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Slow-Cooked Pork Barbacoa

Slow-Cooked Pork Barbacoa

When I worked at TWO Urban Licks in Atlanta, most of the crew was Hispanic. Every Saturday, one of the cooks would bring...

Slow-Cooked Pork Barbacoa

When I worked at TWO Urban Licks in Atlanta, most of the crew was Hispanic. Every Saturday, one of the cooks would bring in barbacoa tacos he bought from a guy named Manuel out on Buford Highway. This kind of Mexican barbecue isn’t smoky. Everyone knows Mexican tacos can be dry, but Manuel’s were moist and juicy, with spices like clove, allspice, and cinnamon along with hot peppers. I loved them. I’ve stayed true to Manuel’s flavors here, but I use pork instead of goat, wrap it up in foil, and then bake it until it’s tender enough to shred. If you have a pit in your backyard, have at it. But the foil-and-oven method works great. The meat is delicious in tacos. — Kevin Gillespie, author of Pure Pork Awesomeness.

Notes

Instead of Boston butt, you could use the picnic part of the shoulder. Or use the whole shoulder if you have one. Just trim the fat down to 1/8-inch or so.

For a simple family meal, just serve the shredded meat in corn tortillas with rice and beans and whatever toppings you like — chopped onion, grated cheese, a squeeze of lime.

From Pure Pork Awesomeness: Totally Cookable Recipes from Around the World by Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon ancho chile powder (or other single chile powder, not a blend)
  • ½ Teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ Teaspoon ground cloves
  • 5 Pounds bone-in pork shoulder
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 dried bay leaves

Servings12

Calories Per Serving457

Folate equivalent (total)12µg3%

Riboflavin (B2)0.5mg31.3%


Recipe Summary

  • 2 pounds pork shoulder roast
  • 1 ¼ cups caffeinated pepper-type soda (such as Dr Pepper®)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
  • ⅔ cup salsa verde
  • 1 habanero pepper, diced (Optional)
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

Place pork shoulder fat-side-up in a slow cooker. Cover with soda, garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Cover and cook on Low until pork is tender and can be easily pulled apart with a fork, 8 to 10 hours.

Remove any bones and solid hunks of fat from pork and discard. Shred with 2 forks stir pork into its juices. Add brown sugar, green chiles, salsa verde, and habanero pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.

Cover and cook on Low until flavors are absorbed, about 1 hour.


What is Barbacoa?

Traditionally, barbacoa is meat, mostly beef or goat or lamb, that is slow cooked with seasonings and shredded for filling in tacos, burritos or other Mexican dishes. Mexican barbacoa is usually steam cooked in an underground pit/oven, though sometimes it is cooked on open fires, until the meat is tender and succulent. It is normally served with warm corn tortillas, guacamole and salsa.

But, Caribbeans are also passionate for ownership of barbacoa, as it is believed to have originated centuries ago in Barbados. The word “barbecue” comes from the Caribbean word “barbacoa”. Originally, a barbacoa wasn’t a way of cooking food, but the name of a wooden structure used by the Caribbean Taino Indians to smoke their food.

Spanish explorers took the word barbacoa back to Spain and somehow it creeped back to Mexico and Mexican cuisine! But does it really matter? All that matters is those amazing flavors that my crock pot slaved all day to create…


Slow Cooker Sweet Pork Barbacoa Recipe just like in Mexico

Barbacoa can mean a lot of things depending on the context. It can mean a dish, the meat used in the dish, a way of cooking, or the oven the dish is cooked in.

It came from the Taino people of the Caribbean who spoke Arawak. Barbacoa can refer to the meat from the head of cattle, goat, or lamb used in the recipe. It can mean the slow cooking method used, which is done over an open fire, originally a pit lined with maguey leaves. This pit was also called barbacoa.

By association, the dish made in this way, with lots of spices, is named the same. When the dish became popular in South-western USA, mainly Texas, it became what we know as “barbecue”. Although pork is not the usual meat used, the pork barbacoa recipe has become quite popular due to the lightness of pork and the variety of flavors you can obtain.

Barbacoa pork is usually obtained from the shoulders and hind of the animal. The following sweet barbacoa pork recipe is inspired by the Cafe Rio delicacy that so many people swear by.


Slow Cooked Beef Barbacoa Tacos

How many times have you been to Chipotle, saw their spread of burrito fillings and thought to yourself "man, homemade barbacoa would be so much better than this stuff," then ordered barbacoa anyway? It happens to me all the time, so I finally decided to make my own version of barbacoa--Mexican barbeque beef.

I'm sure there are countless ways to prepare it, depending on the region of Mexico and the availability of a slow cooker. I melded a few recipes together and used some stuff I had on hand. After slow cooking the beef for 10 hours, I served it taco-style in a warm tortilla with some pico de gallo, cheese, chopped cilantro and sour cream. I used simple garnishes so the chipotle and chili powder flavors could really shine through in the beef. Traditionally beef barbacoa is made with the entire cow's head, but for cooking-at-home purposes I used chuck. This is a perfect party recipe because it's easy to make, fairly inexpensive, yields more beef than you can probably handle and everyone loves it.

