Simultaneously tender and crispy, these sumptuous hunks of ribeye steak are fried in lard until they turn a deep golden color of “EAT ME!”.
The title of this dish, Chicharron De Ribeye, can be a little confusing. Maybe even misleading. All you need to know, is that it involves shallow fried beef cooked in animal fats. And THAT means, it’s one of the greatest things a carnivore could ever hope to eat.
Traditionally, chicharrones are Mexican style fried pork skins. Similar to cracklins or pork rinds. In this case, the chicharron are not skin but perfectly crispy hunks of prime steak. It’s as though the crispiest piece of bacon had a child with the beefiest, butteriest steak. It’s truly a thing of culinary beauty.
I first came across these meaty morsels in McAllen, Texas, a town that sits right on the Mexican border. Served in atop a mound of creamy fresh guacamole, I distinctly recall the moment the server put them down on the tabletop in front of us. We all looked up at one another with gleeful grins – is this real?! Did we REALLY just find crispy ribeye nuggets?! YES! YES WE DID!
Most recently, a trip to Sayulita revealed another version where the chunks were served in a hot molcajete. Sizzling and audibly crackling in the hot lava stone. Meat based ASMR at it’s finest. But as I popped the scalding chunks of tallow-coated heaven into my mouth, I knew I simply had to make these at home.
And so, the great beef chicharron quest began. Initially, I thought it was a little indulgent/silly that they cut up a good ribeye steak to make this dish. As I developed and tested the recipe, I tried several secondary (cheaper) cuts of beef to try and justify the “cube n fry” treatment. But, they really ended up dry, some eve impossibly tough and endlessly chewy.
I started to realize that the use of ribeye was not merely a gimmick, but a way to get beautiful chunks of rendered fat into a dish that needed the fat to remain tender. In short, for this dish to be everything that makes it so wonderful, you really do need to use a premium cut of meat. Not merely a ribeye, but a Prime ribeye. Prime is the highest USDA grade, and means the meat is rippled with tiny seams of delicate fat. This fat translates both to flavor and tenderness, and is the mark of a quality piece of beef.
If you do not have lard or tallow you can use frying oil, but here’s my guide to how to make your own lard and tallow at home.Print
Chicharron De Ribeye (crispy deep fried steak cubes!)
3 Prime ribeye steaks, 10-12oz each
1 cup lard or tallow
2 tsp kosher salt
1–2 cups guacamole to serve (optional)
- Place the lard or tallow into a deep skillet or wok style pan, then place over high heat. The trick to this recipe is the get the fat very hot and keep it as such during the cooking, so the meat can properly brown to an intense color and texture without overcooking.
- While the fat is heating, cut the ribeye steaks into cubes between 0.5-1 inch thick. It’s ok if they are not all uniform, this will just give you some smaller crunchy bits, and larger steaky pieces.
- Sprinkle the pieces with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, then carefully add them to the pan. The fat should start bubbling vigorously as soon as the meat hits it. Use a heat-tolerant spoon/spatula to move the steak around for 1-2 minutes, ensuring it doesn’t stick to the pan.
- Leave the steak to continue shallow frying, stirring every 3-4 minutes to ensure everything is cooking evenly. The total cook time will be about 10-14 minutes.
- The chicharrones are ready once they have turned a dark shade of golden brown – if you take them off earlier, they will be more chewy than crispy.
- Remove the chicharron from the lard, then sprinkle with the remaining salt. For a serving suggestion, pile them on top of mounds of cool guacamole – it makes a great dipping treat.
- this recipe can produce some smoke from the high temps required. I cooked it outside over my grill.