Flank steak is the cut most often praised by bbq enthusiasts when in comes to summer steak fajitas season, kicked off each year by most Americans on cinco de Mayo. Anyone that has had quality Mexican bbq fajitas knows they are hard to forget and replicate. The larger culinary strategy at work is a common one of necessity from the past, take a cheap, less desirable, plentiful piece of meat, prevent its spoilage, and make it palatable.
Marinade is key when making steak fajitas regardless of cut. There are countless marinades, but a fajita marinade should be savory, tangy, salty, citrusy, and spicey. Usually 24 hours is the marinade time you want to aim for, but you can go longer or shorter depending on preference. Pepper heat and citrus levels can be sparing when marinated. Some contend that putting citrus in the marinade begins breaking down the meat early creating an undesirable texture after it’s cooked, others claim that process is essential in breaking down a tough cut of beef. Heat and citrus could be added later when constructing your tacos with condiments like hot sauce, hot salsa, mango salsa, and lime wedges.
The traditional cut used in steak fajitas is skirt steak. When it is done properly, I think it is the best. Flank steak can be tough, dry, and have a texture too thick and chewy for tortilla eating in my experience. I have yet to rule out flank steak because of the positive reviews and testimonials I have read, but I need to improve its texture if I’m going to serve it as fajitas ever again. I also would recommend experimenting with other cuts like flat iron, hanger, and tri tip. I think tri tip has a perfect grain structure for fajitas or sandwiches or anything really. After being overshadowed by its bigger Texas brother brisket, tri tip is finally returning to popularity. Hangers and flat irons have also risen in popularity in recent years, but I have yet to serve them on tortillas, but I will try in the near future. Hangers are very beefy and soft, and in my opinion, could make for a potentially delicious fajita.