The Best Steak For Tacos Is This Versatile Cut

Tacos are as adaptable as comfort food gets. There's not much that doesn't belong in a warm corn or flour tortilla, whether it's fish, carnitas, grilled chicken, or even leftover mashed potatoes. But when it comes time to fire up the grill, it's important to choose the best cut of beef. In our ranking of 18 different cuts of steak for taco night, evaluated based on their flavor, ease of preparation, and practicality, Mashed found that skirt steak was the most versatile choice. 

Cut from the plate section located underneath the cow's rib, skirt steak is lean and can be sliced thinly into perfect, taco-sized strips. It can also be very tender and juicy, but getting it right requires preparation. When overcooked, it can easily end up too chewy or dry. The key to cooking tender and savory skirt steak is letting it bathe in a marinade before putting it over heat, which helps to break down some of the tougher connective tissues.

Tips for making tender skirt steak

Skirt steak's loose structure makes it uniquely capable of absorbing marinades, which are typically made with a mixture of salt, acid, and flavoring. For example, our recipe for Arrachera skirt steak tacos recommends lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper, which the meat can soak in for anywhere from 30 minutes to as long as 24 hours. However, by the second day, the fibers in the meat will begin to break down, making it mushy. When you're ready to cook the steak, brush off any stray solids that might end up being burned.

It's also important not to cook the steak for too long. It only requires two to three minutes on the first side and two minutes on the other side on high heat if cooked in a cast iron pan or about three to four minutes per side if grilled. Once both sides are browned, the inside should be medium rare. Let it rest for about 10 minutes before cutting into it so that it stays juicy. Slicing against the grain will help the steak retain its tenderness, as it shortens the chewy strands of muscle. Then, finish off with whatever you want to add on top — salsa, guacamole, cilantro, onions, or hot sauce.