Beef barbacoa is a sure fire way to make tacos that people talk about. Talk about in a good way. The richness of the beef. The gentle heat from the chiles. The tang of the vinegar. Just big, wonderful flavours. Hard to beat. If you can make pot roast, you can make beef barbacoa.
Better than taqueria beef barbacoa is a bit of a tall claim. I know. But keep in mind they made their barbacoa yesterday. This morning maybe. Reheated to order. You can serve it that way too. Then it’s just “as good as taqueria beef barbacoa”.
At least I didn’t say better than Chipotle’s barbacoa. Not sure how a company that cooks at a central factory and ships country wide is the gold standard. Don’t get me wrong. As far as mass produced fast food goes, Chipotle’s is pretty good. But I’m not going to compare what I cook to them. And nor should you.
Beef barbacoa really is a variation on pot roast. Brown some beef and braise it in a covered dutch oven. Shred it and add the juices back in. It’s just as easy as that. And if you’ve never made pot roast, this is as good as any place to learn…
- 3 lbs good quality beef chuck roast or bottom blade roast (one piece of meat)
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp Mexican oregano (optional - don't substitute regular oregano)
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- ¼ cup pure mild chili powder (I like New Mexican Red or Ancho)
- 1-3 chipotles in adobo plus some of the adobo puree (depending on how spicy you like it).
- 2 tsp salt
- 1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 cups low sodium chicken stock (I like Campbell's if you don't want to make stock)
- Pre-heat your oven to 275F.
- Combine the cider vinegar, garlic, Mexican oregano, cumin, chili powder, chipotles and adobo, salt and enough water to make a smooth paste in a blender. Blend until smooth.
- Brown the beef in the oil using an oven proof dutch oven large enough to hold the beef. You want the meat to brown up but not crazy brown. If you push it too far the edge of the beef will not get to the meltingly tender stage. This step is critical to getting the big beefy flavour so don't skip it.
- Remove the beef from the pot.
- Adjust your heat to medium low. Pour the chili/vinegar paste into the pan. It will bump so be ready. Don't wear nice clothes for this step.
- Cook the chili/vinegar paste for about 2 minutes, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
- Add the chicken stock and return the beef to the pot.
- Cover and place in the oven. Cook (braise) the beef for about 4 hours. You are going for fork tender. Start checking around the 3 hour mark. It's like BBQ brisket. It's ready when it's ready. Not before so don't pull it because you are running out of time. If it's taking too long nudge the temperature up to 325F and check every 15-20 minutes.
- Remove the beef from the pot. Let the beef cool until you can shred it. Two forks works for this. Your hands work pretty well too.
- Pour the liquid into a bowl. Skim the fat from the surface. If you have a fat separator kicking around from Thanksgiving use that.
- Pour the defatted braising liquid into the shredded beef and mix.
- Serve and prepare to be told you make better than taqueria beef barbacoa!