It’s not the tastiest beef cut nor the tenderest. For that matter, we couldn’t reach consensus on whether arrachera comes from beef flank or skirt (part of the plate, or diaphragm). The word itself may have derived from the French arracher, meaning “to pull up,” used by soldiers during Mexico’s French invasion whenever they needed their saddle tightened—locals perhaps thinking that the term referred to the cinch strap itself. And there is evidence of specific requests for arrachera in butcher shops in northern Mexico as early as the mid ’20s.

Arrachera is ubiquitous, from marinated and ready-to-grill Cryovac packages in supermarkets to just about every Mexican restaurant in town and the rest of the country. And the thought of it—grilled on the spot, served with refried beans, rice, fresh tomato salsa and handmade corn tortillas on the side—is as seductive as savoring it is fulfilling.

(Arrachera photographed at Las Adelitas, Fluvial Vallarta.)