Smoked Beef Birria Tacos
Birria tacos are one of the hottest food trends right now. This recipe puts a barbecue twist on this traditional dish.
You’ll want to marinate your meat overnight (or for at least four hours), so this is one you want to plan ahead.
I guarantee once you make these your family will be asking for taco night every day of the week.
What are Birria tacos?
Birria is traditionally a stew or consomme made with goat meat, braised for hours until it’s falling apart. The consomme is made with an incredible mix of chilies, tomatoes, herbs, and spices traditionally used in Mexican cooking.
Once braised, the meat is shredded and served in the consomme, or as I have done in this recipe, removed and shredded, then made into tacos that are stuffed with the meat, onions, and cilantro, then cheese and dipped in the broth and then fried in cast iron skillet.
They are served with the consomme to dip your tacos into. I will be showing you a method using beef chuck instead of goat, but feel free to use goat or lamb shanks as the base protein too.
My method also utilizes a smoker – rather than just braising over a heat source for a few hours, we will get some smokiness into your protein first. I use a gravity-fed smoker (the Masterbuilt 560) for this, but you can use any method of smoking you prefer, including a kettle-style or traditional offset smoker, even a pellet grill too.
You can also use a crockpot, instant pot or slow cooker to get a similar end result.
What you’ll need
- A smoker capable of low and slow BBQ
- Ingredients as listed below
- Smoking wood chunks – I used cherry
- A large pot to braise in
- A cast-iron skillet
- A blender or food processor
- A sieve
What type of meat to use for Birria?
I used a beef chuck roast (around 4-5lb) for this recipe, but you could just as easily use lamb shanks, beef shin or osso bucco, beef cheeks, or lamb shoulder.
You can use a mixture of beef and lamb for this if you like. Anything with a decent amount of intramuscular fat would do well for this recipe.
As I type, I can only imagine the amazing things that the rendered bone marrow from a few osso bucco would do to this recipe… my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Preparing your protein
I like to marinate my beef chuck overnight for this, but it’s not absolutely essential. You’ll still get an amazing dish without it. If you’ve got the time, do it. If not, don’t stress it.
I marinate in a paste of crushed garlic, dried oregano, crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, cumin, and tomato paste. Mix together and rub all over your chuck roast and leave overnight in the fridge.
In the morning, rinse any excess and pat dry with a paper kitchen towel.
Lightly oil your chuck as a binder (you can use American mustard too if you like, then liberally sprinkle with your favorite beef rub – I find Lanes Brisket rub is great – or use my birria beef rub as listed below.
Simply mix 1 part cracked black pepper to 1 part kosher salt to half part garlic granules. For every 3 tbsp of each part, add 1 tsp of cumin, and 1 tsp dried thyme and mix thoroughly.
Smoke your protein
Once you have applied the rub, set up your smoker to a temp of 275°F.
Smoke your beef chuck using cherry wood for around 3 hours, or until a nice bark and color has been achieved. The best way to see if your bark is set is to do the ‘fingernail test’. This is to simply scratch lightly at the rub with your fingernail.
If the rub comes away, the bark is not set properly. If not, and you’re happy with the color, which by now should be a deep mahogany, or almost black, then it’s time to braise.
What if you don’t have a smoker?
Don’t worry if you don’t have access to a smoker, this recipe can be easily created in a crockpot or even a pressure cooker too.
If you are wanting to use a crockpot, follow the recipe from below, and once you’ve made your consomme, you can simply brown your protein in a pan over high heat, then add it to your consomme in a crockpot and cook on high for 4 hours until the meat is fall apart tender. Then serve as below.
If you want to use a pressure cooker (I use an electric one for super easy use), brown your protein on all sides as above, then put into a pressure cooker with your prepared consomme from below, and cook for 40-50 minutes. Then, again, serve as below.
Starting your consomme
You’ll want to start your consomme as soon as your meat is in the smoker. The more time it has to simmer and blend flavors, the better your overall product will be, with a huge depth of flavor throughout.
Finely slice your onion, and fry slowly over low heat until soft, 8 mins or so. Add chopped Roma tomatoes, and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add all your dry spices and fry until fragrant, around 30 secs to a minute.
Stir in your tomato paste, fry for 30 seconds longer, then add all other ingredients. Bring to the boil, then cover, and turn down to the lowest you can, and allow to simmer slowly for an hour. You may need to add another cup of water through the cook.
After an hour, remove from the heat, and allow to cool slightly, before blending in a food processor. It’s important to allow the consomme to cool slightly before blending, as you can make a real mess if you don’t. Once blended, push through a sieve, and return the blended and sieved consomme to the pot.
