Backyard Barbacoa Tacos (on the grill)

These backyard barbacoa tacos made on the grill are a big hit any day of the week (not just Taco Tuesday)!

Do you love tacos? Do you consider yourself a grillmaster (or aspire to)? Then this Backyard Barbacoa Tacos recipe is a must try! Using your braising skills on the grill, you’ll look like an expert and wow your friends over on your next taco night (which should be every night, am I right?)!

WHAT IS BARBACOA?

Barbacoa is a form of cooking meat that has its origins in the Caribbean, but the style we are most familiar with is the one from Mexico, which originates with meats steam cooked underground. Some recipes call for beef from the head of the cow (such as beef cheeks), others call for goat meat (aka- cabrito). Since this backyard barbacoa tacos recipe comes from a gringo and his grill, I’ll be using a chuck roast because this cut of meat is much easier to find in the US.

A PLETHORA OF INGREDIENTS

Adobo and beef together. The barbacoa tacos begin!
Adobo and beef together. The barbacoa tacos begin!

While I tend to post recipes that involve less than 10 ingredients, this one is worth the exception and you’ll taste why. For starters, I dice onion, jalapeño, and mince garlic then sauté in a cast iron skillet on the grill (you can also do this in a frying pan on your stove). Once those are done, I put them in a blender with apple cider vinegar, lime juice, chicken broth, cumin, oregano, black pepper, salt, and cloves. Blend until smooth, which shouldn’t take long since we are using a lot of liquid. This mix you just made is called an adobo, which is a special marinade that consists of peppers, vinegar, and spices.

NOTE: if you’re keeping track at home, that’s 11 ingredients so far.

…AND THEN THERE’S THE MEAT

Now that the above ingredients have formed your adobo, it’s time to take your chuck roast and cut it into sections. We are using a 3 lbs. cut of chuck roast for this recipe, so you’ll either want to cut it into six or eight pieces. I like to put a simple rub of salt and pepper on these pieces to add additional flavor to the meat.

Sear the chunks of chuck roast in a large cast iron skillet (preferably the one you already used to saute the onions, garlic, and jalapeno.
Sear the chunks of chuck roast in a large cast iron skillet (preferably the one you already used to saute the onions, garlic, and jalapeno.

Once you have divided the roast into chunks, place them in a heated cast iron skillet and sear each side for a minute or two. If you have seen other recipes on my website regarding steaks such as tri-tip or New York Strip, you’ll know how much I value the reverse sear. It does feel a little weird to sear first and then slow cook after, but with this recipe it is worth the exception. Make sure all pieces are browned on each side.

Now that the searing of the chunks of chuck roast has been done, place them in a foil pan. I recommend using an 8×8 pan or something a little bigger, depending on how big of a cut of chuck roast you have. Pour the adobo in the pan. I like to add a couple of bay leaves for flavor.

SMOKE AND BRAISE ON THE GRILL

With the meat and the adobo together in the foil pan, place on the grill at 275 degrees over indirect heat. I used my ceramic grill which came with deflector plates to put over the lit coals to create this indirect heat. I put a couple of chunks of hickory wood in there with the coals for some extra smokey flavored goodness. Cook like this for four to five hours or until the meat is shreddable with a fork. The wait for these backyard barbacoa tacos will be well worth it!

At least 200 degrees is a good temp for shredding beef.
The barbacoa reached 200 degrees after almost five hours on the grill. Reaching an internal temp of at least 200 degrees is good for shredding beef. Using my Thermapen Mk4 by Thermoworks.

Since every animal lives a different life and some cows use their muscles more than others, each cut of beef may cook differently. If the meat is still not shreddable after four to five hours, then cover the top of the pan with aluminum foil to help expedite the process.

It’s also worth noting that you may want to flip the chunks of beef over during the cook so the chunks of beef are easier to shred since they have been braising in the adobo.

SHRED IT UP!

barbacoa shredded and ready to eat.
Make sure to let the beef you just shredded sit in the adobo for a little while before serving. That way, the juices soak up into that barbacoa.

Once the beef has been removed from the grill and sat out for a moment, start shredding the chunks of beef. I used a couple of forks, but you can shred with your hands (wearing some insulated gloves) or even a hand mixer if you wish (but that can get messy, so beware). Let the shredded beef sit in that juicy goodness of the adobo for a little while before serving.

