Have you ever heard of a barbacoa taco? This style of taco is named after the way the taco was cooked – in a barbacoa pit! Traditionally, barbacoa tacos that are made from animals who were slow roasted over an open fire, usually in a pit dug into the ground. After cooking for hours, the meat was tender and easy to shred for taco meat. The barbacoa method of cooking was originally invented in the Caribbean, and then found its way to Mexico. Eventually the cooking method found its way to Texas, and the word barbacoa morphed into barbecue. Texans took up this traditional form of cooking and evolved it into the American tradition of barbecue!
Cooking in a barbacoa pit is a fun way to get back to barbecue’s roots. It helps take tougher, less desirable cuts of meat and make them delicious. This method is also perfect when you don’t want to have a fire above ground, like when you are camping. It’s super easy to make a barbacoa pit, and if you make it right, about an hour of work will yield you many delicious cooks. Here’s our step by step guide on how to build your own barbacoa pit:
As you can see, making your own barbacoa pit is very simple! It really just takes a shovel, a piece of wood and empty land. You can make a fancier or more permanent pit with sand, pea gravel, field stones (they also retain heat), grates for placing food on, and even brick to line the sides. Now that you have a barbacoa pit, here are our suggestions on how to cook on your pit.
- Choose cuts of meat that you would normally slow cook and shred anyway. Think about less cuts of meat like brisket, roasts, pork shoulders, and even ribs. These will naturally do well in the low heat of the pit. You can see our Barbacoa Beef Cheek Meat Taco recipe.
- Season your meat generously and then double wrap it in aluminum foil, or leaves if they’re available to you. Place the packet directly on the hot coals.
- Let the meat cook for 8-12 hours. The heat in my pit lasts for about 8 hours, which is long enough to cook most meats through. Monitor the pit to make sure it keeps heat.
- Do not let your food sit in the danger zone of temperature below 140ºF. If your fire goes out and heat in the pit is lost, make sure that your food has reached and stayed at 140ºF. You can learn more about the danger zone on the USDA’s website.
- Once your meat is done, pull it from the fire and shred or slice it as appropriate. The packet will be hot, so use heat gloves, and you will have juices in the packet when you open it up, so be careful not to spill the juices on yourself. They could burn you and you’ll also lose lots of delicious flavor!
There’s our guide, we hope it helps you make your own barbacoa pit to enjoy some old school barbecue cooking! Do you have any questions or tips for others looking to make a barbacoa pit? We’d love to hear from you, just leave us a comment and we’ll get back to you.