It's really hard to make a photo of shredded meat look pretty.
But aesthetics aside, this barbacoa beef is one of the best recipes I have ever created. Getting quality Mexican food - or El Salvadorenan, or Peruvian, or Argentinian food, for that matter - is pretty tough in Hawaii. We have amazing Asian-fusion restaurants that satisfy the most adventurous of tastebuds, but alas, we have no Chipotle.
In the absence of Tex-Mex, I am more than happy to make my own burrito bowls and taco stations at home, for a fraction of the price and with greater control over the quality of ingredients. Plus, I enjoy researching the history of dishes like this one before I recreate them in my kitchen lab. Barbacoa is the Spanish word for barbecue, and generally refers to large cuts of meat cooked long and low until it is fall-apart tender. I was thinking about making a marinade with lime, paprika, cumin and oregano until I discovered this incredible spice blend that was literally made for barbacoa like mine.
The Barbecue Rub from the new Primal Palate Signature Spices is the stand-out ingredient in this already incredible dish. They sent me a beautiful package of their new spices to review for Paleo Magazine, and I couldn't help but include a recipe here using my favorite blend. All of the spices in the new line are made with organic and are incredibly fresh (read: potent!). The Barbecue Rub combines pink Himalayan salt, onion, garlic, paprika, oregano, turmeric, black pepper, ginger, cumin, cayenne and coriander to make for a grill-out powerhouse seasoning.
I would definitely recommend these spices to anyone, but don't fret if you don't have access to the blend or don't feel like shelling out your cash when you have plenty of usable spices in your pantry already. Throw some paprika, oregano, ginger, cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt and pepper in a bowl and call it good. Be sparing with your coriander and cayenne. Be generous with the cumin, oregano and salt. Add some garlic and onion powder for good measure. You'll be fine. It will be delicious.
The other star of the recipe is my Instant Pot. If you and I have had a conversation in the last six months, chances are I have evangelized to you about the glory that is the IP. It is an electric pressure-cooker and slow-cooker, all in one. It has a sauté function. It is energy efficient. It is quiet and beautiful and easy to use. It is the stuff culinary dreams are made of.
I really love my Instant Pot because of the way it fits in my home and lifestyle here in Hawaii. We have a small air conditioning wall-unit in the main room of our house, but we don't use it often because of how hot it gets slash how much money we would spend on our electric bill if we were to constantly bask in that delicious icy breeze. This means that I do everything in my power not to turn on the oven if at all possible. You'd better believe I use my Instant Pot for everything from braising big cuts of meat to roasting chickens to making broth and cooking rice.
If you don't have an IP, though, I've included thorough instructions in the recipe for how to make this juicy, savory, succulent barbacoa beef with a regular ol' slow cooker.
And, as it happens to be Taco Tuesday, I suggest you get started on this recipe right now so you can enjoy an at-home taco bar for dinner tonight.
3 lb. grass-fed beef chuck roast
4 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 onion, sliced
splash of fish sauce
¾ c. bone broth (beef is preferable, although you may use chicken in a pinch)
Arrange the onion slices in the bottom of an Instant Pot inner vessel. Pour the bone broth and splash of fish sauce over the onions and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, tomato paste and spice blend. Massage the resulting mixture all over the roast until it is completely coated. Nestle the roast on the bed of onions, cover, and cook on normal heat on the slow-cook setting for 5-6 hours.
Once the roast is fall-apart tender, remove it from the Instant Pot to rest on a cutting board. From the resulting juices and cooked onions, we’re going to make a sauce, which you can do one of two ways:
If using the Instant Pot, change the setting to “sauté” and let the pot liquid/onion mixture simmer for 20-30 minutes. Use this time to trim the fat from the roast. After the sauce has reduced by about a third, use an immersion blender to puree the liquid and cooked onions. Season to taste, then return the roast to the Instant Pot and submerge in the sauce. Before serving, shred the meat with two forks and toss it in all of that delicious saucy goodness.
If using a typical slow-cooker, you may leave the slow-cooking function on and simply remove the lid after you remove the roast to allow some of the water to evaporate. Once the liquid is reduced, you may use either an immersion blender to puree or carefully transfer the hot liquid to a traditional blender to emulsify. Easy peasy.
Serve with shredded cabbage and lettuce; pan-fried plantains; white rice cooked in homemade bone broth; guacamole and salsa; sautéed peppers and onions; fresh cilantro and lime, or a margarita if you’re feeling sassy.
And by some magical law of leftovers, this barbacoa is even better the next day. Enjoy!
(Note: The Instant Pot is expensive, I agree. However, as with most things on Amazon, it's often marked down drastically for ridiculous sales. I purchased mine for $99!)