Fajitas are a popular Tex-Mex dish that typically consist of grilled meat, such as skirt steak or chicken, that is sliced and served with warm tortillas, grilled peppers and onions, guacamole, salsa, and other toppings. While fajitas are traditionally made with raw meat that is freshly grilled, many grocery stores now sell packaged fajita meat that has already been pre-cooked and seasoned. This provides a quick and convenient way to make fajitas at home without having to prepare and season raw meat.
Cooking pre-packaged fajita meat is easy, but there are some important things to know to ensure it turns out juicy and flavorful. Here is a step-by-step guide to successfully cooking packaged fajita meat and preparing amazing fajitas at home.
What is Packaged Fajita Meat?
Packaged fajita meat is raw meat that has been pre-marinated and seasoned for making fajitas. The most common types of meat used are chicken breast, skirt steak, and flank steak. The meats are sliced into thin strips and marinated in a blend of seasonings such as garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt, and lime juice.
Packaged fajita meats can be found in the refrigerated meat section at most grocery stores. Popular brands include Tyson and Midwest. They typically come in plastic bags or trays with the seasoned meat strips and marinade inside. The meat is raw, so it must be fully cooked before eating, but the seasoning and marinade makes preparation quicker and easier.
The benefit of using packaged fajita meat is convenience – all of the seasoning and marinating is already done for you. It takes the guesswork out of what spices to use and how long to marinate the meat. It’s a shortcut for making juicy, flavorful fajitas at home.
How is it Different from Raw Fajita Meat?
There are a few key differences between using packaged pre-seasoned fajita meat versus raw meat for fajitas:
Packaged meat is pre-marinated, meaning the seasoning and acidic marinade has already been absorbed into the meat to tenderize and flavor it. Raw meat would need to be marinated for 1-24 hours before cooking.
The seasoning blend is pre-mixed, so you don’t have to measure out and mix spices yourself. Typical fajita seasonings like garlic, cumin, chili powder are already added.
Packaged meat comes pre-sliced into thin strips perfect for fajitas. Raw meat would need to be thinly sliced and trimmed.
Since packaged meat is already marinated and cut, it requires less cook time compared to cooking raw meat from scratch. The pre-marinade helps tenderize the meat.
So in summary, packaged fajita meat saves time on prep work, marinating, seasoning, and cook time compared to raw meat. The flavor profile is built-in.
How to Cook Packaged Fajita Meat
Packaged fajita meat is pre-marinated and pre-sliced raw meat, so it still requires thorough cooking just like any raw meat. Here are some tips for successfully cooking packaged fajita meat:
The best way to cook fajita meat is in a hot skillet on the stovetop. Cast iron or stainless steel skillets work best. This allows the meat to get browned and crispy edges.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the fajita meat strips in a single layer and cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes to sear.
- Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes until browned.
- Cook in batches if needed to avoid overcrowding the pan.
Fajita meat can also be prepared in the oven:
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Place fajita strips on a baking sheet in a single layer.
- Roast for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until meat reaches minimum safe internal temperature.
For extra flavor, fajita meat is great on the grill:
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
- Cook fajita strips for 3-4 minutes per side.
- Avoid overcrowding the grates.
Regardless of cooking method, always cook fajita meat to a safe minimum internal temperature using a meat thermometer:
- Chicken – 165°F
- Beef and pork – 145°F
- Rest meat for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
Cooking to the proper temperature kills any bacteria and ensures the fajita meat is safe to eat.
One of the biggest mistakes when cooking packaged fajita meat is undercooking it. Always double check that meat has reached the safe internal temperature. Undercooked chicken especially poses a health risk.
It can also be easy to overcook packaged fajita meat since it’s already so thin and tenderized. Going past the minimum internal temp dries out the meat. Monitor it closely and remove it as soon as it’s cooked.
Tips for Flavorful Fajitas
For the best result when cooking packaged fajita meat, keep these additional tips in mind:
Use a non-stick pan
A non-stick skillet prevents the marinade and meat from sticking. Fajita meat can be prone to sticking from the sugar in the marinade.
Keep strips whole
Resist the urge to chop up the meat. Keeping strips whole gives the most tender, flavorful results.
Don’t overcrowd the pan
Cook the strips in a single layer with space between each one. Overcrowding steams instead of sears.
Let meat rest
Letting the fajita meat rest 5 minutes after cooking allows juices to redistribute for juicy meat.
For extra flavor, sauté slices onions and bell peppers with the meat. This adds moisture and prevents dry meat.
Use leftover marinade
The leftover marinade in the package can be poured over the cooked meat for extra flavor.
Once you’ve cooked the fajita meat, it’s time for assembly. Here are some tips for serving spectacular fajitas:
Place tortillas in the microwave for 20 second to warm and soften them for wrapping.
Slice lime wedges
Fresh lime juice adds brightness and flavor. Squeeze over meat right before eating.
Chop fresh cilantro
Cilantro cools down the spicy flavors. Sprinkle over meat and tortillas.
Crisp shredded lettuce provides texture and freshness.
Dice fresh tomatoes
Juicy tomatoes balance out the richness of the meat.
Popular cheeses for fajitas are Mexican blend, pepper jack, cheddar, and queso fresco.
Creamy avocado is the perfect fajita topping. Mash it into guacamole for dipping.
Set out condiments
Provide sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and pico de gallo for customization.
Build your own
Set out ingredients family-style and let everyone assemble their own custom fajita creations.
Get answers to some common questions about cooking packaged fajita meat:
Is packaged fajita meat already cooked?
No, packaged fajita meat is raw and needs to be fully cooked to a safe internal temperature before eating. The packaging just means it’s pre-marinated and sliced.
Can you eat fajita meat right out of the package?
Never eat packaged fajita meat directly out of the package without cooking it first. The raw meat could contain dangerous bacteria and make you sick if undercooked. Always cook pre-packaged fajita meat thoroughly before eating.
Does packaged fajita meat need to be marinated?
No additional marinating is required since the meat is already pre-marinated in the package by the manufacturer. You can cook it as-is or add extra seasoning if desired.
What is the best way to cook packaged fajita meat?
The best way to cook fajita meat is in a hot cast iron or stainless steel skillet on the stovetop. This allows you to brown the meat and develop crispy edges. You can also cook in the oven or grill.
How long does it take to cook packaged fajita meat?
Cooking time can vary based on thickness but generally takes 6-12 minutes. Cook meat to the proper internal temperature (165°F for chicken, 145°F for beef/pork) and rest before serving. Use a meat thermometer for accuracy.
Cooking delicious fajitas at home is easy with pre-packaged seasoned fajita meat. It provides time-saving convenience without sacrificing flavor. Follow the tips above for cooking fajita meat thoroughly and serving it up restaurant-quality. Just be sure to always check the internal temperature. Then get ready to enjoy sizzling hot fajitas loaded with your favorite toppings. Let the fajita fiesta begin!