Speaking of serving, I recommend offering up this backyard barbacoa on some warm corn tortillas and topped with diced onion, cilantro, and some green tomatillo salsa. Even give a freshly cut lime a gentle squeeze over the top and you’ve got yourself some amazing backyard barbacoa tacos you cooked up on the grill!

barbacoa yes!
Warm up them corn tortillas before you paint a masterpiece with your backyard barbacoa (and toppings).

THE RECIPE!

Backyard Barbacoa Tacos

Backyard Barbacoa Tacos

Tired of having ground beef tacos? This barbacoa recipe will transform your taco night from average to extraordinary! And it can all be made on your grill (or oven/stove if you prefer).

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 chuck roast (3lbs.)
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 C apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 3/4 C chicken broth
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • FOR TACOS:
  • 25-30 corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, diced
  • 1 jar green tomatillo salsa

Instructions

  1. Saute onion, jalapeno, and garlic in cast iron skillet. Set aside.
  2. Create adobo (marinade) by combining apple cider vinegar, lime juice, chicken broth, cumin, oregano, black pepper, salt, and cloves in a blender. Add sauteed onion, jalapeno, and garlic. Blend until smooth.
  3. Divide chuck roast into 6-8 pieces, season, and sear pieces in cast iron skillet for 1-2 minutes on each side
  4. Place meat in 8x8 foil pan and pour adobo in. Add bay leaves. Place on grill at 275 degrees over indirect heat for 4-5 hours, turn chunks of beef halfway through the cook. Done when beef at or above 200 degrees internal temp or when beef can be shredded with a fork.
  5. Shred beef and let rest in adobo before serving. Serve on corn tortillas warmed on a skillet, top with diced onion, cilantro, and green tomatilla salsa.

Notes

  1. Chuck roast was used for this recipe. To go more authentic, substitute beef cheek.
  2. To make more spicy, either add more jalapeno or substitute serrano pepper.

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:

2 street tacos

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 251 Total Fat: 12g Saturated Fat: 5.9g Trans Fat: 0.5g Cholesterol: 76mg Sodium: 282mg Carbohydrates: 15g Fiber: 2.3g Sugar: 2g Protein: 22g

Traeger HQ Visit

Outside of Traeger HQ.
Outside of Traeger HQ.

Back in February, I had the opportunity to visit Traeger‘s mothership in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was escorted around by the one and only Chad Ward, who is their Director of Marketing (BBQ) and also has his own shops in Florida called Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply.

Chad was kind enough to show me around, let me check out some Traegers in action, and get a sneak peak at the new Traeger Timberline, which was freshly released today. I waited to post this article for a while, but I made a blood oath gave my word that I would not share pictures until the day the Timberline was officially announced. Since it has been announced, here are a few pictures I took:

Behold: the Timberline in all of its beta testing glory!
Behold: the Timberline in all of its beta testing glory!

See? I wasn't lying.
See? I wasn’t lying.

The built-in Wi-FiRE is gonna be a game changer!
The built-in Wi-FiRE is gonna be a game changer!

I also had a chance to sit down with Chad and do a Q&A, which I have transcribed highlights below.

Dan (Me): When exactly did Traeger begin?

Chad: Traeger began 30 years ago in 1987 by Bob Traeger in his old wooden barn in Oregon. Bob patented all of his designs, which have been used for other wood fire cookers such as Fast Eddie’s pellet cookers. Bob was the innovator in wood fire cooking.

One of the original Traeger grills turned into an art exhibit at HQ.
One of the original Traeger grills turned into an art exhibit at HQ.

D: I know Traeger headquarters recently moved from Oregon to Utah.

C: Traeger moved from Wilsonville, Oregon to Salt Lake City, Utah as part of the ownership change that took place with Jeremy Andrus as CEO. The move to Salt Lake City was announced late 2015. Jeremy was previously the CEO of Skullcandy and became interested in Traeger because he bought one, cooked on it and said, “this is the best brand that no one knows about.” Months later, he and some other investors bought the company, aligned their channel strategy, and have helped the company grow exceptionally.

D: One thing I’ve noticed about your marketing strategy is that it’s all about fun; enjoying the experience instead of trying to be all professional.

