Learn Ranchera Meat in English: Your Guide to Authentic Carne Asada

Ranchera meat, also known as flank or skirt steak, is a flavorful but tough cut used in traditional Mexican dishes, especially carne asada.

what is ranchera meat

Ranchera meat, also called flank or skirt steak, or arrachera, is a popular cut of steak that can be used in numerous traditional Mexican recipes.

Ranchera meat is the preferred cut for carne asada, a thinly sliced grilled beef that goes well in a taco, burrito, chimichangas, salad, fajita, and more. It’s also used to make shredded beef that goes well in taquitos, enchiladas, tamales, and chalupas. 

Ranchera meat is one of the most flavorful cuts of beef, but it’s also very tough and has a lot of connective tissue. The skirt steak is located on the inside of the chest and abdominal cavity of the cow, right below the ribs.

Also referred to as a beef plate primal cut, it consists of the diaphragm muscle and transversus abdominis muscle.

Cuts of Beef

It’s an excellent steak for grilling or preparing on the stove top, but it needs to be marinated to improve tenderness and cooked on high heat for a short amount of time. 

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A Staple in Mexican Culture


Ranchera meat originated from Mexico, but today it’s popular all over the world. This cut of meat plays a massive role in Mexican culinary culture, and is most commonly cooked as carne asada or bistec ranchera. 

Also referred to as a “way of life”, carne asada meat describes how meat is cooked, rather than a specific recipe, similar to how Americans refer to “grilled chicken” or “barbecued chicken”.

When translated literally, it simply means “grilled steak” or “grilled meat”, but it has a very specific preparation that makes the meat tender, juicy, and delicious in any meal. 

The name “ranchera” refers to the influx of ranchers and cattle in the 1500s, when beef was the most popular source of protein in Mexico. The beef was either eaten by itself, or stuffed inside corn tortillas by hungry ranchers.

Today, ranchera meat goes by a few different names and can be prepared through a wide variety of traditional Mexican recipes. Ranchera meat is especially known to come from the Sonora region in the Mexican northwest.

It is so deeply ingrained in the culture and socioeconomic frameworks, that cattle ranching is the state’s official coat of arms. You can even buy frozen Sonoran-raised beef at the Hermosillo airport, which stays frozen for up to 6 hours. 

Unfortunately, many feel that the skirt steak recipes have been widely appropriated by other cultures and integrated into general “Pop Tex-Mex” (which has also led to price increases).

Carne asada is sacred to Mexico, and every family has their own marinade and recipe. Due to its popularity, carne asada has certainly been recreated and copied by other cultures, so it’s important to understand its origins and how the meat is traditionally prepared. 

How to Best Serve Ranchera Meat

Carne Asada

Because ranchera is a tougher cut of meat, it’s important to follow the right steps to maximize tenderness when grilling or cooking on the stove top.

It has an intense beefy flavor that matches sirloin, but it’s a far more affordable cut of meat that absorbs flavor well, which is why it’s preferred by many restaurants and food trucks.

You can easily find ranchera meat at the supermarket, and it will likely be referred to as skirt steak or flank steak. The following tips are important to prepare and serve ranchera meat.

Marinate The Meat

Ranchera meat absorbs flavor well because of its looser structure, which means you can experiment with different marinades in a variety of recipes.

A traditional carne asada marinade includes lime juice, garlic, cilantro, vegetable oil or olive oil, jalapeno pepper, white vinegar, and orange juice. Some recipes will also use soy sauce or spices like cumin.

You only need to marinate the meat for up to one hour; marinating for too long can over-tenderize the meat and actually break it down. 

Cook Quickly at High Heat

The best way to cook ranchera meat or skirt steak is very quickly over an extremely hot grill, close to 500 degrees. You can even skip the grill altogether and cook the meat directly on the coals, which gets the surface nice and brown fast and keeps the inside medium-rare.

Skirt steak should never be served well-done and even medium might be too much, as it’s far too tough to chew. Medium-rare is best. You can also cook on the stovetop for 5 to 7 minutes at high heat. 

Both the inside and outside skirt steak cuts have plenty of fat between the muscle strands, which keeps the steak moist as it cooks.

Slice Thinly Against the Grain

Ranchera meat is usually about an inch thick, so it’s meant to be sliced thinly, rather than cut into cubes or eaten like a steak chop.

When slicing your cooked ranchera meat, always slice against the grain. The grain refers to the lines of muscle fibers running down the meat, which go parallel in one direction. You’ll want to cut perpendicularly to cut against the grain

You’ll end up with thin strips of meat that can be further chopped into smaller pieces of steak, or left alone for longer strips of meat.  

