Barbacoa-Style Beef for a Small-ish Gathering

By • July 14, 2014 • 16 Comments

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Author Notes: California Rancho cooking is heritage cooking. It is the original California cuisine no matter how badly Alice Waters devotees might try to prove differently. Based on early Spanish settlements and native communities, it is a wonderful cuisine more closely related to Mexico than France.thirschfeld

Serves 8 to 10

  • 4 1/2 pounds rolled chuck roast (look for good marbling)
  • Salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coffee
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup water, plus more if needed
  • 5 rosemary sprigs, each about 3 inches long
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Season the beef with salt. Let the salt absorb into the meat; this will take about 20 minutes. Combine the coffee, cocoa powder, cinnamon, Ancho, garlic powder, and brown sugar. Rub the spice mix all over the meat.
  2. Combine the flour and water. Make a dough that is elastic, but not sticky. You may need to add water one tablespoon at a time to get the right consistency. Roll the dough out into a long worm. Place the dough around the lip of the pot.
  3. Place the roast into the pot along with the sprigs of rosemary. Place the lid onto the dough ring, pushing down firmly to create an air-tight seal. Don't push too hard, though, or you might end up cutting the dough instead of sealing the pot.
  4. Place the pot into a 325° F oven, or, for those using an American Dutch oven with legs and a exterior lip on the lid, set up a 13/8 coal spread: 13 coals on top and 8 on the bottom. If you are working with coals, you will need to replace the spread about 5 times.
  5. Roast the chuck roast around 4 to 5 hours in the oven (if you cook this on the coals it went for 8 hours(lots of temperature fluctuation). Remove it from the oven and place it on a sturdy trivet at the table. Crack the dough and lift the lid. Shred the beef and serve; I like to put wrap it up as tacos.
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10 days ago Chandler

Can you tell me a little more about how you would top the tacos? Above it looks like a little cilantro, white onion, and maybe pico de gallo? Thanks so much!

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4 months ago MrsWheelbarrow

Cathy is a trusted source on Pickling/Preserving.

Beautiful recipe. I made this in a Le Creuset 5 quart dutch oven. Placed on the (gas) grill set for indirect heat -- the two outside burners turned to medium low -- to maintain 325°F for four hours. After 4 hours, I turned the heat down to low (300°F) for the last hour. It already smelled divine. It held another 45 minutes before we cracked the seal and shredded the meat. Juicy, the right kind of chewy, and scented with all those warming spices, this was the perfect meal for seven of us. To go with, we had dozens of fresh corn tortillas, potato and poblano rajas, a corn, tomato and cucumber salad with toasted pepitas, and grilled patty pan squash. Tom, you made me look like a star! Thanks so much.

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4 months ago thirschfeld

Thanks for the kind words MrsW. All your side dishes sound wonderful too.

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5 months ago Anne B

I did a 3.5 lb roast for 3.5 hours and this was fantastic! Wonderful recipe. I kept the rub amount the same as the recipe and didn't regret it. My dough seal cracked in a couple of places, but it was still very moist with lots of juices. Will make again for sure.

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5 months ago mstew

Thanks Tom -- food safety question -- need to bring it back up to temp before serving, for safety's sake? Would you hold on counter or refrigerate? Appreciate the notes.

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5 months ago mstew

I am trying this now, and the notes from other cooks have confirmed my gut sense that 8 hours in an oven is just not right. Thanks for the reinforcement -- I am lowering temp and planning to pull at 4 hours -- unfortunately this will be warm and ready at lunch rather than dinner...

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5 months ago thirschfeld

mstew, it will hold just fine. There are lots of juices in the bottom of the pan that will keep everything nice and moist.

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5 months ago Thomas

This cooking method has milage, I keep braised meat for a week / week and a half and it's still good. I repurpose it in tacos, sandwiches, enchiladas, pastas etc... great to have all around!

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5 months ago billirakov

followed this recipe 325˚for 8 hours and we had a lovely hunk of charcoal in the end. I was dubious about time and temp from the start, then concerned 3 hours in when I thought it smelled ready. the dough sealing ring kept me from checking it. I should have cracked the ring and followed my nose. true disappointment.

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5 months ago Thomas

When in doubt ALWAYS follow your nose. Sorry to hear this, chap :/

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5 months ago Thomas

I agree w/ Renee. If I'm cooking a chuck or pork butt at 325, it's usually around 3 to 4 hours. 8 seems long.

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5 months ago thirschfeld

Thomas I cooked this in a Dutch oven with coals on the lid and below and I did the 13/8 spread and it did take 8 hours. There is probably a lot of temperature fluctuation. Now that I think about it in a conventional oven 4 to 5 hours is right. I will change the recipe to reflect this. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

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5 months ago Thomas

Makes sense! that sounds lovely re: the coals but yes, in my Brooklyn apartment it will have to be my conventional gas range. :)

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5 months ago Renee

4.5lbs. for 8 hours at 325? Really? I slow roast, braise, and smoke both beef and pork all the time. Heat seems high and hours seem too long for such a small piece. Has anyone tried this yet? Intrigued but not convinced.

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5 months ago thirschfeld

Renee, see above.

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5 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you for another interesting recipe with crystal clear instructions, promising a memorable meal. Think I could substitute freshly ground cumin for the chile powder? And if so, would you fiddle with the herb, e.g., fresh oregano instead of rosemary? Definitely putting this on the must-make list for the next appropriate special occasion. Wow. ;o)