and vinegar. Mix to combine.
TIP: Refrigerate the marinated skirt steak for tacos for two hours and up to eight. Do not leave it in the marinade much longer than that.
Allow yourself an hour before you set out to grill the steak to prepare the onions and warm the tortillas. Be sure to slice the onions in half-moons as shown below and not too thinly.
To warm up the corn tortillas (flour tortillas can work too, but are not traditional) use the remaining olive oil from the prescribed recipe ingredients or, if you have it, bacon fat. Bacon fat imparts an incredibly rich flavor to corn tortillas and is the primary reason we always save the rendered fat when cooking bacon!
How to Cook Skirt Steak for Tacos on the Grill
- Remove the steak from the marinade mixture and pat it dry. The marinade should be discarded. Allow it to reach room temperature and if needed cut it in two parts.
- Grill over medium-hot gas or charcoal grill for about five minutes per side or until the meat reaches the temperature of your desired doneness. Flip only once.
- Allow the steak to rest before you slice it. Loosely tent it with foil to allow it to cook further and for the juices to get reabsorbed.
Cut the steak in two sections if one side is considerably thicker than the other. This makes it easier for you to grill each section to your desired doneness and you will not overcook one part while waiting for the other one to come to temperature.
The longer you cook it the tougher it will get. Medium-rare to medium is the preferred temperature range for skirt steak. Anything over that is not desirable – the meat will dry out.
Relevant temperature ranges. For medium-rare pull the steak off the grill when a meat thermometer registers around 125 F, while resting the temperature will easily reach 130-135 F. For medium, pull it around 135 F, it will reach 140-145 F after the tented rest.
How Do You Cut Skirt Steak for Tacos?
You cut skirt steak against the grain for a looser bite. This is especially important for the inside cut as it shortens the muscle fibers and the resulting slices are considerably easier to chew.
If the grain of your particular cut seems to be oriented slightly sideways try to angle your knife at about forty-five degrees to the direction it runs.
Serve the Arrachera Tacos
The traditional way to present these tacos is to fill a warmed corn tortilla with steak and caramelized onions and top it with a bit of pico de gallo or a fresh made salsa.
If you have the time to prepare a salsa borracha – it tastes incredibly good in place of the pico.
Some fresh cilantro for garnish is the aromatic complement of choice.
Toppings such as shredded cabbage, queso fresco, red onions, avocado and radishes will also be complementary but are not the authentic choice.
Best Beer Styles to Pair with Grilled Skirt Steak Tacos
What is a street taco without a beer?
We highly recommend dark Mexican lagers (cervezas oscuras) brewed in the style of Vienna (such as Dos Equis) or dunkel (such as Modelo Negra). Or you can simply buy a Vienna lager or Munich dunkel from your favorite craft brewery.
The richness of the caramely malty notes and the lower bitterness of these styles is excellent with grilled skirt steak. For a real treat make a spicy Michelada – no other beer cocktail pairs better with a steak taco!
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How to Cook Skirt Steak?
Skirt Steak Tacos (Arrachera Tacos)
Mexican skirt steak street tacos can be prepared with outside or inside skirt steak. The former is so tender that it requires no tenderization and marination is optional. The latter is tougher and can benefit from blade tenderization (typically done by the butcher before you purchase it) and a good soak in the authentic arrachera tacos marinade below.
Skirt Steak Tacos
- 2 lbs skirt steak*
- 3 medium onions (yellow or sweet)
- 12 corn tortillas
- 3 tbsp olive oil (to cook onions and warm up corn tortillas)**
Marinade for Skirt Steak for Tacos
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
- 2 limes, juice of
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- Make the marinade, Combine all the ingredients and mix them well. In a container for which you have a lid or a freezer bag place the skirt steak and add the marinade. Coat the meat well and refrigerate for 2 and up to 8 hours.***
- About an hour or so before you grill the steak prepare the onions. Slice them in half-circles, not too thinly. Saute them over medium-high heat with 1 tbsp olive oil. Turn the heat down to low and cook them for about 30 to 35 minutes until caramelized and sweet. If needed add a bit of water to the pan to keep them from sticking to the bottom and burning. Transfer to a bowl for serving.
- Take the steak out of the marinade, pat it dry and discard the marinade. Let come to room temperature while you heat the grill and warm up the tortillas. If needed cut the steak in two sections.****
- To warm up the corn tortillas use a small pan over medium heat. Add about half a teaspoon of olive oil at a time and warm up each tortilla until pliable. Keep warm for serving.
- Over a medium-hot grill cook the skirt steak for about 5 minutes per side, flipping once. Cook until it reaches the desired doneness.*****Remove the steak, place onto a board or platter and tent with foil. Rest for 10 minutes.
- Cut the skirt steak against the grain. Fill each tortilla with steak, caramelized onions and then top with pico de gallo or salsa. Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!
*Typically inside skirt is used. If you want to use the more expensive, but much superior in terms of tenderness outside skirt - by all means do so and enjoy! Make sure that any inside skirt steak you purchase has been blade tenderized. Learn more about Inside Skirt Steak vs Outside Skirt Steak.
**If you happen to have bacon fat on hand use it instead of the olive oil. The corn tortillas will taste divine!
***Do not soak in marinade longer than 8 hours.
****If the steak is thicker on one end it wil cook slower and the other end will overcook. In such a case it is better to divide it in two and cook each part to temperature on its own.
*****For medium-rare pull the steak off the grill when a meat thermometer registers around 125 F, while resting the temperature will easily reach 130-135 F. For medium, pull it around 135 F, it will reach 140-145 F after the tented rest.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 935Total Fat: 52gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 34gCholesterol: 135mgSodium: 345mgCarbohydrates: 54gFiber: 7gSugar: 13gProtein: 62g
Calories are for 3 tacos per serving.
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