C: What’s better than being outdoors, with family and friends, and cooking a great meal? And by doing that on a Traeger, it’s a lot simpler than any other method. You get consistent results, great quality, you’ve always got that flavor and taste off of a great wood fired grill and that’s fun! That’s how we want people to see the brand.

D: I noticed you have your own brand of pellets. Do you actually make them or hire it out?

C: We are the only pellet grill company to own their own pellet mills, meaning we control the quality of wood we bring in, we control the quality of pellet we turn out. It is the only 100% wood based pellet (we do use a food grade soybean oil to bind the wood together). One test I’ll tell people to do: take a glass of water and drop a Traeger pellet in. It immediately dissolves back to sawdust. You do that with another pellet that uses an artificial binder and it just clumps up.

D: It seems like Traeger has this sort of “cult” following, but not in a bad way. As if you have your own brand of loyalists. Why do you think that is?

C: I think it comes back to taste and consistency. People know when they cook on a Traeger what they’re going to get off of it. They’re very loyal to the brand and we appreciate it. We don’t take that lightly. We try to stay in touch (via social media) not only with those who are loyal, but even those who are new to the brand. We love staying in contact. We not only want to be the grill manufacturer, we want to be the subject matter expert. In fact, we have over 1,000 recipes on our website and these are recipes that have all been tried and trued and shot right here in our culinary kitchen. These are recipes either written by employees or Traeger enthusiasts.

Howdy.
Howdy.

D: Traeger grills are a 6-in-1 cooking device (smoke, sear, bake, roast, braise, and BBQ). What is the difference between baking something like lasagna in the oven as compared to in a Traeger?

C: You’re cooking over 100% wood fire and not a heating element. It’s going to give your lasagna that kiss of smoke.

D: Soemthing that was news to me (since I’ve never used a Traeger before) was that Traegers, like all pellet grills, is that they need to be plugged in. Do you have anything coming out to work around that?

C: You have to have some type of power. We have used solar panels to power a Traeger. We’ve even used marine batteries. There’s ways to get around having an electric receptacle in a building to plug into. FYI- that power is needed to run the auger and the fan to control the temperature and fire.

D: You all have your own line of rubs and sauces.

C: We do. We are really excited to soon be launching a whole new line of rubs and sauces that we have put a year’s worth of R&D (research and development) into. We’re really proud of them. In March, we are dropping around 25 new accessories, such as butcher paper. We also have a 3-piece BBQ set coming. Traditionally, 3-piece sets include a fork, spatula, and tongs. But when was the last time you saw someone use that giant fork?  Instead, we put a pig tail on ours so you can take that steak or tri-tip, scoop it, and flip it over. That’s a much better third tool than a fork.

C: Our customer service we have invested heavily in.  You have a problem with our Traeger and you call our customer service it will get resolved it will be resolved in a timely fashion. That is something we review (with our leadership) every single day: what’s our customer service call volume and what’s our percentage of resolution with in the acceptable time period.

D: For anyone who hasn’t used a Traeger before, what would you advise?

C: Don’t overthink it. We have a great instruction manual on how to put it together. You putting it together helps give you a better idea of why it is structured the way it is. We also have a great cookbook that comes in every grill we sell. And I tell you what: that is where to start. Pick that chicken recipe. Or pork butt recipe. And just follow it to a T. If you’re grilling, start with chicken. If you’re smoking, start with pork butt. They are pretty cheap cuts of meat and are pretty forgiving.  And one thing, not just for Traeger users but for anyone using a grill or smoker, get a good digital thermometer. Everyone wants to say “oh, it’s done after seven hours” or “oh, it’s done after five hours” but time is just a guideEvery animal has lived a different life. Some cuts are more tender, sometimes that same style of cut is more tough. Some will cook quicker than others. You need to be cooking to internal temperatures. Once you start cooking to internal temps, you will become a better cook overnight. Also, don’t forget that when you pull the food out, it will gain another 3-4 degrees in temp, also known as the carryover cook. Don’t forget to estimate that.

Chad and I taking a candid shot in front of a grill. :)
Chad and I taking a candid shot in front of a grill. 🙂

So, there you have it folks! Thanks again to Chad and Traeger for letting me hang out!