What Is Arrachera Steak And How Do You Cook It?

Some of the juiciest, most flavorful steak tacos are made from arrachera, but what is it? As a type of carne asada (or grilled meat), arrachera can be made from either flank steak or skirt steak — though historically speaking, the term was initially developed for flank steak that has been marinated and tenderized to perfection.

Arrachera gets its mouthwatering taste from the combination of citrus and Mexican seasoning and a generous splash of either soy sauce or beer. And with so many flavors cooked into the meat, arrachera flank steak tacos don't need many toppings to shine. Warm corn tortillas, a squirt of lime juice, diced onions, cilantro, and a little chile will go a long way. A bit of guacamole will give arrachera steak a delicious boost, but definitely skip the cheese and sour cream for authentic tacos. Served on its own instead of in tacos, arrachera steak pairs well with grilled onions and serrano peppers, slices of lime, radishes, and, of course, creamy guacamole.

The importance of tenderizing arrachera steak

As you may know, flank steak is naturally a pretty tough cut of meat on its own. That's because it is cut from the cow's diaphragm and made of fibrous muscle. This makes it super important to properly tenderize the meat before cooking it. There are a couple of different ways to do this. The butcher can mechanically tenderize the meat for you, or you can get the same effect at home by pounding the cut with a mallet or piercing it with a fork. Just be sure to cook the meat to 145 F if you are piercing it or having it mechanically tenderized because bacteria can be spread from the outside to the center of the steak with these methods.

Alternatively, you can use skirt steak for your arrachera. Although still chewy, skirt steak has a rich marbling and is naturally much more tender than its flank counterpart. So you can get away with skipping the physical tenderizing process if you like and go straight to the marinade that will help break those meat fibers down.

Marinate and grill arrachera steak

Beer is often used in marinades for arrachera steak thanks to its tenderizing properties. Whereas Mexican beer will give the most authentic taste, any lager will do. Soy sauce is also often used thanks to its ability to break down tough meat fibers. But this is a situation where it's important to pick one or the other so that the flavors don't clash. Additionally, the acid from citrus will help with tenderization — just don't leave it on so long that the meat turns to mush.

Once your meat has soaked up the marinade — which should also include a generous helping of Mexican seasoning — then it's time to toss it on the grill. Whether grilling flank or skirt steak, both are fairly thin cuts that will cook through quickly. Pay special attention to flank steak, as it will toughen back up if overcooked. The goal for the perfect arrachera steak is to get an authentic char on the outside while keeping the center nice and juicy.