Smoky Barbacoa

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If you need a recipe to impress on any occasion, my Smoky Barbacoa is it. It’s bursting with flavor, easy to make, and perfect for sharing with the ones you love. Get ready to wow their taste buds with this versatile dish.

Barbacoa tacos on black serving platter. Text reads "Smoky Barbacoa".

What is Barbacoa?

Barbacoa is a traditional Mexican dish that’s all about cooking meat low and slow until it’s melt-in-your-mouth tender. It’s traditionally made with goat head, because you want the cheek and marrow for flavor and texture. However, goat head can be hard to come by, and isn’t a big crowdpleaser, so we’re using chuck roast in this recipe. Chuck roast is readily available and a similar meat-to-fat ratio to the head, making it a great substitute. By smoking the meat first, we’re staying close to the traditional method, but using a smoker instead of a pit.

With a perfect balance of smoky, spicy, and savory notes this Smoky Barbacoa will bring a tear to your eye. When you make this recipe, you’re not just cooking a meal, you’re giving an experience. Gather your friends and family around the table, and watch as they pile this tender, juicy beef onto warm homemade tortillas, topped with your favorite fixings like fresh cilantro, zesty lime, and creamy avocado. Who’s hungry? Let’s get going.

Braising liquid cooking in skillet.

The Best Beef for Smoky Barbacoa

When it comes to making perfect barbacoa, the key is starting with the right cut of beef. Again, we’re using chuck roast for this recipe. It’s got the perfect balance of marbling and flavor, and becomes incredibly tender when slow-cooked. When selecting your chuck roast, look for a piece with rich red color that’s well-marbled and uniform in thickness for even cooking. Your barbacoa will thank you for it.

Braise for Beef Barbacoa

Braising is the secret to creating incredibly tender, flavorful beef. After smoking the chuck roast, we’ll finish it in a flavorful braising liquid to tenderize the meat and break down the connective tissue even further. The braising liquid in this recipe is a game-changer, infusing the meat with a complex blend of flavors that’ll take your barbacoa to the next level. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 Tablespoon avocado oil
  • 2 ancho chili peppers
  • 2 guajillo chili peppers
  • 2-3 chiles de arbol (optional, adds heat)
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
  • 2 cups beef stock

These ingredients come together to create a braising liquid that’s so flavorful, it’s the perfect complement to your tender, smoky beef.

Roast on grill grates.

How to Make Smoky Barbacoa

  1. Preheat and season. Preheat your smoker to 275 degrees F. Season the chuck roast on all sides with my Fiesta Rub and place on the smoker with closed lide for 4-5 hours, or until the internal temperature is 165-175 degrees F.
  2. Make braising liquid. Preheat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Drizzle the avocado oil in the pan and add the ancho, guajillo, and chiles de arbol. Toast for 2-3 minutes per side, until fragrant. Add in the garlic, onions, chipotle peppers, and beef stock, bring up to a simmer, and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the dried chiles are puffed up and tender. Allow the liquid to cool slightly before transferring to a blender and pulsing into a smooth puree. Return the smooth puree back into the pan.
  3. Braise. Move the roast from the smoker into the pan of braising liquid, close the lid, and cook at 275 degrees F for an additional 2-3 hours, or until your roast reads 210 degrees F internal temperature and shreds easily with a fork. Your roast will be so tender and flavorful, it’ll be hard to resist sneaking a taste.
  4. Rest and shred. Transfer roast to a cutting board for about 20 minutes, until the temperature drops to about 175 degrees F. Shred the beef directly in the pan and stir to coat all beef in the braising liquid. Your barbacoa is now ready to be devoured.

You can use this barbacoa for tacos, salads, burritos, bowls, you name it. Give it a squeeze of fresh lime juice on top, which adds a bright, zesty kick that perfectly complements the rich, smoky flavors of the beef.

Braising liquid pouring onto roast in skillet.

