What’s the best steak for fajitas? And if you can’t find that type, are there any other options? You’re in luck—steak fajitas taste great no matter what type of meat you use, but some are a better fit texture-wise. Let’s find out which ones those are.
Best Steak for Fajitas
Skirt steak is the best steak for fajitas, but if you can’t find it, flank steak is a close second. Flap steak and hanger steak, also known as the “butcher’s cut,” are decent options as well.
What To Look For
The cuts that make the best fajitas will cook quickly over high heat while retaining plenty of moisture. They should be relatively tender to begin with—a naturally tough cut like chuck isn’t the answer—with bold, beefy flavor.
It’s also nice if the steak takes well to marinades. You don’t have to marinate the steak for fajitas, but I think they taste better if you do. Even an hour or two in the marinade will work wonders in terms of flavor and tenderness.
Best Steak for Fajitas: A Guide
There are a few different cuts that fit the bill. That makes it easy to shop for steak when fajitas are on the menu—you have several options, and your grocery store is bound to carry at least one of them.
I’ve started with my favorite, the skirt steak, and worked my way down the list. Look for skirt steak first, and if you can’t find it, feel free to substitute one of the others.
The skirt steak is taken from the lower portion of the steer, close to the flank and the brisket. Some home chefs avoid it because it can be tough and chewy when not prepared correctly, but if you know what you’re doing, the results are top-notch.
When grilled over high heat and sliced across the grain, skirt steak has a rich flavor and a texture that’s ideal for fajitas. The meat might not be butter-soft like a filet mignon, but that’s not what you’re looking for anyway.
Fair warning: The price tag on skirt steak could scare you off a bit. It’s an economical choice when compared to cuts like ribeye and porterhouse, but still pricier than most of the other cuts listed here. Shoppers on a budget might want to consider another option.
The flank is an excellent cut for the grill anyway, but it’s particularly nice when paired with tortillas and salsa. Its robust flavor and thick grain make it ideal for fajitas.
A word about that grain: It can make the steak come out tough if you don’t carve it right. As soon as the steak comes off the grill, locate the grain and make sure to cut the slices perpendicular to it. Slice it thinly for best results.
The hanger is sometimes called the “butcher’s cut” because the butcher would often take this tasty steak home for himself instead of putting it out for sale. It comes from the plate, which is located in the belly of the animal.
Hanger steak has a pleasantly chewy texture and a great deal of rich beef flavor. If you carve it crosswise into slices and then carve those slices into strips, they make for a wonderful fajita filling.
Here’s a fun fact: In some parts of Mexico and even in the US, the hanger steak is actually referred to as a fajita.
Also known as a bavette, ranchera or arrachera, the flap steak makes a decent substitute for skirt or flank steak when making fajitas. It comes from the bottom sirloin and can be chewy and fibrous, so slicing it thinly is the way to go.
Steaks to Avoid
As I mentioned, you can make fajitas out of many different cuts. But the ones discussed above are the best options.
Don’t ruin a nice tenderloin steak by smothering it in cheese and salsa. When you’ve spent good money on filet mignon, you want it to be the star of the show. Ditto for ribeye, T-bone, and porterhouse.
Now that you’ve selected the proper cut of meat, you’ll need to know how to prepare it. Here are a few key rules to follow.
—Grill it hot and fast. The grill temp should be about 500 degrees, and you’re aiming for an internal temperature of 130-135 degrees for the steak. If you cook the meat past medium, it will be too tough.
—Slice against the grain. This can’t be stated enough. Cutting the meat in the same direction as the fibers will result in unpleasantly chewy mouthfuls.
—Carve into 1/4-inch strips at a 90-degree angle.
Recipe for Steak Fajitas
For this recipe, I like to use a flat-top grill. If you don’t have one and you’d still like to cook the meat outside, set a cast iron or sheet pan over your cooking grates.
For the Marinade:
- 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup tequila
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil (such as peanut or canola)
- For the Fajitas:
- 2 pounds skirt or flank steak
- 1 yellow onion, sliced
- 1 green pepper, sliced
- 1 red pepper, sliced
- Flour tortillas
- Shredded cheese (Monterey jack, pepper jack, cheddar, or a combination)
1. Make the marinade. Combine lime juice, tequila, garlic, cumin, oregano, and red pepper flake in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk in the oil until ingredients are well blended.
2. Trim the steak, if necessary, and slice it against the grain into strips measuring about 1/4-inch thick.
3. Add the steak strips to a glass roasting pan or other nonreactive container. Pour the marinade over the steak and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.
4. When you’re ready to start cooking, take the steak out of the marinade and pat it dry. Allow the meat to come to room temperature for up to 1 hour.
5. Set the grill to high. When it’s achieved a temperature of 500 degrees, add a small amount of neutral oil to the surface.
6. Grill the onions and peppers for about 30 seconds, or until crisp-tender. Remove them to a warming burner or plate while you cook the steak.
7. Add the strips of steak to the cooking surface, adding more oil if necessary. Allow the meat to cook, tossing the strips with a spatula, for about 5 minutes.
8. At this point, the strips should have cooked to about 130-135 degrees. Toss in the veggies, then remove everything from the heat.
9. Turn the grill off. Warm the tortillas for about 30 seconds per side, until they’re warm and pliable.
10. Serve the grilled steak and veggies with warm tortillas, shredded cheese, guacamole, and your favorite salsa.
The Bottom Line
The key to a great steak fajita is selecting the right cut. The beef should have a ton of flavor and a grain that’s easy to locate, so you can be sure to carve the slices properly.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!