When performing experimental cooking one of the first rules is to look at what works for someone else, and adapt it for your own use. I love to grill foods, particularly meats as I am a practicing omnivore. I decided to come up with a homemade recipe for seasoning beef fajitas.
The next few times I went to the store, I examined the ingredients in the various powdered and liquid beef fajita seasonings that were on the shelves. The things I often found in common were citrus (usually lime), garlic and/or onion, and flavor-enhancing agents such as potassium chloride or MSG. There were various other ingredients, but these happened to be common in a fairly high percentage of the flavorings. I combined this knowledge with experience as follows:
- Garlic is probably the best taste enhancer there is for grilled beef. In small amounts, used carefully no as not to overpower the beef flavor, it brings out the natural flavors of the meat wonderfully.
- In grilling, small amounts of sugar allow for quick browning of the meats exterior when the goal is to cook the meat quickly so as to seal in flavor and leave a bit of pink in the center. This is particularly useful in the thin skirt steak generally used to make fajitas
- Citrus is a fundamental flavor for beef fajitas. The citric acid adds just a hint of tang to the meat - melding well with the condiments generally used on fajitas. Lime is the overwhelming choice for fajita flavoring according to my unofficial poll of ingredient labels.
- Salts, such as potassium chloride and sodium chloride (table salt) are best added immediately before grilling. If added too soon and left to sit, they will draw the moisture out of the meat like salt on a slug. (sorry - bad image)
- Grilling quick and hot seals the moisture in the meat, making for a more tender final result. This also avoids fully cooking the meat, which makes it tough and stringy.
After going through the cognitive process that is experimental cooking, I decided to get some good skirt steak, remove any gristle, sprinkle it lighly with garlic powder, let it sit while I heated up the grill to the maximum temperature, then at the last minute, add the citrus, sugar, and salts. The problem was, what flavor could I use that would be simple, wouldn't require a great deal of preparation, and would be easily available. I thought and thought... what has citrus (preferably lemon), potassium and sodium salts, and a bit of sugar, and is easy to apply quickly to meat just before plopping it on the grill?
Then - a flash of inspiration - I knew the answer! It was powdered lemon-lime Gatorade! It contained everything I wanted, and could be put in a mid-sized salt shaker for easy application! Let me tell you, it works, and works wonderfully. The fajitas are amazingly good, and when cooked rapidly and left with a thin pink to reddish-pink strip in the center, are mouth-watering and tender. I have found that brushing each side of the meat quickly and lightly with a thin coat of garlic butter enhances the flavor and texture just a bit more, but either way is exceptionally good.
Slice the fajita meat into thin strips and serve it in a rolled up flour tortilla
. Here are some common ingredients used in the southwest on fajitas:
Fajitas are a main course, and full meal all wrapped into one. Try them for yourself - you won't be disappointed! If you like fajitas, try the recipe I wrote up for Chicken fajitas