Mexican Pulled Beef

And yet another recipe from CarlsbadCRAVINGS.

Mexican Shredded Beef
Mexican shredded beef...

This Mexican Shredded Beef belongs in your easy dinner, crowd-pleasing, set-it-and-forget-it arsenal. The shredded beef is braised (in the crockpot, oven, stove, or instant pot) with a caravan of rich, earthy, fiesta seasonings, punchy salsa, tangy green chilies, savory beef broth, and smoky liquid smoke until fall-apart tender. This intensely juicy, Mexican beef is great for crowds (think taco bar/Game Day!), make ahead meals and multiple meals throughout the week like tacos, burritos, nachos, salads, enchiladas, enchilada casserole, and more!

  • Prep Time 25 minutes
  • Cook Time 8 hours
  • Servings 8 -10 servings (20 - 25 tacos, 12 - 15 burritos)

Ingredients

 

Beef

  • One 3 to 4 lb. boneless beef chuck roast trimmed of excess fat, cut into 7-8 pieces
  • 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil

Spice Rub

  • 1 tbs EACH chili powder, ground cumin, kosher salt (may sub 1 1/2 tsp table salt)
  • ½ tbs EACH garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp EACH pepper, ground coriander,
  • 1/2 - 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chili pepper (only 1 ½ tsp if you LOVE heat)

Braising Liquid

  • 1 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 1 cup mild salsa (medium if you like spicy)
  • 1 4 oz. can mild diced green chilies don’t drain
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1-3 teaspoons liquid smoke (depending on how “smoky” you like it)
  • 1 tablespoon beef bouillon granules, cubes, or base (crush cubes)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano

What to do with them...

Stove, Crockpot, & Instant Pot Directions

Stovetop Method

  1. Whisk together all of the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl; set aside. Pat beef pieces dry with paper towels then liberally season with the spice rub, gently pressing to adhere. Save any excess spices to add to the pot later.
  2. Heat 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil in a large cast iron skillet (or large Dutch oven for oven/stovetop method) over medium-high heat. Once very hot, add cubed beef and sear on all sides.
  3. Add beef broth, beef bouillon, salsa, green chilies, tomato paste, lime juice, brown sugar, liquid smoke, and any leftover seasonings. 
  4. Add an additional 1/2 cup beef broth for a total of 1 1/2 cups.
  5. Gently simmer, covered, for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours, until the beef is fall-apart tender. I recommend checking to see if the beef is fork tender at 2 1/2 hours, and if not, continue to cook an additional 30-60 minutes – or as long as it takes! 
  6. Keep an eye on the beef and add additional broth if needed because more liquid will evaporate on the stove.
  7. Remove the roast to a rimmed plate or large bowl and shred with two forks, discarding any excess fat.
  8. Return the beef to the pot and let rest for 20 minutes to soak up additional juices.
  9. Whisk together all of the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

Crockpot Method

  1. Pat beef pieces dry with paper towels then liberally season with the spice rub, gently pressing to adhere. Save any excess spices to add to the pot later.
  2. Heat 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil in a large cast iron skillet (or large Dutch oven for oven/stovetop method) over medium-high heat. Once very hot, add cubed beef and sear on all sides.
  3. Transfer beef to a 6-quart (or larger) slow cooker along with all remaining ingredients, including any leftover spices. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 ½ – 4 ½ hours or on LOW for 6-8 hours, OR until the beef shreds easily with two forks.
  4. Remove the beef to a rimmed plate or large bowl (do NOT discard juices in slow cooker), and shred with two forks, discarding any excess fat.
  5. Add the shredded beef back to the slow cooker and toss with slow cooker juices. Cook on low for 20 minutes for beef to absorb juices. Taste and season with hot sauce/cayenne pepper, lime juice or brown sugar to taste.
  6. Remove beef with a pair of tongs to a serving bowl or strain in a colander so tacos, etc. don’t get soggy. I like to save the liquid to cook my rice in (just add liquid plus water needed for rice). Serve in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, taquitos, salads, nachos, etc.

Notes
*See the post for TONS of serving ideas and instructions!