Storage Tips

If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, storing your Smoky Barbacoa is a breeze. Simply transfer the shredded beef and braising liquid to an airtight container or zip top bag and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

When you’re ready to reheat, simply place the desired amount of barbacoa in a skillet over medium heat. Add a splash of beef stock or water to help loosen up the braising liquid, and cook until heated through. You can also reheat it in the microwave, stirring occasionally, until it’s hot and ready to enjoy. Your leftover barbacoa will be just as delicious as the day you made it.

Cooked, shredded barbacoa in skillet next to ingredients.

More Tasty Taco Options

This Smoky Barbacoa is sure to be a hit at your next big taco party. Here are few more of my favorite recipes so you can mix and match fillings at your next family gathering:

Barbacoa tacos on black sewing platter.

Smoky Barbacoa Recipe

Make some yummy Smoky Barbacoa tacos, and then tell me all about your experience in the comments. If you loved making this recipe, then feel free to give it a 5 star rating. Be sure to check out the Hey Grill Hey app, for over 600 more delicious BBQ recipes just like this one you can make to feed the people you love.

Remember to follow Hey Grill Hey on all our social channels, like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. We’re always sharing tips, tricks, and behind-the-scenes fun you don’t want to miss out on.

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Smoky Barbacoa

By: Susie Bulloch
5 from 1 votes
My Smoky Barbacoa is tender, flavorful beef infused with smoky chilies and spices. This easy recipe is perfect for tacos, burritos, and more.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time8 hours
Total Time8 hours 10 minutes
Servings12 people

Ingredients
 

Braising Liquid

  • 1 Tablespoon avocado oil
  • 2 ancho chili peppers
  • 2 guajilo chili peppers
  • 2-3 chiles de arbol optional
  • 2 chipotle peppers
  • 8 cloves garlic smashed
  • 1 medium yellow onion quartered
  • 2 cups beef stock

Instructions
 

  • Preheat. Preheat your smoker to 275 degrees F.
  • Season. Season the chuck roast on all sides with Fiesta Rub and place on the smoker. Close the lid and smoke your roast for 4-5 hours, or until the internal temperature reads 165- 175 degrees F.
  • Make braising liquid. Preheat a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Drizzle the avocado oil in the pan and add the ancho, guajillo, and chiles de arbol (optional). Toast for 2-3 minutes per side, until fragrant.  Add in the galric, onions, chipotle peppers, and beef stock, bring up to a simmer, and cook for 5-7 minutes (or until the dried chiles are looking puffed up and tender.) Allow the liquid to cool slightly before transferring to a blender and pulsing into a smooth puree. Return the smooth puree back into the pan.
  • Braise. Move the roast from the smoker into the pan of braising liquid, close the lid, and cook at 275 degrees F for an additional 2-3 hours, or until your roast reads 210 degrees F internal temperature and shreds easily with a fork.
  • Rest and Shred. Rest the roast for about 20 minutes, until the temperature drops down to about 175 degrees F. Shred the beef roast directly in the pan and stir to coat each piece of beef in the braising liquid.

Nutrition

Calories: 303kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 104mg | Sodium: 238mg | Potassium: 621mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 390IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Reader Reviews

5 Reviews

  1. Josh says:

    Had a lot of success with a number of your recipes, getting ready to try this one out for Mother’s Day! Quick question – after you transfer to the cast iron, are you putting that pan back into the smoker for the braising part, finishing in the oven, or does it probably not matter for this recipe? Thanks!

    1. Josh says:

      Follow up – made it today, turned out fantastic! Finished in the oven in a covered pan. Very flavorful.

  2. Bill Newcomb says:

    I would like to know the brand of a worthy home smoker, one you would be comfortable using. My family goes for the truly smoked flavor for grilling and “smoking.” Thanks

  3. Terry says:

    Hi, I have everything to make this except I can’t find the hot peppers. Are there any good substitutions?