The Best Ways to Eat Ranchera Meat

Ranchera meat, more commonly referred to as carne asada when prepared, has a wonderful, beefy flavor and is often eaten alone!

However, there are many popular dishes you can make for a well-rounded meal with protein, veggies, and carbs. 

Popular ways to eat carne asada include:

  • Tacos
  • Fajitas
  • Steak salad or salad bowls
  • Burritos
  • Stir-fry
  • Egg scramble
  • Quesadillas 

Carne asada is often served with salsa, guacamole, cilantro and onion mix, lime, sour cream, beans, rice, tortillas, and other traditional Mexican accompaniments.

It’s a highly versatile meat that can be prepared easily, quickly, and with plenty of other flavors. 

What is Mesquite Flavoring?

A popular way to prepare ranchera meat is with mesquite flavoring. The mesquite tree is native to Mexico and the southwestern United States, and commonly used in Mexican cuisine.

The plant pods that grow on the tree are edible and have been used for centuries by Native Americans, making it a long-standing popular ingredient. Mesquite has a sweet and smoky flavor, making it perfect for grilling vegetables and meat.

You can grill with the mesquite plant, or use wood planks from the tree. The plant also contains bioactive properties (antimicrobial and antifungal), and is high in fiber and protein. 

Wine Pairings with Ranchera Meat

Marinated ranchera steak tends to have a smoky, charred flavor because it’s cooked at such a high heat.

Carne asada goes well with a dark-fruited red wine, such as a Malbec, Grenache, or Tempranillo. The fresh, fruity flavor complements the intense beef flavor.

Is Ranchera Meat Good for You?

The topic of consuming red meat is frequently in the headlines, due to recent studies indicating high levels of carcinogens found in processed red meats.

While red meat like ranchera meat is high in protein, iron, zinc, selenium, niacin, and B vitamins, the American Heart Association recommends eating red meat no more than 1-2 times per week.

While red meat in itself is not unhealthy, the quality varies widely due to unsustainable farming practices. Cattle are fed improper diets, which often include antibiotics and hormones.

To choose the healthiest cut of meat, choose organic, grass-fed skirt steak where you know its origins and avoid processed meat. 

FAQs about Ranchera Meat

What meat is ranchera?

Ranchera meat is skirt steak, which is a tough cut of meat from the lower abdominal muscle of the steer. It is commonly used to make the Mexican staple, carne asada.

Is skirt steak the same as asada?

Skirt steak and asada are not exactly the same, but they are very similar cuts of meat that can be used interchangeably in traditional carne asada recipes.

What part of cow is asada?

The part of the cow that is known as asada is the skirt steak or flank steak, which is marinated, grilled, and thinly sliced to make the traditional Mexican dish called carne asada. In Spanish, the term carne asada translates to roasted or grilled meat in English.

Is flank steak the same as arrachera?

Flank steak and arrachera are not the same. Arrachera, also known as skirt steak, is a lengthy strip of meat located on the inside of the ribs, just in front of the paunch. On the other hand, flank steak is a comparable thin strip, but it is situated on the outside of the animal’s ribs.

What is fajita ranchera?

Fajita ranchera is a dish consisting of grilled chicken or beef fajitas that are served with a spicy ranchero sauce and Monterey Jack cheese on top.

Is ranchera meat carne asada?

Ranchera meat is the most common cut of beef used for carne asada, also known as flap steak. It is a thin and tender cut with high marbling, making it ideal for marinating and grilling over high heat.

What is carne asada meat called?

The meat known as carne asada is a traditional Mexican dish made from marinated skirt steak or flank steak that is grilled and thinly sliced. In English, the term “carne asada” translates to roasted or grilled meat.

Is there different types of carne asada?

There are different types of carne asada, with the most common ones being made from skirt steak or flank steak. Skirt steak is typically thinner and has more fat, while flank steak is usually thicker and leaner. However, both cuts can be sliced thinly after grilling and make excellent choices for carne asada.

What is Mexican filet mignon?

Mexican filet mignon is a term used to refer to the filete (filet mignon) in Mexican cuisine. It is also known as tenderloin in English and solomillo in Spanish. In Mexican cuisine, the tenderloin steak is sometimes pounded to a thin 1/8 inch and called sábana. This thin steak is commonly used to prepare the popular restaurant dish Steak Tampiqueña. Additionally, beef tips are referred to as puntas de filete in Mexican cuisine.

What is arrachera meat in English?

Arrachera meat in English is typically known as skirt steak, although it is important to note that opinions may vary depending on the region. In some cases, flank steak may also be considered part of the Arrachera category, as both skirt and flank are fast-cooking cuts that are well-suited for tacos.

What is the ranchera cut?

