I mean, that’s the dream right? A good Carne Asada marinade were created to transform tougher cuts of steak into splendid steak tacos. But is there a limit? What’s the threshold of acidity and spice when sized up against a cut of beef like chuck steak? I decided to find out.
I literally googled that and came across a great article from Spruce Eats you can read here. The broad strokes are that from the shoulder of the cow, where one finds chuck roast(great for stews), you can find decent steak cuts. Full service butcher shops will break this steak down into Chuck Eye steaks, Flat Irons and Petite Tenders. The first two are excellent steaks to cook for the money in my experience. The Petite, not my fav tbh.
The cut I got was essentially a catch all of those cuts plus some fat/gristle and plus some tougher cuts. It was also $5 for a 3/4lb slice. Time to find a marinade.
Asada: The Art of Mexican Grilling is a cookbook by Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral. I’ve followed Javier’s work for years when I was a fellow Los Angeles based food writer. This recipe hits all the notes of Carniceria style Carne Asada Marinade punch, down to the beer. If there was going to be any Carne Asada marinade that I thought could transform this cut into actual Carne Asada, it would be this.
*note: I subbed the spices in the marinade for a catch all Fajita spice rub from Traeger Grills. I love this rub and use it all the time when I grill flank steak for tacos.
The Carne Asada Marinade turned the Chuck Steak into a passable Carne Asada. For what it’s worth, I marinated for 24 hours which IMO was overkill. Especially with beer in there, I would say 6 hours is enough. When it comes to tenderizing the meat, the acidity of the marinade does do the job. Still, when I typically make Carne Asada, I tend to let the quality of steak, my salsas and the tortillas do the talking.
At almost $7 a pound I could have gotten my go to: grass fed flank steak for $10 a pound. That steak requires little besides a hot grill and plus a dry rub/salt & pepper. So was the effort of making this Carne Asada marinade on a $5 steak worth it? No. If I was cooking for a huge crowd, I could see myself going down this road again but the Chuck Steak I plucked from supermarket was the best of the lot. The rest looked a lot less marbled and kinda beat.
I would give this marinade a second run on inside skirt, which is tough enough to warrant this effort and can be far more flavorful if you upgrade to USDA Choice or grass fed or sourced from a farm.
I’ve never been one to pat dry meats after marinating them. I figure why not keep all that flavor in the marinade right? Well, it turns out that even if you pat dry the steak and ditch the excess marinade, the flavor remains and you get a way better sear. Even on a Traeger that doesn’t have an open flame under the cooking grate, you will get a good sear if you remove your meats from the marinade and pat them dry.
Definitely try this method and give the marinade a test drive. I think it could really sing if cooked over hardwood charcoal . . . if only it wasn’t triple digits right now.