The Best Type Of Steak To Use For Your Fajitas

When we asked Chef Roberto Santibañez what the best cut of beef for steak fajitas is, he didn't hesitate. "You want to use a nice fatty cut like skirt steak," answered the Mexico City native, cookbook author, and owner of Washington, D.C.'s Mi Vida and NYC's Fonda restaurants. We couldn't agree more. With its unique combination of marbling, thickness, and surface area, skirt steak proves to be the top choice for steak fajitas.

Unlike leaner beef cuts, skirt steak boasts enough intramuscular fat to deliver that rich, beefy flavor that's essential for a fajita. That fat also allows the skirt steak to maintain moisture during the grilling process, ensuring that each bite is juicy and bursting with flavor. Moreover, skirt steak's ample surface area makes it an ideal canvas for absorbing marinades. Whether you prefer a zesty citrus blend, a smoky chipotle infusion, or a classic garlic and herb concoction, skirt steak eagerly soaks up these flavors. The marinade penetrates the meat, infusing it with a depth of flavor that elevates the fajita experience.

For those who love the smokiness and char that grilling imparts, skirt steak's relative thinness allows for quick and even cooking, producing a serious sear on the outside while maintaining a perfect medium rare on the inside. The result? A mouthwatering fajita that cooks quickly and balances tenderness, juiciness, and that irresistible grilled flavor.

Grilling up greatness

Despite the fact that it is a top-tier choice for steak fajitas, there are still some techniques and tips that you need to keep in mind when cooking skirt steak for optimal results. First, you'll notice as soon as you lay eyes on the meat that it has a definitive grain pattern, and that's a good thing because it tells you exactly how to slice the meat. When the steak comes off the heat, slice it thin against the grain which breaks up the muscle fibers; slicing with the grain leads to tough, chewy steak.

Second, the marinade you choose has a big impact on the meat, but not just in terms of flavor. Citrus and pineapple juices contain compounds that tenderize meat by breaking down muscle fibers. Consider adding one or both — even if only in small amounts — for steak with a fruity zip and tender mouthfeel. While skirt steak undeniably reigns supreme in the realm of fajitas, its popularity has led to a rise in price over the years. 

For fajita enthusiasts seeking a less-pricey cut of beef, an excellent alternative exists in the form of flank steak. Although it may lack the intense marbling and depth of flavor found in skirt steak, flank steak remains a fantastic affordable substitute. With a similar thinness and ample surface area, flank steak grills up beautifully, providing a satisfying bite that, when paired with the right marinade, can rival the excellence of skirt steak.