The ranchera cut is a tender piece of meat taken from the cow’s short loin, commonly used in Mexican meat dishes such as “Carne Asada.” It is typically shaped like a fan and is an essential ingredient in these dishes.

What is better flank steak or skirt steak?

Flank steak and skirt steak have different qualities, making them suitable for various preferences. Skirt steak offers a richer and juicier taste due to its higher fat content and more connective tissue. On the other hand, flank steak, being thicker and wider, is often more readily available in stores and can serve as a suitable alternative to skirt steak.

What is the name of the thin steak in Mexico?

The thin steak in Mexico is called arrachera. It is a traditional recipe that involves thinly slicing skirt steak and seasoning it. The flavor becomes more robust the longer it marinates.

What is the difference between flank and skirt carne asada?

The difference between flank and skirt carne asada is that flank steak is wider and has less marbling, while skirt steak is thinner and has more marbling. Additionally, flank steak requires a longer cooking time compared to skirt steak.

What are the different cuts of asada?

The different cuts of beef used for carne asada include skirt steak and flank steak. While more expensive cuts like ribeye can be used for added tenderness, it is not necessary unless you are trying to use up freezer meat.

What is skirt steak cut called?

The cut of meat known as skirt steak is sometimes referred to as Romanian tenderloin, Romanian steak, Philadelphia steak, or Arrachera, although these names are more commonly used in countries other than the United States.

Is arrachera the same as skirt steak?

Arrachera and skirt steak are not the same. Skirt steak, also known as arrachera, is a tough cut of meat that is located on the inside of the ribs, just in front of the paunch. It is part of the animal’s diaphragm and can be challenging to eat when cut with the grain. On the other hand, flank steak is a similar thin strip of meat, but it is found on the outside of the animal’s ribs.

What is the best meat for carne asada?

The best meat for carne asada is either skirt steak or flank steak. In my opinion, I prefer skirt steak because it is more tender and flavorful than flank steak. Additionally, skirt steak can be cooked well done without becoming tough and chewy.

What cut of meat do Mexican restaurants use for carne asada?

Mexican restaurants typically use skirt steak or flank steak for carne asada, as both cuts are similar and can be used interchangeably. However, it is worth noting that flank steak is a leaner option and offers a robust, intense meaty flavor.

What is the cheapest cut of meat for carne asada?

The cheapest cut of meat for carne asada is typically skirt or hanger steak, which are more affordable options yet still packed with delicious flavor.

What kind of meat is barbacoa?

Barbacoa is made from various types of meat, including beef, goat, lamb, or mutton. It is typically prepared using tougher cuts of meat that require long, slow cooking times. Traditionally, barbacoa is made with large cuts of meat or whole animals. In the United States, beef is commonly associated with barbacoa.

What is skirt steak called in grocery store?

Skirt steak is commonly referred to as flank steak in grocery stores. The terms “skirt” and “flank” are often used interchangeably due to their similar appearance, leading to confusion about their differences. This article aims to clarify the distinction between skirt and flank steak and provide tips on how to prepare them effectively.

What type of meat is best for Mexican tacos?

The best type of meat for Mexican tacos is arrachera, which is widely recognized as one of the most renowned beef cuts in Mexico. This flavorful meat is commonly featured in top-notch taco establishments and tends to be the priciest option on the menu. Arrachera, also known as flank steak, is expertly sliced into thin pieces and typically cooked to achieve a slightly pink center.

What is the best meat for Mexican food?

The best meat for Mexican food is beef, which is widely enjoyed in Mexico. It is commonly utilized in various Mexican dishes such as tacos, burritos, and enchiladas. Flank steak, skirt steak, and ribeye are the most frequently used cuts of beef in Mexican cuisine. Additionally, pork, chicken, and lamb are also popular choices for meat in Mexican dishes.

Is flank steak the same as skirt steak?

Flank steak and skirt steak have some differences. Skirt steak is known for having more fat, which gives it a richer and juicier taste compared to flank steak. Additionally, skirt steak has more connective tissue. On the other hand, flank steak is thicker and wider than skirt steak, and it is generally easier to find in stores.

What else is flank steak called?

Flank steak is also known as London Broil, Plank Steak, Jiffy Steak, Bavette in French, and Arrachera in Spanish. It is a cut taken from the underbelly, or the flank, of the cow. Although flank steak is sometimes used interchangeably with skirt steak, they are different cuts, although the textures are similar.

What cut of meat is Arrachera?

Arrachera is a cut of meat that is known as skirt steak. It is a long strip of meat located on the inside of the ribs, just in front of the paunch. It should not be confused with flank steak, which is a similar thin strip found on the outside of the animal’s ribs. Skirt steak is actually part of the animal’s diaphragm, making it tough when cut against the grain.

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