Fun-Filled Barbecue II: Carne Asada Tacos

Grilled skirt steaks

Skirt steaks, grilled to juicy perfection. Photo courtesy of Evan Dobkins.

Hello, dear readers.  First off, I want to apologize for what has been a slower pace of new posts on the site.  You see, it’s been a roller-coaster of a summer, and to make a long story short, I started a new job a few weeks ago.  I’m excited about it, learning my way around as quickly as possible…and as you might expect, have been kept busy.  But such is the life of anyone who is career oriented, and that’s why I’m here – to be The Exec’s Chef.  And, dear readers, you have never been far from my mind.  So I’m pleased to pick up where we last left off, and hopefully return to a regular cadence of fun new food adventures with you.

So, when last we gathered around the campfire, so to speak, I was telling you about a gathering we had a few weeks ago for a barbecue.  We had cocktails all taken care of, and now it was time to move on to the main course.  I had begun thinking about what to serve back in March during the fundraiser.  It had to be something more than burgers and hot dogs, and I wanted it to be more interesting than a steak dinner (as delicious as that is!).  Then it hit me; carne asada.  That would be a fun, tasty way to dress up steak and make an interesting meal.  Carne asada packs in a ton of fresh, summery flavors into amazing steak tacos.

So it was time to get to the main course.  The prep for this started the night before, because the onions need some time to get pickled and the steak wanted to sit in the marinade for a while.  First off, let’s talk about lime-pickled red onions.  These really add something special to the taco.  The pickling takes the sharpness out of the flavor, the citrus adds some nice flavor, and the color really enhances the presentation.  If you haven’t done these before, I really recommend it!  It’s an easy way to do something a little above any beyond.

Lime Pickled Red Onions
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Prep Time
3 hr
Prep Time
3 hr
  1. 1 large red onion, peeled
  2. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 1/4 cup lime juice
  4. 1 1/2 teaspoons dried cilantro
  5. 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Slice onion as thinly as you can; separate into individual rings.
  2. Place onion rings and remaining ingredients into an airtight container, shake and/or mix thoroughly.
  3. Leave the onions to marinate at room temperature for at least three hours.
  4. Once done marinating, store in the refrigerator.
  1. - Feel free to use fresh cilantro; just use about 3x as much (I'm not a huge cilantro fan; certain recipes like this need it, but I tend to go a little light with it).
  2. - I always make these a day ahead; they'll stay good in the refrigerator for a few extra days after that.
  3. - Photo courtesy of Evan Dobkins.
The Exec's Chef

You’ll also want to start marinating the steak the night before, particularly if you’re using a tougher cut of meat.  This marinade has a citrus base, so normally you wouldn’t want to marinade your meat in it for so long.  The concern is that most meats will begin to poach (essentially chemically cooked!) in the acidic marinade, and by the time you cook it the next day, it will be mush!  However, we’re using skirt steak, which is a really tasty but somewhat toughercut of steak; not only can it stand up to the marinade, but it will in fact get more tender with the long soak.

