What’s the most common reaction when someone says fajitas? Mmmmmmm!
It’s a meal that you hear as well as see – the sound of that sizzling steak is the first thing to catch your attention. Then there is the smell of that buttery, juicy beef, along with guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream. By the time the plate is set down, you have already got a tortilla in one hand and a fork in the other.
But there is an art to grilling a great fajita. It begins with the meat you select, the marinade you use, the way you grill, even the way you carve it. Here are a few tips on how to do it right.
- The cut of meat.
Fajitas are traditionally made with skirt steak, a thin flap of meat that hangs down near the front of the steer’s stomach. Skirt is the best cut of meat to use. It has a rougher texture that is well suited to absorb marinade. It also has a more buttery, beefy taste.
But these days, skirt may be a little harder to come by, so you may want to go with an alternative. Some chefs also recommend hanger and flap steaks. And don’t cut off too much of the fat before grilling it. It’s the fat that helps give it that wonderful taste.
Some chefs also suggest cutting the steak into five or six inch strips to make it easier to handle them on the grill.
- The marinade.
The best marinades, according to some chefs, have an oil ingredient, an acidic ingredient and a salty liquid.
The oil makes the marinade thicker and stickier, so it adheres better to the meat. The acidic ingredient – lime juice, for example -- helps to tenderize the meat. It also improves the flavor. The salty ingredient, such as soy sauce, also helps to tenderize the meat and to hold in liquid better.
- Duration of marinade.
Chefs recommend letting the meat marinate anywhere from three to 10 hours. Fewer, and the taste isn’t as good; more, and the meat gets a little too squishy.
Now, to the main event. Fajita experts say that if you want to grill a fajita, you have to make your grill as hot as possible. You have to really zap it with heat so that the outside of the meat gets nice and charred before the inside gets overcooked. One cook recommends making a pile of coals on one side of the grill to ramp up the heat. Cook until the steak is at least medium rare for the best taste and texture. The optimal temperature some recommend is 135 degrees F.
The grain of a skirt steak is easy to see. Chefs recommend cutting the steak against the grain rather than with it, because if you cut with the grain, the beef ends up being too chewy.
Has this post made you hungry for a great fajita? Good! Come on over to the Mattito’s location nearest you and enjoy that great, sizzling and delicious meal!