Why Can’t Americans Make Great Carne Asada?

streetgourmetla has been trying to work out what the problem is with carne asada in the United States. Carne asada in Mexico is so fantastic that the Holiday Inn in Leon, Guanajuato, has better carne asada than the best places in the States, says streetgourmetla. So why can’t we do better?

streetgourmela’s theory is that carne asada “doesn’t have the social, traditional or commercial infrastructure in the U.S. to replicate the quality and taste in Mexico.” That is, in Mexico, excellent-quality beef butchered in particular cuts is widely and cheaply available—cheaply enough, in fact, that quality beef can be made into humble, relatively cheap dishes like carne asada.

High-quality beef in the United States, on the other hand, is too expensive to make sense economically as taco truck fare. Not only that, even the cuts of beef are different. A common cut used in carne asada in Mexico is arrachera, which “can be cut with a fork—tender, juicy, and sublime,” says streetgourmela. “We have cuts that approximate the arrachera here in the U.S., but not from the same cows nor are they cut the same way. Mexican butchers in the U.S. do American cuts from U.S. beef.” Even Latino markets in Los Angeles sell the somewhat inferior cut of beef known as ranchera, not the delectable arrachera.

Preparation and presentation also factor in. In the great taco stands in Tijuana, “the meat is grilled and chopped moments before serving,” says streetgourmetla. This doesn’t happen with American carne asada. For now, “we are stuck with the fast food steak combo plate and ranchera from Costco.” We could have high-quality Mexican carne asada here in the States, “but it’s goin’ to cost you,” says streetgourmetla.

Board Link: Much ado about Carne Asada