Carne Asada Tacos
Serves 4
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Prep Time
18 hr
Cook Time
8 min
Total Time
18 hr 15 min
Prep Time
18 hr
Cook Time
8 min
Total Time
18 hr 15 min
  1. 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak
  2. 6 garlic cloves
  3. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  4. 1/4 cup orange juice
  5. 1/2 cup lime juice
  6. 2 1/2 tablespoons tequila
  7. 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
  8. 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  9. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  10. 1 tablespoon chile powder
  11. 1/2 tablespoon chipotle chile powder
  12. 2 teaspoons salt
  13. 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
For serving
  1. 2 poblano peppers
  2. Lime pickled red onions (see separate recipe)
  3. Red Salsa
  4. 1/4 cup Sour Cream
  5. 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  6. 10-12 corn tortillas, small/taco size
Prep work
  1. On a cutting board, smash garlic cloves with the side of a chef's knife. Sprinkle kosher salt over this and continuously mash the garlic and salt together with the side of the knife until it has a paste-like consistency (you can also do this with a mortar and pestle). Put paste in a medium bowl.
  2. To the bowl, add orange and lime juice, tequila, oil, cilantro, oregano, chile and chipotle powders, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Cut steak into sections about 8-10" long and place in a gallon-size Ziploc freezer bag (see note).
  4. Pour marinade over steaks in bag, and seal tightly, squeezing all possible air out of the bag. Make sure it's fully sealed!
  5. Work the marinade through all parts of the steak by shaking, flipping, squeezing, etc.
  6. Place the bag in the refrigerator at least overnight and for as long as 24 hours (no longer). Every few hours give it a shake to ensure even marinading.
  7. Mix sour cream and chipotle powder thoroughly.
  8. Store in a Ziploc sandwich bag, sealed tightly. This will be your chipotle crema; store it in the refrigerator overnight.
Grilled Poblano Peppers
  1. Preheat your grill on high direct heat.
  2. Grill the poblano peppers directly over the heat until charred and blistered on all sides (about 8-10 min total). Remove them from the grill to a bowl, and seal them with aluminum foil for at least 15 min.
  3. After 15 min, carefully remove the peppers to a cutting board. The charred skins should slide right off; throw them away. Cut off the stems, and remove the seeds and veins (this is where any of the heat is).
  4. Slice the peppers into strips and set them aside.
Grilling the steak
  1. Take the steak out of the refrigerator about 45 min. before cooking.
  2. Remove them from the marinade and pat off excess sauce.
  3. Grill directly over high heat for about 3-4 min. per side for medium rare.
  4. Remove from grill and cover.
Assembling the tacos
  1. Cut the skirt steak into 3-4" segments. Slice each segment thinly against the grain. Set aside.
  2. Warm the tortillas, and put them on plates or even better, in taco holders.
  3. Place several slices of steak in each tortilla. Don't overstuff them.
  4. Place 2-3 slices of poblano pepper over each taco.
  5. Spread a small dollop of salsa on top.
  6. Add a few lime pickled onion rings.
  7. Snip off a small corner of the bag with the chipotle crema with scissors. Squeeze a small amount of sauce over each taco.
  8. Serve and enjoy!
  1. - Fresh cilantro holds a LOT of dirt. Swish it around in a bowl of water 2-3 times before chopping.
  2. - I used tofu sour cream; you can't tell the difference!
  3. - I find it easiest to marinate my steak in a Ziploc gallon sized freezer bag. Feel free to use another container.
  4. - This recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc. for larger crowds.
  5. - Photo courtesy of Evan Dobkins.
The Exec's Chef

Really, most of the work is done the night before your barbecue.  Take some care and slice the onions very thinly.  Leave them to marinate at room temperature for a while, them but them in the fridge overnight.

Sliced red onions and marinade

Mix together all of the marinade onions, and thinly slice the red onion. Seal them in an airtight container, mix/shake thoroughly, and allow to sit overnight.

Make the marinade the night before, and once steak is sitting in it, it’s just a matter of waiting.  When the time comes, heat the grill nice and hot, get some good wood smoke going if your grill supports it (I used mesquite chips), pat the steaks dry, and let them grill.  About three minutes per side will get you to a nice medium rare.

Grilling skirt steak with mesquite smoke

Skirt steaks grilling with mesquite smoke. Photo courtesy of Evan Dobkins.

As important as the meat, of course, are the taco’s other ingredients.  The meat was super-juicy and tasty, but the taco flavors were rounded out by the picked onions as well as sliced grilled poblano peppers, some pico de gallo, a few dots of a chipotle crema that I made.

Grilled poblano peppers

Remove the seeds and veins from the poblanos before slicing. Photo courtesy of Evan Dobkins.

These came out amazing, and made for a fantastic presentation in our taco holders!  With carne asada, the citrus and tequila flavors soak into the meat, adding unbelievable flavor.

On the side, I grilled some green and yellow zucchini and onion with some southwest seasoning mix.  I also mixed together Rachael Ray’s Black Bean & Corn Salad – it was a fun, colorful accompaniment.

Dinner was a hit.  It was time for dessert.  Come back for part III of this post and we’ll talk grilled fruit.

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