Slow Cooked Beef Barbacoa Tacos

1 - Combine all beef ingredients in a slow cooker, adjusting the spicy items to taste. I like to use the whole can of chipotle peppers, but wouldn't recommend it if you're not into spicy foods.
2 - Set the slow cooker on low and cook for 8 hours. I cooked mine for 10 but it was definitely ready to go around 8. The longer the better!
3 - Check on it every few hours. If the beef needs more liquid, add the remaining chicken stock to moisten.
4 - After 8 hours, season to taste with salt, pepper and cider vinegar (if you're into that sort of thing).
5 - When the beef is ready to go, assemble the tacos -- warm the tortillas by wrapping them in a paper towel and throwing them in the microwave for a few seconds (or grill them if you want to get really fancy) then add the beef, salsa, cilantro, sour cream and of course, cheese.


Ingredients in Barbacoa

The list of spices used to make this succulent barbacoa recipe is short. Aside from the regular salt, black pepper, garlic and onions that most slow cooked meat recipes call for, I included:

Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – adds smokey rich flavor that soaks into the meat without being too overpowering. Feel free to adjust the amount used in the recipe depending on your heat tolerance.

Cumin and oregano – traditional Mexican flavor combination that adds to the natural flavors of the meat

Apple cider vinegar – brings some acidity to the meat so it’s not overwhelmingly rich

A bay leaf – helps round out the overall flavors of the meat. Adds a little something something that you can’t quite put your finger on, but you’d realize it if it wasn’t there.

If you love barbacoa beef but don’t want to wait 8 hours for the slow cooker to do it’s thing, then the Instant Pot method is the way to go. It will have everything ready to eat in under 2 hours with the same tender and flavorful results as the slow cooker method.

The Instant Pot has really taken the food blogging world by storm lately. If you’re not familiar with this kitchen gadget, it’s an electric pressure cooker that allows you to cook meats, soups and stews, and many other things in less than half the time that it would normally take. It’s a lifesaver for those looking to infuse a ton of flavor into food in a short amount of time. Here’s the Instant Pot that I highly recommend!


This Sweet Pork is to die for!

Hi everyone. It’s Gina from Kleinworth & Co. & I’m back today to share my all-time favorite dinner ideas. You see, pulled pork is the one thing I absolutely can’t get enough of. All by itself, in some bbq sauce, or in a burrito—I could eat it all day everyday for the rest of my days on earth.

Then when we moved here to North Idaho and we found Cafe Rio, it was there that I tried Sweet Pork Barbacoa for the first time and I swear my eyes rolled to the back of my head. I was in sheer heaven and I knew that I would have to figure out how to make my own.

After a few attempts I finally have this one perfected & I’m here today to share that perfect recipe with you all.

I make this as often as the rest of the family can stand it… And then probably more often than they would like. They do LOVE it. However, no one in this house loves it as much as I do. In fact, it’s pretty hard for me to even share with them.


Barbacoa recipe

Barbacoa is a Mexican dish of slow cooked, spicy and tangy meat, often shredded and served as tacos. Our recipe uses beef but you can substitute this with pork if you prefer.

Ingredients

  • 18 small corn tortillas, warmed
  • 6 sliced spring onions
  • 1 handful coriander leaves, chopped
  • 200 g salsa
  • 18 small corn tortillas, warmed
  • 6 sliced spring onions
  • 1 handful coriander leaves, chopped
  • 7.1 oz salsa
  • 18 small corn tortillas, warmed
  • 6 sliced spring onions
  • 1 handful coriander leaves, chopped
  • 7.1 oz salsa
  • 90 g jar of chipotle paste
  • 30 g bunch coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 pinch salt, to taste
  • 4 limes, juiced
  • 100 ml cider vinegar
  • 1.5 kg piece beef brisket
  • 200 ml beef stock
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 3.2 oz jar of chipotle paste
  • 1.1 oz bunch coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 pinch salt, to taste
  • 4 limes, juiced
  • 3.5 fl oz cider vinegar
  • 3.3 lbs piece beef brisket
  • 7 fl oz beef stock
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 3.2 oz jar of chipotle paste
  • 1.1 oz bunch coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 pinch salt, to taste
  • 4 limes, juiced
  • 0.4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3.3 lbs piece beef brisket
  • 0.8 cup beef stock
  • 5 bay leaves

Details

  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Recipe Type: Barbacoa
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Preparation Time: 20 mins
  • Cooking Time: 480 mins
  • Serves: 6

Step-by-step

  1. Place the chipotle paste, coriander, red onion, garlic, cloves, salt, lime juice, and cider vinegar in a food processor and pulse until combined.
  2. Add to a removable slow cooker bowl and place the brisket on top of this mixture. Add the stock and the bay leaves. Use tongs to turn the meat a few times in the sauce.
  3. Put the lid on the slow cooker. Cook until the meat shreds easily with 2 forks, 8 to 10 hours on Low or around 6 hours on High.
  4. Delicious served as tacos with salsa, coriander, sour cream and onions.

