Tips on how to make smoky Barbacoa Beef for tacos or burritos in no time flat. Follow our easy recipe at the end for delicious shredded beef made in the Instant Pot.
Learn what beef is good for making barbacoa.
We want tacos and we want them now.
I'm sure many of us have thought that.
But a lot of the great tacos are made with meats that normally take a long time to cook.
The question then arises can we produce a taco fast that still meets our demands for flavor?
Enter the Instant Pot - the tool we have been using extensively to make meals happen faster. Sorry dusty slow cooker in the corner.
Today's goal - Barbacoa. Can we make this meal that is known as a slow cooked, smoky dish and make it in a fraction of the time and still be tasty, so we can have it right now?
I know we can!
🐄 What Meat?
While the name "Chuck" doesn't seem like the name of someone you want to buy Barbacoa from, the meat "chuck" is. Chuck is the section of the cow that is towards the head and neck. Great flavor, but can be tough, so low and slow is the way to go.
For this recipe I used a Chuck Blade Steak. Any of these cuts would work:
- Chuck Eye Steak
- Anything "Chuck Roast"
- Chuck Arm roast
- Top Blade steak
- Shoulder steak
- Shoulder roast
I have seen people use brisket, so you surely could try it with that. Personally, I think the marbling in chuck is where it's at.
When it comes to steak vs. roast, this is just a matter of size with roasts being larger than steak. You can use either one.
🔥 Add Smoky Flavor
Traditional Barbacoa is cooked over an open fire. The method of cooking provides it's own flavor, that our Instant Pot can't just do on it's own. So we need a way to introduce that smokiness.
There are many ways to add smoked flavor
- Smoked salt
- Smoked paprika
- Liquid smoke
- Ancho chiles
- Pepper flakes
- Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
Since we are using the Instant Pot and not an open flame, and cooking it a lot faster, we need to be bold with our flavors. This is no time for being shy. You want this beef to be loaded with flavor before you seal that lid.
I can't stress enough that you need to TASTE THE LIQUID before adding it to the meat. You want it to have a strong flavor. Does it need more salt? More smoky flavor? Add it now. That way your end results will be perfectly seasoned.
🏆 Top Recommendation - To add smoked flavor, I recommend Burlap & Barrel's Smoked Pimenton Paprika. It has such an amazing flavor, not other smoked paprika has come close. Most smoked paprika just tastes smokey, but this one you can really taste the peppers as well. Not to mention it adds some nice color to your cooking liquid. It's so worth the effort to get it.
Here is the list of ingredients that I used for my Barbacoa.
- Chuck blade steak
- Smoked paprika
- Garlic powder
- Dried oregano
- Muscovado brown sugar
- Kosher salt
- Cumin seeds
- Pepper flakes
You can use any brown sugar you like, but what I prefer is Muscovado. It's brown sugar in a more natural form, that has a way better flavor. The difference is very noticeable. Check out our post and learn more about it.
For the cumin, again, I recommend Burlap & Barrel. They have a Wild Mountain Cumin that is the most flavorful cumin I have come across. It grows wild in Badakhshan, Afghanistan. Harvested there only for local consumption. Ethan, the founder of Burlap & Barrel has a connection to this region, so he was able to source this rare cumin for us to enjoy.
I also have to mention their Turkish Oregano Buds which you could use in place of the dried oregano. They have more of a bite and somewhat of a hoppy flavor.
Coolest spice company ever. Glad I found them on Instagram.
➕ Optional Ingredients
While not in my recipe, here are some other ingredients you could add or use in place of.
- For deeper beef flavor, feel free to use beef stock or beef broth instead of just water.
- Toss in some dried bay leaves. Fish them out when the meat is done before you shred it.
- Add some fresh lime juice at the end when serving.
- If you want your meat to have a more tomato flavor, add in a little bit of tomato paste to the cooking liquid.
⏲️ Cooking Time
I set my Instant Pot for 60 minutes of high pressure the first time I tried making this and it was absolutely perfect. No need to play around with the time. The meat was tender and moist.
🍽️ Serving Suggestions
You can serve the meat right up in your favorite tortillas for soft tacos or pull out the crispy taco shells. Warm corn tortillas are always nice. Or roll a tortilla up and make a burrito.
Or do it Chipotle style and make your own burrito bowls with cilantro lime rice, beans, guacamole, salsa, bell peppers, queso, cheese, and/or sour cream. Now I am hungry.
Or (possibilities keep going), by yourself some masa dough from a good Mexican grocery store, pull out the waffle iron, add your meat, some cheese, the masa down and you have yourself probably the world's best savory tamale style waffle!
What are you waiting for? Get that meat in the Instant Pot!
📅 How Long Does It Keep?
If you store it in an airtight container in the fridge, you can probably get 5 days out of it easily. For longer storage you can freeze it for a few months. I suggest single serving portions, whatever that means for you or your family. Don't want to pull out from the freezer more than you can eat for a single meal.
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Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa
- Instant Pot
- Hit the saute button on the Instant Pot. Add some oil. When it's hot, add in the chuck blade steak. You can cut it in half if it doesn't fit or just brown it in a pan.
- Brown the meat on all sides and then remove. Turn off the Instant Pot.
- Add in all the rest of the ingredients, along with 2 cups of water. Mix to combine, making sure to scrap anything that stuck to the bottom.
- Taste the water to make sure that is strongly seasoned. If it doesn't taste that way, adjust with more seasonings to taste. Don't skip tasting, it will help you have a more flavorful beef in the end.
- Place the lid on the pot. Set to 1 hour cook time under high pressure. Seal.
- Manual release the valve making sure that it's away from any cabinets or people. You could do natural release if you feel better about that.
- Remove the meat from the pot. Drain the liquid into a measuring cup. Add the meat back in.
- Shred the beef. Add small amount of liquid at a time and mix until the meat is moist but not soaking in the liquid.
- Serve with your favorite taco fixings.