Fajitas on the WSM - recipe and cooking report (long)


Michael Vrobel

TVWBB Member
Thought I'd pass this recipe on, since it worked out well.

I was reading the latest issue of Fine Cooking magazine, and saw a recipe they had for "Barbecuing Northern Mexican Style." In it, they say that the cooks in northern Mexico don't grill steaks the way Americans do. They cook tougher cuts of meat for a longer period of time over a low fire. That way, they can use cheaper and more flavorful cuts of meat, and they don't have to pay as much attention to the cooking process. It sounded like Barbecue to me, and a great recipe to try on the WSM, so I figured I'd give it a shot!

Here's my report on how things went.

Prepping the meat:
I was supposed to get chuck eye steaks, 1.5 to 2lb, no more than 3/4" thick. Plain old chuck steaks were on sale at the local grocery store (Finast here in NE Ohio), so I went with those.

2 - Chuck steaks, 1/2" to 3/4" thick (you want a thin cut of meat for this recipe). Total weight was 2 pounds.

The recipe called for lime juice and salt on the steaks, but I wanted to spice things up a bit, so I used my 'Signature Rub' that I'm working on.
(Unsolicited advertisement: If you don't already own a copy, run to your web browser, link to Amazon, and buy Paul Kirk's Championship Barbecue Sauces. Of course, you want to do this from the link on the VWB page, to help support this amazing web site.)

Mike's Rub In Progress

<LI>1 tbs Seasoned Salt
<LI>.5 tbs (3 tsp) Onion Salt
<LI>.5 tbs (3 tsp) Garlic Salt
<LI>2 tbs Paprika
<LI>2 tbs freshly ground pepper (4 peppercorn blend)
<LI>1 tsp Cayenne pepper


(Note: This rub had too much of a pepper taste, and not enough heat. Next time I'm going to cut back on the ground pepper, and I need to add some other spices to add some flavor.)

I applied this rub liberally to the steaks, then squeezed the juice of 1/2 lime onto the steaks. (I should have done this in reverse order; the lime juice washed some of the rub off the steaks. Live and learn...)

Firing up the WSM:
I started a fire using the Minion method on my WSM, and put about two quarts of hot tap water into my (Brinkman) water pan. After about 15 minutes, the temperature had plateaued at 218*F. Since this recipe is supposed to cook on the hot side (250 to 275*F), and I was getting hungry, I took the WSM apart and dumped the water out of my pan. That got things moving again; in another ten minutes, I was up to 250*F. I threw four small chunks of Mesquite on the coals, and put the steaks on the upper grate.

Cooking Process:
I was aiming for 45 minute cooking time at 250*F to 275*F. Since the steaks were so thin, I didn't bother with a probe; I just assumed that when the cooking time was over, they'd be done.

Time Temp Vent1% Vent2% Vent3%
6:00pm 250 100 100 100
6:15pm 275 100 100 100
--(added water to pan)--
6:25pm 280 25 0 0
6:30pm 265 25 0 0
6:45pm 260 25 0 0

Took the steaks off at 6:45pm. They looked good; the rub had browned a bit. Put them loosely under tin foil to let them rest for about ten minutes.

While the steaks were cooking, I made some Salsa to go on the fajitas:

Mike's Too Hot Salsa:

<LI>2 tomatoes, cored, quartered, seeds removed
<LI>2 Jalapeno peppers, stems removed, quartered
<LI>2 serrano peppers, stems removed, quartered
<LI>1 small onion, quartered
<LI>1 green onion, quartered
<LI>Small handful of Cilantro
<LI>Juice from 1/2 lime
<LI>1/2 tsp salt


Put ingredients in food processor, pulse until desired consistency.
(Note: this salsa was TOO HOT for me, so be warned. I had to drink milk with my dinner to get my mouth to stop burning. The last salsa I made (with only 2 Jalapenos) didn't have much heat at all, and I was trying to heat it up a bit, but I overdid the hot peppers this time. I also think I had twice as many tomatoes last time. Another opportunity for learning.

After they rested, I sliced the steaks against the grain, about 1/4" thick. I served them in flour tortillas, which the original recipe says are the traditional northern Mexico accompaniment. I spooned some of my salsa onto one of the resulting fajitas, and just about killed myself with the heat.

Once I had some milk to cool my mouth down, I tried again with just the meat. The steaks had turned out really well; they had a nice, smoky flavor to them, and were still very juicy even though they were well done. They were a little chewy, but I expect that out of my fajitas. As I mention above, the spice rub gave them a nice flavor, but it was a little heavy on the pepper. Back to the drawing board on that one.

The original recipe recommended serving with:

<LI>A fresh salsa (similar to the one I made above)
<LI>A roasted tomato salsa (roast 3 tomatoes and 2 jalapenos while you're preparing the fire; peel the skins off, process through a food processor, and press through a sieve to create a very thin salsa)
<LI>Guacamole or Avocado slices


To this I would add Sour Cream and shredded cheese. Unfortunately, I didn't have the ingredients or the time for these last items, and the Salsa was too hot for me. However, the 'only steak' fajitas were good enough that I didn't miss the extra ingredients!

The Recipe, in condensed form:

<LI>1/2" to 3/4" thick chuck steaks (chuck eye if you can find it, but I'm not sure what that does for you.
<LI>Apply lime juice and rub to the steaks
<LI>Smoke with mesquite at 250*F to 275*F for 30 to 45 minutes (depending on thickness of the steak)
<LI>Let rest for ten minutes, then cut against the grain into thin strips
<LI>Serve with flour tortillas (and salsa, guacamole, cheese and sour cream if available)


I like the recipe because:

<LI>The results are excellent
<LI>It's easy
<LI>It can be ready in less than an hour, start to finish, if you get your WSM up to temperature quickly.


And finally, I just finished a leftover fajita for lunch, while I was typing this. I'm still happy with the results. It's almost as good the second time around!

Mike Vrobel

[This message has been edited by Michael Vrobel (edited 08-30-2001).]
Hey Mike. In your rub in progress, are you
using .5 Tbs or 3 tsp? 3 teaspoons = 1 full
Tablespoon. One half Tablespoon would be 1 and a half teaspoons. Just wondering?

Couch Potato
Mike, thanks for the idea. I think the eye steak would be more tender, but it may not be a cut that is in our grocery stores. Another technique that might work I saw on Emeril Live(all right, I watch FoodTV during commercial breaks). He had an Argentinan chef on the show, and they butterflied one of those little 5 oz. filet steaks, pounded it fairly thin, and then put on a marinade/paste. They grilled it, but I bet it would be good on the WSM on high heat.
As far as your too hot salsa, it's hard to use a set amount of peppers since they vary in heat. Next time add just the 2 jalapeno's and taste, then add more to suite your taste buds.

Doug W
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Helvetica, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Couch Potato:
Hey Mike. In your rub in progress, are you
using .5 Tbs or 3 tsp? 3 teaspoons = 1 full
Tablespoon. One half Tablespoon would be 1 and a half teaspoons. Just wondering?

</font> <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

You're right - I messed up the conversion. I was using .5 tbs (=1.5 tsp). I think the 3tsp = 1tbs conversion just stuck in my head when I was typing this. I should have paid more attention to my notes.

Mike Vrobel