How Is Chipotle's Carne Asada Different From Its Normal Steak?

chipotle burrito filled with steak and rice
chipotle burrito filled with steak and rice - Bloomberg/Getty Images

For most of the year, Chipotle only has four meat options to choose from: chicken, steak, barbacoa, and carnitas. But every once in a while, the chain adds carne asada to the lineup. Originally a limited time offering first introduced in 2019, carne asada ended up becoming so popular that Chipotle decided to bring it back. At first glance, it may look almost identical to the steak, but as any Chipotle fan will tell you, they taste different.

The steak gets its flavor from a combination of chipotle chili, black pepper, cumin, garlic, and oregano, which form an adobo sauce, a self-identified former Chipotle employee revealed on a Reddit thread. The steak gets marinated in this adobo sauce before being put on the grill. The carne asada meanwhile, isn't marinated but simply seasoned with an undisclosed unique blend of spices. Unlike the steak, the carne asada also gets garnished with cilantro and lime juice.

Read more: The 13 Best Steaks For Grilling

Chipotle's Carne Asada And Steak Aren't Just Seasoned Differently

chipotle employee making burrito
chipotle employee making burrito - Brandon Bell/Getty Images

While the seasoning is the most obvious difference between Chipotle's carne asada and steak, there's actually something else that sets the two options apart: the cut of beef used. Carne asada is traditionally made with skirt steak, however, it's clear that the Chipotle version uses a different cut. Customers on Reddit agree that it's something more tender than what's used for the steak, and one employee's best guess is sirloin, but the only detail Chipotle reveals is that the carne asada is the "most tender steak" on the menu.

Chipotle's steak on the other hand comes primarily from round cuts including bottom, top, eye, inside, and outside round, but sometimes sirloin, knuckle, ball tip, and sirloin tip cuts are added to the mix. Any round cut of beef, including the kind Chipotle uses, is very lean and also tends to be tougher, which definitely plays a role in making the carne asada more appealing in comparison to the steak.

Why Chipotle Doesn't Offer Carne Asada Year Round

people looking at chipotle menu
people looking at chipotle menu - Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Considering how popular carne asada is, you'd think Chipotle would make it an option year round. But even though it regularly comes back, Chipotle has never added it to the menu. Restaurants often employ this marketing strategy because when customers know an item will only be available for a limited time, it makes them more excited to buy it, which in turn increases sales. While that could realistically be the case for Chipotle, the chain cites a different reason.

Upon bringing back carne asada in 2020, the company shared with Today that it has to do with the high standards it sets for the quality of its meat. Chipotle does extensive vetting to source the meat for the carne asada and the only way it could ever be made an official menu item is if the company found the right supplier. But as Chipotle shared in a press release announcing the 2023 return of the carne asada, 95% of the beef in the United States does not live up to Chipotle's "Food With Integrity" policy. It seems customers will just have to settle for regular steak for the time being.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.