Season, then sear steak for better tacos

  • Skirt steak and green chili tacos.

    Skirt steak and green chili tacos. Milk Street/Associated Press

Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street/Associated Press
Posted12/1/2021 6:00 AM

After years of debating whether marinades are worth the effort, we've decided to mostly skip them, especially when it comes to steak on a weeknight.

That's because the ingredients in marinades do a poor job of penetrating the surface of the meat, and liquids actually inhibit the flavor that comes from searing meat because it has to first boil off.


So for steak, our motto is, season first, sauce later.

That's how we treat the steak in a simple taco filling in our book "COOKish," which limits recipes to just six ingredients without sacrificing flavor. Rubbing ground cumin into skirt steak helps develop a good crust when it's seared in a skillet. Then while the steak rests, we turn sautéed onion and poblano chilies into a quick salsa. Dousing the mixture with lime juice after cooking keeps the flavors bright and balanced.

Skirt steak is the perfect cut for these tacos because the cumin gets trapped in the folds, and the relatively high fat content adds flavor while insulating the spice from burning.

For the tenderest texture, slice the steak thinly and against the grain. And use a nonstick skillet, otherwise the steak's seasoning may stick to the pan and scorch.

Skirt Steak And Green Chili Tacos

1 pound skirt steak, trimmed

1 tablespoon ground cumin

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 teaspoons neutral oil

1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

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2 poblano chilies, stemmed, seeded and cut into thin strips

¼ cup lime juice

Warmed corn tortillas, to serve

Thinly sliced radishes or chopped fresh cilantro to garnish, optional

Rub the steak with cumin, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, then cut into 5-inch sections. In a nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add the meat and brown on both sides; transfer to a plate. To the skillet, add the onion, chilies and ½ teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, then uncover and cook until lightly browned; remove from heat. Thinly slice the steak against the grain and toss with its juices and lime juice, then toss with the vegetables. Serve with tortillas. Garnish with sliced radishes or chopped fresh cilantro or both.

Serves 4

For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball's Milk Street at

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