In this in-depth guide, I will walk you through all of the steaks you can use to make these simple yet flavor-packed wraps.
First, we will look at what the original cut was and why it worked so well. This will enable you to choose one of the alternatives I’ve set out below. But remember, you can play around with other options as well. Just make sure they are always tender and flavorful.
For more educational food guides, you can check out the blog posts I release daily. Some that my readers find most useful are The Best Ways To Peel Garlic, The Best Oil For Seasoning Cast-Iron Cookware, and The Best Way To Defrost A Chicken In The Microwave.
What Are Fajitas and What is the Traditional Way of Preparation?
Fajitas are one of the most famous dishes in Tex-Mex cuisine. It’s a pretty simple concept and the dish itself uses a couple of ingredients only. But what sets one recipe apart from the other is the spice mix and meat used.
In its simplest form, fajitas are a combination of grilled meat slices with sauteed slices of pepper and onions. This delicious mixture is served on either a flour or corn tortilla. Most people like to wrap it up to make it easier to eat. You can, of course, serve it with salsa, rice, refried beans, or guacamole.
Today, there are thousands of fajita recipes out there that use a wide variety of different meats and cuts. You can make chicken fajitas, pork fajitas, fish fajitas, and, of course, the original beef fajitas. Check out my beef fajitas recipe.
Now, when it comes to the exact type of meat used, traditionally it was skirt steak. In fact, it was so popular that many people exclaimed that if it isn’t skirt steak, it’s not a fajita.
Luckily, society has moved away from that belief, and today people use all different kinds.
But what steak types will actually work for fajitas? What are the requirements?
What Steak Is Used For Fajitas? – Meat Requirements
Skirt steak was originally used for a variety of reasons. First of all, it’s a very cheap cut of meat that won’t go breaking the weekly food budget. Secondly, the thin cut of steak is surprisingly versatile, which is why it works so well for fajitas.
This cut is not necessarily super tender. But it is very well known for its incredibly meaty, umami flavor and juicy mouthfeel.
This is exactly what you want to replace.
The best meats for fajitas are not incredibly expensive, should be easy to tenderize or be naturally tender, and must be naturally meaty or easy to season.
This sounds like a pretty generic guide, but once you experiment with different options, you will immediately understand what a bad cut for fajitas is.
What’s The Best Cut Of Steak For Fajitas?
Now that you know what you are looking to substitute, it’s easy to find the best option that works for you and your budget.
All of the options below are arguably the best steak for fajitas. But this doesn’t mean they are the only options out there. If there is a cut you specifically love, let me know in the comments below.
1. Skirt Steak For Traditional Fajitas
Skirt steak is easy to prepare, easy to cook, and easy to flavor – you have to do a minimal amount of work to get a very juicy, flavorful piece of meat. Plus it’s cheap, which never hurts.
Skirt steaks also go by a couple of other names including Romanian tenderloin steak, Philadelphia steak, or Arrachera. It’s cut from the inside and outside of beef ribs, which explains why it’s flavorful but not tender.
2. Flank Steak
Flank steak is extremely similar in texture and flavor to outside skirt steaks.
The benefit of this cut is that it is naturally more tender than skirt steaks. But the meat is slightly less flavorful. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just means you have to be more thoughtful when it comes to seasoning the meat.
You can cook flank steaks to medium-rare to medium-well in doneness. This is just another benefit that allows you to create a delicious fajita recipe with minimal ingredients.
3. Sirloin Tips – A Versatile Affordable Cut
Also commonly known as flap steak, sirloin flap steak, or faux hanger, this cut comes from the bottom of the sirloin.
It’s an excellent cut for quick cooking (like pan-searing or stir-frying) that still leaves the meat tender and juicy.
As with the flank steak, you can cook this cut between medium-rare and medium for the best and most flavorful results.
4. Hanger Steak For Juicy, Tender Fajitas
Hanger steaks are popular cuts in some parts of the world. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s the cut that comes from the plate area that “hangs” off the diaphragm, hence the name.
This may not be ideal as a substitute for skirt steaks, but it’s certainly versatile enough to work for fajitas.
You should cook it medium to avoid the mushy texture this steak gives when it isn’t cooked long enough.
The cut is also naturally tender and extremely juicy, making preparation and cooking a lot easier.
5. Denver Steak
This kind of steak is similar to a flat iron steak but arguably a little less great. Saying that, it is often cheap.
Traditionally this steak is cut slightly thicker than skirt steaks and therefore needs to be cooked a bit longer. Other than that, Denver steak is very tender, packed with meaty flavors, and very easy to cook.
This is an option that you can cook between rare and medium for fajitas.
6. Flat Iron Cut For Meaty Steak Fajitas
Last but not least, we end on a flat iron steak which is cut from the chuck section of a cow. It is super meaty and an excellent choice for savory fajitas.
What makes these steaks arguably better than traditionally-used skirt steaks is their marbling. This gives the meat a better mouthfeel and a richer overall flavor.
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