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I remember the first time I tried barbacoa. I had it from a gas station of all places. When I took that first bite I instantly fell in love. The meat was incredibly tender, it had an explosion of flavor, and the tortilla with the Pico de Gallo only heightened the experience. However, I wasn’t aware as to what ‘barbacoa’ was. To me, I thought it was just some sort of stew meat or brisket. Later in life, I found out that here in Texas it’s usually made from beef cheek meat. Although in Mexico they use cow or goat head meat. While some people may find the idea of the cut of meat hard to stomach, I promise you, if you had it without knowing what it was – you wouldn’t even think it’s head or cheek meat, and once you taste it – you won’t care!
- 2 pounds of beef cheek meat
- 1 tablespoon of salt per pound of meat
- 1 to 3 cloves of fresh garlic minced
- 1 bay leaf per pound of meat
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin per pound
- Half of a yellow onion per pound (you can simply throw the halves in there whole and remove them when the meat is done, or you can chop them up to eat with the meat)
- 1/4 cup of chopped peppers of your choice or to taste (if you like your Mexican food spicy)
- Begin by taking the cheek meat out of the package and washing it off. It’ll be pretty bloody, but don’t worry that’s normal. Once washed place at the bottom of your crockpot of around a 4.5-quart pot.
- Place the onions on the sides or on top of the meat in the crock pot if simply cut in half. If diced, just sprinkle them around.
- Next, put all of the seasonings in along with the peppers if you chose to add them.
- Set the crockpot on low and get ready to eat something while you wait – it’ll take at least 12 hours.
- After 12 hours has passed, check on the meat. If it falls apart by simply pushing it around with a fork, it’s done. If it’s still tough, let it cook for another 30 minutes – 1 hour, and check again. With this meat it’s crucial that you go by the tenderness of the meat rather than the temperature to cook it at.
- Once done, remove the meat from the crockpot with a metal spoon with holes in it so that some of the grease is left behind, and place it into a medium to large clean bowl.
- With two forks, shred the meat pulling the pieces apart from each other with both forks, one in each hand.
- Once completely shredded, serve while hot – hope you made enough!
You don’t need to add any liquid to your crockpot because this meat is a really fatty meat, you can if you want to. However, most of the fat will actually render off, and it’ll cook in its own juices – making it super flavorful. This is why you scoop the meat out of the crockpot when completely finished, and as I previously mentioned, the Pico de Gallo and type of tortilla and salsa all take this recipe and push it even higher. You can make tacos from this meat, or burritos if you’ve got homemade fresh flour tortillas. Also, if you are a fan of barbacoa like me, you no longer have to be misled at your local restaurants anymore. That’s right, some restaurants will say they have or serve barbacoa, when in reality what you’re actually getting is brisket. So, skip the line, save some money, and make your family and friends some good, no – great homemade food!