What Are Steak Tacos?
Grilled steak tacos are an impressive addition to your weeknight rotation—and incredibly easy to pull off with top-notch fresh ingredients.
The state of Sonora in northern Mexico is cattle-raising country, and carne asada tacos (grilled meat) have their roots there. The meat is most often the ranchera, or flap steak, from beef short loin, though you can also use flank steak or skirt steak. It is marinated and grilled over charcoal, then chopped and cooked further on a flattop or stovetop grill pan before it’s served in a flour tortilla.
If you’ll be marinating the meat before grilling, let it hang out in a shallow baking dish for a least a few hours in the fridge prior to cooking, ideally 2–3 hours.
How to Make Steak Taco Marinade
A good marinade is a little like jazz: It’s all about your personal sense of rhythm, preference, and experimentation. You’ll need to fine-tune the ratios each time, so start conservative (a teaspoon or so of each, depending on how much steak you’ll be using) and eventually ramp up the flavors you like best. Start with these core flavor notes:
1. Ground cumin: Earthy, floral cumin is integral to Mexican cuisine.
2. Chile powder: A chile powder like paprika, cayenne, or chipotle brings heat.
3. Garlic and herbs: Add the sharp allium spice from garlic powder and a low-lying vegetal note with a dried herb like oregano.
4. Acid: Consider a splash of citrus juice like lemon, lime, or orange to help break down the meat fibers and lock in a juicy texture
5. Salt and pepper: Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Alternatively, you can add a note of salty umami with soy sauce.
Whisk together your chosen ingredients with a ¼ cup of olive oil until smooth and pour over the steak in a shallow baking dish. Cover and refrigerate, flipping halfway through to ensure an even distribution.
Steak Taco Recipe
Prep Time3 hr
Total Time3 hr 15 min
Cook Time15 min
- 1.5 pounds flank steak, sirloin steak, or skirt steak
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 8–10 small flour tortillas (if using corn tortillas, you may want to double up to prevent tearing)
- If you’ve chosen to marinate your steak, remove the steak from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. If not marinating, season both sides of meat with salt and pepper and allow to sit for one hour at room temperature.
- Heat grill or grill pan to high heat. Brush the grates with olive oil. Using a pair of tongs, remove steak from marinade, and gently shake off any excess. Sear for 3–4 minutes on each side (resist the temptation to move it or check the crust—when the meat lifts away easily from the cooking surface, it’s ready) until cooked to preferred doneness. You’re looking for a crispy, charred exterior and perfectly cooked interior: If that means medium-rare to you, that’s an internal temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove from heat and place steak on a clean cutting board for 10–15 minutes to rest. This will allow all the juices to be reabsorbed before you slice.
- While the steak rests, turn off the grill and warm tortillas directly on the grates. Remove when soft and pliable and beginning to very lightly char, flipping once using a pair of tongs. If using a grill pan, heat tortillas on the pan over medium-high heat, or, if using a gas stove, char directly on stovetop grates for a few seconds on either side, adjusting the flame levels as necessary. Keep warm in a clean dish towel until ready to eat.
- Slice the steak across the grain into thin slices. Place a few slices into a warm tortilla and top with your choice of garnish.
Accompany your tacos with anything from salsa verde, pico de gallo, a dollop of sour cream or crema, guacamole, fresh lime wedges, or chopped onions and fresh cilantro with sliced radishes on the side. It’s your taco—dress it up how you like. Try this recipe for salsa verde from chef Gabriela Camara of Mexico City’s Contramar.
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