Beef barbacoa. Better than you can buy. I think anyway. Deep beefy flavour. Gentle heat from the chilies. And a little tang at the end. This is how you make tacos people talk about.
Hard to beat. But not hard to make. If you can make pot roast, you can make beef barbacoa.
Beef barbacoa you will be proud of
Better than taqueria beef barbacoa. That’s a tall claim. I know. I haven’t eaten at every taqueria out there. But I have eaten at a lot of them. I love tacos.
Texas. San Diego. Arizona. Mexico. And a bunch of places with lesser credentials. I’ve been around.
Maybe your taqueria is truly great. I can believe it is. Maybe you’ve been lucky. Got a taco every time they finished making their beef barbacoa.
But for those of who get reheated barbacoa. Made yesterday. Or the day before. I think this is better.
At least I didn’t say better than Chipotle’s. How is anything cooked at a central factory and shipped country wide is the gold standard?
Makes no sense. But look around the internet. Everyone is making beef barbacoa “as good as Chipotle”. Call me crazy but there’s better out there. Way better.
I’m not saying I don’t like Chipotle Mexican Grill by the way. As far as fast food goes it is pretty good. Just suggesting it might not be at the pinnacle of Mexican cuisine.
Barbacoa – pot roast but better
This is just a fancy pot roast. Seriously. If you can make a pot roast you can make barbacoa.
And if you’ve never made a pot roast? This is a good time to start. It’s easy. Slow food. A lot of flavour. Not a lot of work. And you can feed a crowd.
Goes like this. Brown some beef in a dutch oven. Fry up a spice paste. Add some chicken stock.
Stick it in a low oven. Braise until tender. Meltingly tender. Shred the beef. The sauce is already made. It’s the braising liquid.
Combine the braising liquid with the beef. Simmer that together to get the flavours to really combine. Done. It is really that easy.
There’s magic in the sauce
The sauce is what makes this. Pure chili powder. Chipotle in adobo. Some Mexican spices. Garlic. And a bit of vinegar for tang. Nothing too exotic. Pretty simple really.
The magic comes when you cook the beef. All those wonderful beefy juices become the backbone of the sauce. Beefy. There’s no there way to describe it.
It’s incredibly savoury. Intense. And the sauce coats every little bit of beef. It’s just one big flavour sledgehammer.
Slow cooker beef barbacoa
Bet you thought I was going to tell you how to use a slow cooker to make this dish. Nope. Sorry to disappoint.
Slow cookers take the idea of a braise too far. You get great sauce. Sure. You will always get great sauce. Because all the flavour from the meat is in the sauce.
Good sauce. Truly tasteless meat. Not what I’m looking for. Not what I would call better than Chipotle’s even.
I don’t do the slow cooker thing. Never will. I’m after balance. I want the best. No compromise for convenience.
Not just for tacos
But barbacoa is not just for tacos. Put some in an quesadilla some time. With a little Mexican cotija cheese if you can get it. That’s a serious quesadilla.
Makes a great filling for a burrito. Some charro beans. Lettuce. Onion. Pico. A little guacamole. I’m getting hungry here…
Makes a great topping for nachos too. Corn chips. Salsa. Melted jack. Pickled jalapeño. And some little barbacoa flavour bombs on top. That is good living.
Beef barbacoa. Incredible tacos. And so much more.
better than taqueria beef barbacoa
The chili vinegar paste
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp Mexican oregano – optional but don’t substitute regular oregano
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1/4 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
- 3 lbs good quality beef chuck roast or bottom blade roast – one piece of meat
- 1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
Make the chili vinegar paste
- 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.
Make beef barbacoa
- Pre-heat your oven to 275F.
- 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. Do not remove the fat in the pot. Pour the chili vinegar paste into the pan. It will bump so be ready. Stand back. Don't wear nice clothes for this step. Seriously.
- Cook the chili vinegar paste for about 2-3 minutes, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
- Add the chicken stock, stir to combine and return the beef to the pot.
- Bring to a simmer.
- Cover and place in the oven.
- Cook (braise) the beef for about 4 hours total. Set a timer for 1 hour. After an hour remove the pot from the oven and flip the beef. Cover and return the pot to the oven. Repeat this a total of three times.
- After 3 hours cooking time check to see if the beef is fork tender. I find it's about right at an internal temperature of 207F. It's ready when it's ready. Not before. If it's taking too long nudge the temperature up to 325F and check every 15-20 minutes.
- If the beef is fork tender remove from the oven. If it isn't return the pot, covered, to the oven. Check every 20 minutes until it is fork tender.
- Remove the beef from the pot. Let the beef cool until you can shred it. Two forks works for this. Your want the strands to be about 1 inch long so cut the beef before shredding.
- 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 (now a wonderful sauce) into the shredded beef and mix to combine.. Return the meat and liquid to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for around 5 minutes. This gets the sauce and the meat to really come together. Taste and adjust salt if required.
- Serve and prepare to be told you make better than taqueria beef barbacoa!