A staple of Mexican and Southwestern American cuisine, carne asada (Spanish for "roasted meat") is a beef dish typically prepared with cuts of meat from the abdominal muscles of the cow, such as flank or skirt steak. The meat is usually seasoned prior to cooking via a marinade, applying a mixture of dry seasonings by hand (also known as a "dry rub"), or a combination of the two. While there is no standard recipe for carne asada seasoning, a number of fresh, dried, and liquid ingredients frequently make their way into the mix.
Salt and pepper (black, white, or a combination of the two) form the base of many spice mixtures, including carne asada seasoning. Some recipes recommend Kosher salt, which does not contain additives like iodine, and pepper that has been freshly ground from whole peppercorns. Other common dry ingredients include ground cumin, chili powder or finely ground cayenne pepper, and dried oregano.
Typically included in marinades, three of the most common fresh ingredients in carne asada seasoning are garlic, cilantro, and jalapeno peppers. While garlic is also sold dried (either powdered or in flakes), fresh garlic imparts a bolder flavor. Cooks who don't own a garlic press, or who choose not to bother with mincing individual cloves, can also find pre-chopped garlic at most grocery stores. Chopped garlic can also be rubbed directly onto the meat. Cilantro, also known as coriander, is an herb with a tangy, citrus-like flavor. Jalapeno peppers contribute both flavor and heat to the dish, the latter of which can be adjusted by removing the seeds prior to chopping.
Carne asada marinade recipes frequently call for an acidic liquid as a base, in order to tenderize the meat. This is particularly important when using a leaner cut of beef, such as flank steak. Typical liquid ingredients include vinegar, citrus juice (usually lime, although some recipes suggest lemon or orange), tequila and beer.