Steak fajitas
Photo: Henri Hollis
Photo: Henri Hollis

Take the 5:30 Challenge: Use these shortcuts for better steak fajitas

The first thing to acknowledge about fajitas is that they’re almost always mediocre. It’s hard to cook meat — especially steak — well when it’s cut into strips and fried in a skillet full of steamy peppers and onions. Most of us tend to make up for this flaw by drowning the said steak mixture in a sea of toppings, making for a dinner that’s hard to swallow.

The solution? Nail down a perfectly cooked, spice-rubbed steak. The rest will follow. Flank steak is versatile and easy to cook. Cut it in half, width-wise, so that it’ll fit in a 12-inch skillet. The spice rub will require just a bit of grocery sleuthing. Since a hand-selected rub mixture is out of the question, use a seasoning mix — but not just any old mix. Look for a taco seasoning blend that includes spices and some salt but no sugar. “Fajita” mixes tend to contain quite a bit of sugar, which will result in a scorched spice-rubbed steak. That won’t work.

Because the relatively long list of vegetables in typical fajita recipes also disqualifies them from the 5:30 Challenge, you’ll also need to take a shortcut through the freezer aisle. Most grocery stores stock frozen pepper stir-fry mix, which has little in it to hint at a stir-fry other than the name. In the bag, you’ll find sliced onions and three colors of peppers, all of which just need to be thawed (stick them in the refrigerator overnight if you think of it or zap them in the microwave while you cook the steak), drained and patted dry prior to a couple of minutes of cooking.

Other than that, all these fajitas really need to finish are warm flour tortillas, a generous squeeze of lime juice and a bit of cheese — if you’ve got it handy.



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