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Is bottom round good for fajitas?

Fajitas are a popular Tex-Mex dish consisting of grilled meat, vegetables, and warm tortillas. While skirt steak is traditionally used, many people wonder if cheaper cuts of beef like bottom round can also make tasty fajitas. The bottom round comes from the back leg of the cow. It is an affordable, lean cut that can be quite tough due to the cow constantly using those muscles. However, when sliced thin and marinated, bottom round can produce excellent fajita meat.

What is bottom round?

Bottom round comes from the back leg or round of the cow. It sits above the shank and below the rump. This area gets a lot of use which means the muscle fibers are quite dense. Bottom round is one of the leanest cuts of beef, with only a thin seam of exterior fat. It ranks as extra lean according to USDA standards, with less than 10 grams of total fat per 100 grams.

Bottom round roasts are sold both with and without the bone. When sliced for fajitas or stir fries, it is usually sold boneless. It can be purchased as a full roast or presliced into thin cutlets, labeled as stir fry strips or fajita meat.

Common names

Bottom round may also be labeled as:

  • Round tip
  • Knuckle
  • Outside round
  • Western griller steak
  • Ranch steak

Key characteristics

Bottom round has these characteristics:

  • Cut from the cow’s back leg or round
  • Extra lean with minimal marbling
  • Dense texture due to heavily used muscles
  • Relatively affordable
  • Versatile for roasting, braising, grilling, or thin slicing

Knowing the qualities of bottom round helps determine the best cooking methods.

How is bottom round used for fajitas?

Fajitas utilize thin slices of meat, making bottom round a suitable option. Here is the process for turning this affordable cut into flavorful fajita meat:

  1. Purchase 1 to 1.5 lbs bottom round roast or pre-sliced stir fry strips.
  2. If using a full roast, slice it against the grain into long, thin strips, 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Place strips into a gallon size resealable plastic bag.
  4. Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil, the juice of 2 limes, and fajita seasoning. Amounts can be doubled for more meat.
  5. Knead the bag to distribute marinade then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to overnight.
  6. Remove meat from marinade and grill on high, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes. Can also pan fry.
  7. Chop into smaller pieces if desired. Meat is now ready for assembling fajitas.

The marinade tenderizes the meat while the quick cooking preserves moisture. Be sure to slice against the grain for more tender results.

How does it compare to skirt steak?

Skirt steak comes from the diaphragm muscles of the cow. Here’s how it compares to bottom round:

Characteristic Bottom Round Skirt Steak
Flavor Mild beefiness Robust, bold
Texture Dense Loose grain
Fat Content Very lean Moderately marbled
Price Economical Higher cost

While skirt steak has more intense beefy flavor, bottom round offers great value. When marinated and cooked right, bottom round can produce excellent fajitas.

Pros of using bottom round

Bottom round has several advantages for making fajitas:

  • Lower cost – It is significantly less expensive per pound than skirt steak.
  • Easy to find – Bottom round is stocked at most grocery stores.
  • Lean and protein-rich – Has less fat than skirt steak while still offering a good amount of protein.
  • Versatile – Can also be used for stir fries, kabobs, roasts, or Swiss steak.
  • Good flavor when marinated – Soaks up marinades well.

For budget-friendly family meals, bottom round is hard to beat. With some prep, it makes delicious fajitas.

Cons of using bottom round

There are a few downsides to using bottom round:

  • Dense texture – Requires slicing very thin across the grain.
  • More chewy – Will not be as tender as pricier cuts.
  • Lean – Can become dry if overcooked without marinade.
  • Mild flavor – Needs help from marinades, spices, sauces to boost flavor.

Bottom round requires some TLC through proper slicing, marinating, and quick cooking. With the right techniques, these issues can be minimized.

Best cooking methods

To make the most of bottom round’s qualities, utilize these cooking methods:

  • Grilling – Quickly sear thin strips over high heat. Prevents drying out.
  • Broiling – Also cooks fast with direct high heat.
  • Pan frying – Fry sliced meat in a hot pan until browned.
  • Marinating – Tenderize and add flavor by soaking in an acidic marinade.
  • Braising – Slow cook larger cuts in liquid until tender.
  • Stir frying – Quickly cook thinly sliced meat and vegetables in a wok.

Methods that use high heat provide the best results for fajitas. Marinating helps tenderize while grilling, pan frying, and stir frying keep the meat juicy.

Recommended marinades

Marinating is key when using bottom round for fajitas. The acid helps break down tough muscle fibers. Recommended options include:

  • Lime juice or lemon juice
  • Vinegar such as red wine, cider, or rice vinegar
  • Buttermilk
  • Yogurt
  • Store bought options like Italian dressing or mesquite marinade
  • Fajita seasoning marinade

Mix with vegetable oil along with desired seasonings. For best results, marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours.

Seasonings that pair well

To boost the flavor of bottom round, spice it up with these seasonings:

  • Chili powder
  • Smoked paprika
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fajita seasoning blend

Mix seasonings into marinade or sprinkle over meat before cooking. Garnish cooked fajitas with extra spices.

Is bottom round better than flank steak?

Flank steak also comes from the underside of the cow, below the loin. Here is how it compares:

Characteristic Bottom Round Flank Steak
Flavor Mild Slightly bold
Texture Very dense Fibrous
Fat Content Very lean Lean
Price Cheap Moderate

Bottom round tends to be less expensive than flank steak. But with proper preparation, both can make tasty fajitas.

Fajita recipes with bottom round

Here are some delicious recipes for fajitas using cost-effective bottom round:

Classic Bottom Round Fajitas

  • 1.5 lbs bottom round, sliced into strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • Fajita-sized flour tortillas
  • Toppings like shredded cheese, salsa, guacamole
  1. Mix sliced beef with lime juice, oil, and spices. Marinate 1-2 hours.
  2. Cook beef and veggies on a grill or in a skillet over high heat until browned and tender.
  3. Warm tortillas. Assemble fajitas with meat, peppers, onions and desired toppings.

Spicy Bottom Round Fajitas

  • 1.5 lbs bottom round, sliced
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Corn or flour tortillas
  • Toppings like avocado, Jack cheese
  1. Combine beef, chili powder, jalapeno, and lime juice. Marinate 1 hour.
  2. Grill veggies and beef over high heat until charred and cooked through.
  3. Serve on warm tortillas with desired toppings.

Smoky Bottom Round Fajitas

  • 1.5 lbs bottom round, sliced
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Flour tortillas
  • Toppings like cheddar, sour cream
  1. Combine beef, soy sauce, garlic, chipotle peppers, and lime juice. Marinate 2-4 hours.
  2. Grill onions and marinated beef, basting meat with extra marinade.
  3. Serve in tortillas with desired toppings.


While it requires some extra prep, bottom round can make delicious and affordable fajitas. With proper slicing, marinating, and quick high-heat cooking, it produces tender and flavorful results. The meat soaks up marinades nicely and offers a good protein option. For easy family meals on a budget, bottom round is an excellent choice for fajitas.