This recipe is courtesy of Crock-Pot.

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Slow Cooker Barbacoa Recipe

Not only are we upgrading the backyard oven but we’ll also simplify the spices used. Instead of foraging through the jungle for chili peppers, just buy a can of these:

Chipotles in adobo are a natural fit for beef and they are the heart of our seasoning mix here.

Yes, there are more complex versions of barbacoa using dried chili peppers that we might delve into later on, but this version is designed to be hands off and beyond easy. Don’t worry though, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much flavor you can get from just a few key ingredients.

This version is also a great core recipe to have in your arsenal to compare to other more time consuming recipes. It has a rich, succulent flavor that belies the ease of its creation. No digging or foraging necessary.

Chuck roast is probably the most common cut used for cooking in the low-and-slow realm. This 2 lb. cut will easily serve 5-6 hungry people, if not more.

Note that tongue and cheek are frequently added to hardcore authentic barbacoa, but that’s only required if you are digging an oven in the backyard.

Trim off any excess fat and cut the beef into 2-3 inch chunks. Then add:

3 chipotles in adobo
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1 onion
5 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon oregano ( I used Mexican oregano but regular is fine)
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons salt
freshly cracked black pepper
juice of 2 limes
splash of water

Give it a good stir and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

When the meat is cooked inside and fork tender it’s ready to be shredded. I cooked this batch on high for 4 hours.

The beef will nearly pull apart on its own you can easily shred it using two forks or a spatula. (Note: it can be easier to discard excess fatty bits if you shred it on a plate.)

And now the most important part: take a taste. If it’s slightly bland don’t fret as the shredded bits will inherit loads of flavor as they rest in the juices. I added another generous pinch of salt to this batch and let it cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Please don’t skimp on this final step no matter how hungry your family is! The juices are loaded with flavor and letting them seep into the shredded bits is the key.

And now you’ve got two pounds of chipotle infused juicy beef that can be used in a variety of ways. I’ve been using it in Barbacoa Burritos and will put up a recipe for that next week, but in the meantime it’s worth considering a simple Barbacoa Taco.

It’s worth trying out a no-frills taco to see how complete it tastes to you. It’s like…if you’ve got a flavor-loaded batch of slow cooker barbacoa then you might not need a whole lot of fixings to make a rewarding taco.

This version uses Pickled Onions and freshly chopped cilantro in a warm corn tortilla. Pickled Onions aren’t required but I highly recommend trying Pickled Something with barbacoa at some point as the burst of acidity seems to pair naturally with the beef.

Definitely store any leftovers in the juices as this will help the barbacoa keep longer.

And now you can put your shovel away, errrr your slow cooker that is, and enjoy your succulent batch of barbacoa.


Recipe Steps

Step 1: Using the tip of a paring knife, make a series of 1/4-inch-deep slits in the pork shoulder, 1 inch apart.

Step 2: Prepare the adobo: Stem the chiles, tear open, and remove the veins and seeds. Soak the chiles in water to cover until soft and pliable, about 30 minutes. Drain and place in a blender with the garlic, onion, oregano, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, salt, vinegar, and water. Puree to a smooth paste.

Step 3: Smear this paste all over the pork and let marinate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Step 4: Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to 300 degrees F.

Step 5: Assemble the consommé: Place the onion, carrots, zucchini, pumpkin, cabbage, tomato, potato, corn, herb bundle, and water in a large low round pot—a Dutch oven is ideal. Or use an old pan or one whose outside appearance you don’t particularly care about.

Step 6: You’re now ready to assemble the barbacoa: Place the consommé pot in the center of the grill away from the heat. If your grill or smoker has enough headroom, place a metal rack, like a cake rack, on top and layer it with half the avocado leaves. Place the pork on top, fat side up, and carpet the pork with the remaining avocado leaves. (A Weber kettle grill outfitted with a rotisserie ring, which lifts the lid by about 6 inches, is ideal.) If you do not have a grill or smoker large enough to accommodate the height of the Dutch oven and the racked meat, carpet the consommé with avocado leaves and lay the pork shoulder directly on top. Top with more avocado leaves. (No rack needed.) Do not replace the lid of the Dutch oven. Add half the smoking chips to the coals. Tightly cover the smoker.

Step 7: Cook the barbacoa until the pork is fall-of-the-bone tender, 5 to 6 hours. Toss the remaining half of the wood chips on the coals after 1 hour. If using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to add 8 to 10 fresh coals per side every hour. When the pork is done, it will be fork-tender and the internal temperature will be about 180 degrees F.

Step 8: To serve the barbacoa, discard the top layer of avocado leaves and transfer the pork and bottom layer of leaves to a platter. Thinly slice the meat or cut it into chunks. Using a ladle, skim off any fat floating on the surface of the consommé. Stir in the chopped cilantro, chipotle, and salt and pepper to taste. The soup should be highly seasoned. Serve the consommé in bowls, the meat on a plate, both with warm tortillas and salsa.