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Following Steven Raichlen's recipe, we used skirt steak to make fajitas on Sunday. I found the meat particularly chewy/tough and rather unpleasant overall. What can we do to improve the experience?

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Genuine fajitas are made with skirt steak. The most important thing you can do when making fajitas is marinate appropriately. That recipe calls for a dismally short marination time (30 mins to an hour). When I make fajitas I marinate them a minimum of 4 hours, though typically overnight. I usually use a combination of soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, olive oil and salt in a zip-loc bag.

Another thing to be aware of is how you slice the meat. If you bought your fajita meat presliced from a good butcher, then chances are he cut it properly - against the grain. If it's a random supermarket butcher you may or may not have had it cut properly. If you cut the meat yourself, make sure you slice it across the grain, otherwise you'll be chewing some very tough long proteins.

Also, as with any meat, don't overcook it. Medium rare is just fine for a skirt steak.

Some people will substitute a flank steak for a skirt steak when making fajitas. Flank tends to be a little less tough, but not as flavorful. The above marination and cutting guidelines apply to flank steak as well.

Update - I also notice that the recipe suggests 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare. This doesn't sound right to me if the grill is on high heat. Skirt and flank steaks are rather thin and 2 minutes per side on a hot grill should be medium-rare.

Also, make sure you let it rest. I usually rest any steak for 5 minutes, not 3 as the recipe suggests.

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The meat was not presliced. The intention was to cut it across the grain - we pulled on the steak slightly, then sliced it the direction it didn't want to pull apart. The meat was medium rare. –  280Z28 Jul 26 '10 at 21:51
    
@280Z28, if you can face it, persevere with skirt steak as once it's right it's simply the best for fajitas. A long marinade is the key to it –  Rob Jul 26 '10 at 21:55
    
I'll give the skirt steak another shot, any tips for picking out the best possible at the store today? I'll marinade it tonight and cook it for lunch tomorrow. :) –  280Z28 Jul 26 '10 at 21:56
    
@280Z28: I just realized I was giving fajita advice to a Texan. Get on the ball man! :D If you can get one that was cut today do so. Otherwise you're looking for the "usual" steak properties, great even marbling throughout. The more fat you see in the steak the tenderer it will be. Don't go for one with giant hunks of fat though, it should be laced throughout. –  hobodave Jul 26 '10 at 22:07
    
@280Z28, haven't heard of the pulling technique for deciding the way to cut, so wanted to toss in a description regarding that. On a skirt steak, you should see a lot of lines running across the meat, this is the grain. You want to cut against the lines, not with them, that way each cut will have all of those gaps running through it. Normally a skirt steak cut is a lot longer then it is wide and the grain runs the short way. It will seem counter-intuitive (since cutting the short way gives you fajita-ish length cuts) but you want to cut thin strips the long way, then cut them to length. –  ManiacZX Jul 27 '10 at 4:31
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