What happens when you no longer have a grill but are craving the char of steak fajitas? Grab your closest cast iron skillet! These Skillet Fajitas pack a serious flavor punch and have that char without a grill.
Our Grill Died But Our Love for Mexican Food Didn’t
We had this big plan. The second my son graduated from high school, we were going to sell our house and move back to the “city”, live in an urban apartment and enjoy the empty nest life for a couple of years before settling down. When our grill died a year before he graduated, we decided paying for the parts (almost as much as a new grill!) or buying a new grill didn’t make sense since we were moving to an apartment.
My latest shipment from Greensbury Market included skirt steak that looked amazing and Mexican food is my love language. So naturally, fajitas were the only logical dinner to make from it. Too cold outside to use my Blackstone griddle (our temporary replacement for a grill that ended up going with us), I decided my big cast iron skillet would do the job quite nicely!
What Type of Steak Should I Use for Fajitas?
The best cut of beef for fajitas is skirt steak closely followed by flank steak. They are similar in that they both have long tough fibers but the skirt steak has more space between the fibers so marinades (dry or wet) can penetrate faster and better. It’s also better when cutting the meat to serve. The skirt steak will be way more tender and easier to make into bite-sized pieces for serving in tortillas or lettuce cups.
How to Make Dry Rub for Skillet Fajitas
Magic Salt (granulated garlic, Himalayan salt, pepper) and cumin are the only ingredients so it’s very straightforward. For 1 lb of skirt steak I use 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon each of the spices. Mix them together then rub liberally onto the steak. Let sit on an uncovered cookie sheet in the fridge for at least 4 hours but up to 24 hours.
Cooking Skillet Fajitas vs. Cooking Steak
This may seem like an odd comparison, but the way I make fajitas is very similar to how I make steak with one major difference.
Season the beef well (way more than you think) and let it sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours to dry out the steak and let the seasonings penetrate the fibers of the meat.
Lay steaks in a smoking hot cast iron skillet to sear on each side.
Here’s where the cooking methods diverge: Steaks are thicker, so I finish cooking them in the oven after searing them. Fajitas get seared then straight onto a cutting board since they are much thinner.
For either, always let them rest for at least 5 minutes for juices to redistribute or you will have a dry, tough piece of meat.
Cooking Skillet Fajita Veggies
Fajitas are just Mexican seasoned steak if you don’t have the veggies sizzling alongside. I love to use red onions because they have a sharper flavor and don’t cook down as much as yellow onions. (Chipotle’s fajitas veggies were my inspiration.) While all bell pepper colors will work, when I have both green and another color I really like the flavor – and color – combination. Green peppers are sharper and more vegetal, offsetting the super-sweetness of the red pepper and onion. Cook them in your hot skillet while the meat is resting.
How to Serve Fajitas
After the meat has rested, slice across the grain into very thin pieces to make it super easy to eat.
Drizzle with lime juice and toss the meat together to distribute the juices, seasonings and lime juice throughout the slices. Toss the meat with the veggies or for picky eaters, serve veggies on the side. Make a compound garlic butter (or ghee) to melt over the top just before serving to really amp up flavor.
What to Serve with Fajitas
If you’ve been to any Tex Mex restaurant in the US, you know the drill. Tortillas (Siete Cassava & Coconut tortillas are Paleo friendly and taste just like flour tortillas!), cheese, sour cream, pico de Gallo and guacamole are the accompaniments to your sizzling platter of meat and veggies. Sometimes rice and soupy beans come along. Weeknight fajitas don’t merit that extra time, however, since it’s a complete meal without them.
How to Make Whole30 Friendly Fajitas
For my Whole30ers, there isn’t much to change except for how you serve them. Make compound ghee instead of butter if you decide to do that flavor amp. Serve with guacamole and pico on a bed of lettuce or in lettuce cups. I also love to add pickled onions and ranch dressing.
Other Meats for Fajitas
If you’re not a red meat fan, you can use the same technique with chicken. Buy chicken cutlets for the best results. The safe temperature for chicken, not matter the cut is 165 degrees so you may have to let it cook in the oven for a few minutes after searing.
You can also cook shrimp or make my Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas if you’re super short on time.
Where I Get My Meat
Regardless of what meat you use for fajitas, Greensbury Market is THE place to have ultra high-quality meat, seafood and poultry delivered to your door. Click my link and you will get 10% off your first order.
Skillet Fajitas – The Secret to Awesome Fajitas Without a Grill
You don’t need a grill to make flavorful charred fajitas. To make these skillet fajitas all you need is your favorite cast iron skillet!
1 lb skirt steak
1 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp cumin
2 tbsp rendered beef fat, avocado oil or coconut oil
1 red onion, sliced 1/4″ thick lengthwise
2 bell peppers, any color, sliced 1/4″ thick
Compound Garlic Butter or Ghee, optional
Limes, quartered for squeezing
- To Serve
Guacamole, pico de Gallo, Greek yogurt or sour cream (regular or non-dairy), Cheese (if tolerant), Lettuce leaves or tortillas
- Mix salt and spices together.
- Lay the steak(s) on a cookie sheet and towel dry with a paper towel. Liberally season with spice blend.
- Heat fat in large cast iron skillet until smoking. (Make sure vent is on!)
- Lay the skirt steak in a single layer in the skillet carefully. Let it sit without disturbing for 2-3 minutes. When it easily detaches from the skillet and is very brown, turn it over and cook on the second side for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove to a cutting board and let sit for 5 minutes. (Use a cutting board with a groove around the edge to catch juices.)
- Cook the vegetables in the hot skillet while the steak is resting.
- Slice the steak as shown above (across the grain with the knife at a 45 degree angle). Slice the compound butter if using and distribute slices all over the beef to melt.
- Sprinkle the veggies and steak with lime juice and toss to distribute.
- Serve on a warm platter or back in the hot skillet.
- You can use Magic Salt instead of the salt, granulated garlic and pepper if you have it on hand. Use 1 tablespoon plus a little extra pepper and granulated garlic.
- This makes enough for 3-4 people. Feel free to double or triple as this makes awesome leftovers and meal prep.
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