Chipotle’s New Protein Could Have Been So Much Better

Garlic Guajillo Steak is the latest limited-time-only meat to hit the menu.

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Image for article titled Chipotle’s New Protein Could Have Been So Much Better
Photo: Dennis Lee

Whenever Chipotle releases a limited-time-only protein option, it’s like a game of roulette. Some debuts are delicious, while others could definitely have been better. (And some burrito innovations probably should never have been released in the first place.) This week, Chipotle has announced the release of another meat selection: Garlic Guajillo Steak, available nationwide on September 14. (Rewards members can access the new steak a day early—so, today.)

A press release sent to The Takeout describes the seasoning on the new steak as a “dynamic combination of garlic and guajillo peppers, brought to life with real ingredients and classic cooking techniques.” Once cooked, it’s “finished with fresh lime and hand-chopped cilantro.” Vague descriptors like “classic cooking techniques” aside, I already had a pretty good idea of what this would taste like. Why? Because lime, cilantro, garlic, and guajillo were all components of the Chipotle Pollo Asado released earlier this year, just with poultry swapped in for the beef.

As for the beef, while the press release didn’t specify what cut of steak is being used for the Garlic Guajillo Steak, Chipotle confirmed to The Takeout that it’s a mix of top sirloin butt and tri-tip, grilled on the flat top and sliced by hand after cooking.

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How does Chipotle Garlic Guajillo Steak taste?

Chipotle provided me with a sample burrito bowl prior to the release of the new steak. And as much as I wanted to love it, or at least enjoy it on some level, there are multiple factors that prevented either outcome.

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I get no joy out of writing bad reviews. I really do go into every one of these things as an optimist, with the genuine hope that everything I eat is going to be good or novel or interesting. There might be some writers out there who think trashing a fast food chain is fun and well deserved (after all, big corporations don’t always have the best reputation), but I’m just here to taste what’s on offer and see if the food speaks for itself.

My biggest gripe with the Garlic Guajillo Steak is the meat itself. Each piece in my burrito bowl had a different texture. Some slices were fork tender, while others were impervious to the firm applied pressure of my fork. I had a few good bites, and some full of gristle. After eating a few pieces of steak, I realized that I had no idea what kind of meat I was going to get in my next forkful. I like adventurous food, but unpredictable food isn’t nearly as fun.

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giant piece of steak
Photo: Dennis Lee

It wasn’t just the flavor and texture of each bite of steak that was inconsistent, but the heft, too. While many slices of the steak were uniformly cut into long strips, others absolutely enormous, like the honking four-inch-long forkful pictured above. I’m going to chalk this up to inconsistent knife work at the restaurant, but still worth noting.

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I’m a mostly retired line cook, but I do have a little prep cook experience too, and consistency of execution really depends on whoever’s doing the work. Just by looking at the slices you receive on your plate (or in your bowl), you can tell if someone is attentive at their job or just not feeling it that day—or if they were in an immense hurry, as might have been the case here. A protein like steak needs the sort of careful attention that a Chipotle assembly line might not be equipped to provide.

You can see the flecks of seasoning all over the beef in the photos, but I couldn’t taste garlic or guajillo. The flavor was beef, mostly plain. These days, if I’m going to spring for beef, which isn’t terribly often, I try to be mindful and go for something worth enjoying. At Chipotle, there are other proteins to turn to that won’t leave me feeling like I squandered my order.

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I’m not sure if Chipotle’s Garlic Guajillo Steak was entirely an execution issue, or if the base ingredients themselves were flawed, but what I do know is that it wasn’t a great serving of food, and I’d have a tough time recommending it. Next time you head to Chipotle, let your creature-of-habit instincts kick in, relax your FOMO muscles, and stick to your usual order instead.

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