Philadelphia, PA - Barbacoa is a Mexican preparation of meat (usually lamb, beef, or goat) that is slow-cooked over an open fire or in an underground oven. It is a delicious and succulent dish that originated in Mexico but can be found worldwide.
What is Barbacoa?
It can be made on the stovetop, in the oven, in a slow cooker/crock pot, or a pressure cooker/instant pot. The key to a good barbacoa is to use a low-temperature method, allowing the tender meat to slowly simmer in the liquid, soaking up all those delicious flavors and spices.
Typically, the meat is cooked for several hours in a pit dug into the ground lined with maguey leaves and surrounded by hot coals. It is then shredded and served with tortillas, chopped onions, cilantro, guacamole, and some tangy bottled or homemade hot sauce on the side.
The main difference between barbacoa and birria is that the meat in birria gets added to a sauce after it is cooked, while in barbacoa, the meat is roasted in a tomato pure before being lowered into the pit. Both recipes are incredibly juicy and delicious, though they differ slightly in preparation.
It is common to find barbacoa at party halls, small mom-and-pop restaurants, and some market stalls as a celebration food. It is a unique and delicious treat usually reserved for special occasions or parties such as weddings, quinceaneras, etc.