Photo Credit: Leite’s Culinaria
The best steak fajita or taco meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender, juicy, and retains all of that charred flavor that makes this steaming hot Tex Mex classic so delicious. The moment you see that steaming plate headed your way, you know you’re in for a treat.
So how do you capture that same magic at home? Half the battle is choosing the right piece of meat to use. We’re going to go over our favorite steaks for fajitas/tacos and then answer some common questions about making steak fajitas.
Golden rules for picking the right fajita/taco steak
Whenever you’re choosing a steak for any meal, you want to think about how you’re going to prepare it, and what you’re going to serve it with. Here are a few guidelines to follow:
- Rule #1: You want a steak that can be easily sliced into thin strips.
- Rule #2: You don’t want a steak that is overly marbled (fajita meats are typically lean).
- Rule #3: You want a steak that takes well to a marinade.
- Rule #4: The beefier the flavor, the better. This way the steak doesn’t get buried by the other ingredients it’s eaten with.
As long as you stick within these boundaries and cook it correctly (more on that below), you’ll be set. That said, there are a lot of options for steaks. Here are our favorite fajita or taco steaks!
The absolute best steak for fajitas or tacos
1. Skirt Steak
Skirt steaks are the most common choice for fajitas and tacos, and for good reason. They have a unique, beefy flavor, and are cost-friendly. They’re also prized for their unique flavor, are easy to cook, are perfectly lean, and are a perfect match for a good marinade.
Skirt steaks are taken from the area of the cattle known as the plate, which is a belly cut found just below the ribs. Our skirt steaks are 100% grass-fed, grass-finished, and guaranteed to be a hit at your weeknight dinner or weekend grill out.
Get the perfect skirt steak for your fajitas delivered straight to your door.
2. Flank steak
Flank steaks are similar to skirt steaks but are slightly less tender and have a little less of that classic, skirt steak beef flavor. This is a thin cut as well, making them ideal for slicing into fajita or taco strips.
Flank is taken from the bottom area of a cow’s abdominals, which is why it’s a little tougher than skirt steak. In general, the muscles that are used least in a cow are the most tender. That’s why cuts like filet mignon are so tender and coveted — they weren’t subject to much work during the cow’s lifetime!
US Wellness Meats proudly partnered with a group of elite grass farmers from the island of Tasmania for flank steaks in particular. Tasmania is a cattle utopia due to its year-round maritime climate, and its air quality is recognized as the gold standard for purity. When you combine that environment with strict grass-fed and organic practices, you end up with the best flank steak on the globe, bar none.
Bring elite flank steak from the Island of Tasmania to your home.
Ribeye is a step outside of the usual fajita direction, but if you’re looking to really impress your guests and put a clever spin on fajitas, then this is the cut for you. Cut from the upper back of the cow, this steak is famously tender. You’ll have to spend a bit more time cooking and slicing it to achieve those classic fajita strips, but the effort is well worth it.
The hearty flavor of a gourmet, grass-fed ribeye steak is hard to beat, and the perfect marbling found within ribeyes has elevated it to the top of the world’s most desired cuts.
Bring this champion ribeye steak straight to your grill.
4. New York Strip Steak
If you want to put a slightly more American spin on your fajitas, then using a New York Strip Streak is your best bet. Cut from the part of the back on a cow known as the short loin, New York Strip Steaks are a popular and versatile steak.
Pair this with a homemade chipotle BBQ sauce, jalapenos, and sharp cheddar for a really clever American spin. The aroma of a NY strip steak is legendary, and you’re bound to be the king or queen of the kitchen as soon as this steak starts to sizzle and pop on your grill.
Try our 100% grass-fed New York Strip Steaks.
5. Hanger Steak
Hanger steaks are so renowned for their flavor that they are sometimes referred to as Butcher’s Steaks because butchers used to keep this cut for themselves instead of selling it. Traditionally an east coast cut, hanger steaks are similar to flank steaks in both texture and flavor, and this makes them an ideal substitute in fajitas and tacos. They tend to be a bit tough, so make sure you spend the time to properly marinate them, but when cooked correctly they are delightful.
Bring the East Coast’s favorite hanger steak to your kitchen.
There you have it! If you choose any of those cuts above, you’re bound to end up with a delicious meal. Just make sure you take the time to properly prepare and cook your cut!
Answers to 14 common questions about cooking steak tacos and fajitas from the US Wellness Meats’ experts.
