Carne Asada: 1 Secret Ingredient The Best Restaurants Use

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Carne asada is a classic, authentic Mexican recipe made with skirt or flank steak. Grilled to perfection over high heat and served in many dishes.

skirt steak and flank steak carne asada sliced

You’re walking the steaks out to the grill. You can’t wait until these babies are done because there is nothing like steak over an open fire. Why does my steak never taste like the restaurants?

There are a few practices restaurants do that we overlook. For example, in Argentina they only season with “sal” or salt because they source the best meat they can find.

I actually spoke with some of my Mexicans friends to learn they’re secret and amazingly it’s not even a Mexican thing.

Let’s dive into this recipe and I’ll show you exactly how they do it.

How To Make Carne Asada

Write these ingredients down first

  • Skirt or flank steak
  • Lime
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin powder
  • Salt & black pepper
  • Oil
  • Soy sauce

Please avoid these mistakes, helpful tips

  • Marinating is your best friend in this recipe. If you don’t have time for marinating the steak overnight it is fine to do it a few hours before. For the sake of flavor I strongly recommend you marinate the meat.
  • Choosing your cuts wisely. What I mean is how thick or big the steak is. Seasonings like chili powder and cumin will start to burn after a certain amount of time over high heat. If you choose a super thick cut then you risk there being a burnt flavor and not a charred flavor. If this happens, you can always sear the steak over the grill then bring up to temp in your oven.
  • If you do not have a grill such as charcoal or gas then a cast iron pan is perfect and will work just as well. Of course, there will be some flavors missing but the steak will still be great.
  • Be sure to slice the meat against the grain. The grain are the lines you see in the meat. Don’t cut with them you want to go in the opposite direction to keep the meat as tender as possible.
carne asada sliced with lime

Using fire to make the carne asada

  1. To start, the secret ingredient Mexican restaurants use is soy sauce. Yes, asian soy sauce! It brings a unique flavor and a perfect amount of salt to the meat. But, the meat will resemble the authentic carne asada steak we know and love.
  2. In a bowl the night before or at least 4 hours before you fire up the grill. Rub soy sauce then zest a lime all over the steak. Then, cover and sit in the refrigerator.
  3. Next, fire the grill up to a minimum of 400 degrees F. While the grill is heating finish marinating the steak.
  4. Make a rub with chili powder, cumin powder, black pepper and oil. Rub the steaks down with this rub. The oil will help protect the seasoning from burning so fast.
  5. Now, the grill should be up to temp. Lay the steaks over the grates and do not close the cover if there is one. Thin steaks should take 2-3 minutes each side for a nice medium-well. Note, a flank steak will take longer than a skirt from the thickness.
  6. Right before removing the steaks from the grill, baste them or brush them with some freshly squeezed lime juice. Remove the carne asada from the grill and allow to rest before serving.
  7. Quick tip, if the carne asada has a great char but is still not the temperature you want. Place in your oven until the internal temp is what you want.

Should you store the leftovers

This sort of recipe doesn’t tend to have leftovers. However, if the event comes you can store in the refrigerator 3-5 days. Meat keeps longer than veggies. Wrap in aluminum foil or place in sealed Tupperware. The steaks will also freeze well.

carne asada tacos with onion and cilantro

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does carne asada mean?

Thankful to say that I speak Spanish, carne asada are two words and not so much a phrase. Carne is meat in Spanish while asada means grilled. So, it means “meat grilled” which can be any cut of meat and not just beef which is “res” in latin america.

What kind of meat is carne asada?

For this recipe, it’s steak. And to make things easier when you visit Mexican restaurants it’s also steak. But, not just any steak. You’ll never see a ribeye being used. The cuts will always be flank and on some occasions you may find skirt steak. However, skirt is my favorite so I highly recommend it.

Do I need a grill? Can I cook carne asada indoors?

A grill provides a distinctive flavor but truly all you need is high heat to cook a great carne asada recipe. I recommend a cast iron pan because that’s what’s common and why you see fajitas brought out steaming on cast iron.

How do I serve carne asada?

The most classic way are tacos or even inside a burrito. A little onion, cilantro and lime are all you need and particularly a corn tortilla.

carne asada sliced with lime

Carne Asada

Carne asada is a classic, authentic Mexican recipe made with skirt or flank steak. Grilled to perfection over high heat and served in many dishes.
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Prep Time 4 hours
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 4 serving


  • 16 ounce steak (skirt steak or flank steak)
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  • In a bowl, rub steak down with soy sauce and a zested lime then cover for 4 hours or overnight. Remove steak from the refrigerator about an hour before cooking.
  • Before grilling marinade of oil, cumin, chili powder and black pepper. Rub steaks down and set aside until grill comes up to temp.
  • Bring grill to temperature of a minimum of 400°F. Anything over is fine.
  • Before putting the steaks on the grill squeeze the juice from a lime. You will baste the steak with lime while grilling.
  • Add the steak to the grill. The steak should take about 3 minutes to each side. Do not close the cover on the grill, leave it open.
  • when you do the first flip brush/baste lime juice across the top of the steak.
  • Remove steak from the grill after 6 minutes. The steak should be cooked through but if it isn't what you'd personally like place on a sheet pan in the oven at 400°F until the steak reaches and internal temp of your liking.
Keyword carne asada
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