Braising the chuck
Once you are happy with the bark on your chuck, gently place it into your pot and cover with foil. Don’t worry if the liquid doesn’t cover your meat entirely, it’s not supposed to. It should sit ⅓ to ½ way up your meat.
Return the whole pot to the smoker and braise for a further 3-4 hours, or until the chuck probes like butter. Your internal temperature should be around 203°F – 205°F but can be as high as 210°F. When it probes like butter – that is, when you can insert a skewer with zero resistance – your chuck is ready.
Once your chuck is ready, you have 2 options – you can shred the meat directly in the consomme, and serve it scattered with finely diced onion, chopped cilantro and a generous squeeze of lime, or for my preferred option follow the steps below to serve as birria tacos.
You will need to first remove the chuck. Be careful here, as the chuck will be so fall-apart tender that it may fall apart when trying to remove from the consomme, so kid gloves are recommended when handling! Treat it like you’re handling a baby kitten with a bone density disorder like Mr. Glass from that Bruce Willis film!
Making your tacos
It is important here to have all your taco ingredients prepped and ready to go. I like to have all the separate ingredients in small bowls ready to use. We are going to be frying our tacos in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. I have used different methods here, from putting the skillet directly on my offset smoker firebox, to using a butane camping cooker, to simply just placing it over coals.
The important thing to note is that the next step is really easy to burn your tacos if the temp is too high. If you have a really high heat, you can get your cast iron skillet hot, remove from heat, and the residual heat in the pan should be enough to cook your tacos at this point. If you need a bit of extra heat, just place back over your heat source for a little while whilst cooking.
Now, while your beautiful beef chuck was rendering down in the consomme while braising, you may see a delicious pool of rendered fat on the top of the liquid. Do not stir that into the consomme if you are making tacos! We are going to use that in our next step(s)!
Take your soft flour tortilla (I find the mini ones the best) and dip it wholly into your consomme, so that both sides are lightly coated in rendered fat and a little sauce, then place into your cast iron skillet with a satisfying sizzle.
You need to move quickly now, which is why it is important to be prepared. Add some pulled smoked beef chuck, finely diced onion, grated cheese and cilantro, then fold over your taco. Shortly after, when the bottom of your taco has got some color, flip to brown the other side.
This whole process should take a minute or less. Serve with a squeeze of lime, some more chopped cilantro, and a bowl of the consomme topped with onion and cilantro and a squeeze of lime to dip your taco into.
Best enjoyed with friends, family, and an ice-cold Cerveza or several, this is truly an amazing dish. My neighbor said hands down the best taco he’s ever had. But he had also had several of those Cervezas. Either way, these are amazing, and street food at its finest.
Smoked Beef Birria Tacos
- 5 lbs chuck roast
Meat Marinade (Optional)
- 1 tbsp garlic crushed
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- salt and pepper
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 3 tbsp black pepper cracked
- 3 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 ½ tbsp garlic granules
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp dried thyme
For the Consomme:
- ½ onion
- 4 fresh Roma tomatoes chopped
- 2 tbsp chipotle in adobo sauce
- 8 peppercorns
- 3 cloves
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 bulb garlic separated into cloves and peeled
- 1 ½ tbsp salt
- 1 can whole peeled tomatoes
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
For the tacos:
- mini tortillas
- finely chopped white onion
- finely chopped cilantro
- quartered limes
- grated cheese – I use a mexican blend
- If you have time to marinate the meat, combine the marinade ingredients to form a paste and rub all over your meat and leave overnight or at least for 4 hours. Once ready rinse and pat dry with a paper kitchen towel.
- Combine all dry rub ingredients in a medium bowl or shaker and mix thoroughly.
- Lightly oil your chuck roast then cover liberally with dry rub.
- Smoke at 250°F – 275°F for 3 hours or until bark is set.
- Make the consommé by lightly frying the onions and fresh tomatoes for 6-8 minutes in a saucepan or pot large enough to hold your meat, then add your chipotle in adobo sauce, and fry until fragrant, around a minute.
- Add your peppercorns, cloves, thyme, oregano, ginger, cinnamon, and garlic cloves. Stir for around 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Add the salt, canned tomatoes, cider vinegar, tomato paste and water.
- Bring consomme to the boil, then simmer on low for an hour.
- Once your meat has developed a bark (~3 hours), add to the consomme, cover, and then return to smoker for further 3-4 hours, or until meat is probe tender (around 203°F – 210°F).
- Assemble your taco ingredients so they are ready to make
- To make tacos, remove chuck, and shred/pull the meat.
- Dip flour tortilla into consomme and fry in cast iron skillet.
- Add pulled beef, chopped onions, cheese, cilantro and fold taco.
- Flip after 30 seconds.
- Serve taco with consomme to dip into, along with extra onion, cilantro and lime.
- Enjoy with an ice cold Mexican beer.