1. How do you make sure you cook your fajita or taco steak perfectly?
Here’s exactly how to cook your steak:
- Marinate your cut from 1 to 8 hours before cooking. Try to keep it at the longer end of that range, but any longer than eight hours and the acid will start to break down the steak too much.
- Lightly cover your steak with oil before dropping it on your grill or cast iron to prevent sticking.
- Do not flip the steak more than once.
- Use a thermometer to get the exact style you want. 5 minutes on each side is a good place to start for most steaks around a pound if you’re feeling more daring!
As a reminder, here are the temperature ranges for steaks:
- Rare: 130 degrees
- Medium-rare: 135 degrees
- Medium: 145 degrees
- Medium-well: 150 degrees
- Well-done: 160 degrees
Note: your steak will continue to cook when you take it off the grill, so take it off 2-3 degrees before your desired temperature!
2. Which is better for tacos, flank or skirt steak?
We outlined this in detail at the top, but both are fantastic options. If you want the beefiest, most traditional option, then pick up a skirt steak!
3. Should I marinate my steak?
Yes. Do not skip this step! You should shoot for a minimum of 1 hour, and an ideal window is between 5-7 hours. A good marinade imbues the steak with wonderful flavors and tenderizes the meat, which is how good restaurants make their fajitas so tender.
4. What goes in a typical steak fajita or taco marinade?
All you need for a good marinade is:
- Fresh citrus juice (lime, orange, or pineapple)
- Chili powder
Pro tip: Limes start to become a bit bitter after 2 or so solid juice presses, so try not to extract every last bit of juice from the lime if you want to optimize flavor.
5. How do you cut steak for fajitas?
Cut the meat after the steak is cooked. This keeps the inside of the meat more tender and helps prevent overcooking. The key to a tender cut is to cut across the grain. The grain is simply the collection of protein fibers that look like a series of horizontal lines going across the meat. By cutting these protein “cords”, you snap those fibers and relax the meat, resulting in more tender slices of meat.
6. What kind of steak do Mexican restaurants use?
They usually use skirt steak.
7. What cut of meat is carne asada?
This is also commonly made from skirt steak!
8. What oil should I use when grilling steak for fajitas?
Neutral oil. This means canola or vegetable. Olive has a lower burn point and carries a stronger taste, so if you want to prioritize the flavor of the beef and marinade, then avoid using oils with strong flavors like olive.
9. What’s the best seasoning for steak tacos or fajitas?
The best practices for fajita steak seasoning are:
- Keep it simple.
- Use the freshest seasoning possible. Toasting cumin seeds and then grinding them up will offer the best flavor possible.
Usually fajitas and taco meats are flavored with the following:
- Chili powder
10. Can you slice skirt steak before cooking?
You can, but we don’t recommend it if you have time for a proper marinade. Waiting to cut the meat results in a better texture!
11. How long do you cook skirt steak?
That depends on the thickness, but usually five minutes on each side over a hot grill is a safe bet. Pick up a digital thermometer and get it to your preferred temperature — that will always give you the best results.
12. Should I let it rest after cooking?
Yes. Steaks are still cooking when you take them off the grill, so you want to take them off a few degrees before your desired temperature and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing. This lets the steak finish cooking and gives the juices time to permeate throughout the meat.
13. Should I flip it often while it’s cooking?
No! Ideally, you only flip the steak one time. You want to trap the juices in and avoid moving the steak as much as possible. This prioritizes tenderness.
14. What if I don’t have a grill?
You don’t have to have a grill to make steak for fajitas or tacos, but you will lose that classic grill flavor. Cast-iron is your next best bet.
The best steak fajitas and tacos start with choosing the best cut
Half the battle is won by choosing the best ingredients. If you start with a good cut, it’s hard to go wrong. The best meats are grass-fed, raised humanely, expertly cut, and delivered fresh.
US Wellness Meats was founded in 2000 in Monticello, Missouri (pop. 98) by visionary farmers, who saw that big-business cattle-raising practices were taking a toll on our animals and our health. By returning to rotational grazing practices that are good for the planet and good for our cattle, we led the way in introducing a new generation to the unmatched taste, tenderness, and healthiness of grass-fed beef.
Experience the tastiest and most humanely-raised cattle America has to offer.
Nathan Phelps is a writer, ethical foodie, and outdoors-aficionado hailing from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.