Pressure cooker and instant pot

  1. Sear the beef then add the rest of the ingredients, including any leftover spices.  Cover and set the lid to “Sealing.” Pressure cook on “Manual” for 50 minutes, followed by a quick release.

How to store, reheat, and make ahead

  1. Make ahead: The beef can be seasoned, seared and stored in an airtight container or slow cooker with (or without) the braising ingredients for up to 2 days. Alternatively, make the beef 100% ahead and store the beef in the juices.  
  2. To store: Let the shredded beef cool completely then transfer with the sauce to an airtight container.  Refrigerate for up to 5 days.
  3. To freeze:  Let the shredded beef cool completely then transfer the beef in the sauce to a freezer safe container or portion it into smaller containers.  Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. To reheat:  Warm the beef in the microwave for 1 minute then at 20 second intervals until warmed through or simmer gently on the stove until warmed through.
  5. Slow cooker:  Reheat on low for 1-2 hours until warmed through, stirring occasionally.

 

Oven Method

I prefer the oven over the stove because there is less babysitting involved and it cooks more evenly. The directions are essentially the same, except that you’ll pop it in the oven. You will also need an additional ½ cup beef broth, for a total of 1 ½ cups. (<- That was Jen talking :-) I used 2.5 cups of stock so the meat was totally submerged, but just barely.)

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Meanwhile, season and sear the beef in a Dutch oven.
  • Stir in all of the ingredients and bring to simmer, then cover and transfer to the oven.
  • Cook, covered, for 3 to 3 ½ hours, until the beef is fall apart tender.  Keep an eye on the beef and add additional broth if needed.
  • Remove the roast to a rimmed plate or large bowl and shred with two forks, discarding any excess fat.
  • Return the beef to the pot at room temperature and let rest for 20 minutes to soak up additional juices.
Tips

Mexican Shredded Beef Recipe Tips

This recipe is very simple and will deliver dynamically flavorful, tender beef as long as you follow these tips:

  • Set yourself up for success with the right cut of beef. Choose a chuck roast that is fresh, bright in color, and contains lots of marbling because marbling equals flavor and tenderness. If you use a different cut of beef, I cannot guarantee it will be melt-in-your-mouth tender.  
  • Sear for flavor and moisture. Searing the roast creates the Maillard reaction resulting in rich, deep, complex flavor and prevents the surface of the beef from becoming dehydrated. Sear ALL sides of each piece of beef until deeply golden – no sorry grey beef please!  Make sure to sear the beef in batches so it will sear and not just steam.   
  • Use a cast iron skillet to sear the beef. Cast iron gets piping hot without ruining the finish of your pan and retains heat exceptionally well for more even results.  
  • Cook the beef until very tender.  If your beef isn’t crazy tender, then cook on! It just means the proteins need more time to break down and tenderize. Even 30 more minutes can make the world of difference between “okay” and melt-in-your-mouth beef.
  • Don’t skip soaking the shredded beef. This one step will transform the flavorful shredded beef into flavor fireworks that are even more juicy and tender as the sensational salsa chili sauce is now able to penetrate the meat!
  • Don’t forget to season. Taste the Mexican beef once it’s shredded and soaked. If you feel like it’s missing something, it's likely salt and heat. Once you season to taste with salt, and either cayenne pepper or hot sauce heat, then all the flavors will come alive.

Assemble the tacos (From a different recipe, but really good for making tacos with the pulled beef...)

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Working with one corn tortilla at a time, dip it into the top of the sauce covering the pulled beef, and plop it in the skillet. Press the tortilla down with a spatula because it will start to bubble and pull away as it cooks. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the bottom is golden. Flip the tortilla over and immediately cover the entire surface with shredded cheese. Cover, and cook until the cheese is mostly melted. Uncover and top half of the cheese with shredded meat. Cook until the bottom is lightly charred then fold the tortilla over in half to form a taco. Transfer to a plate and serve with the cilantro/onion mixture and a bowl of the consomé liquid (remaining broth) as a dipping sauce.

  • Use a cast iron skillet to sear the beef. Cast iron gets piping hot without ruining the finish of your pan and retains heat exceptionally well for more even results.
  • Cook the beef until very tender.  If your beef isn’t crazy tender, then cook on!  It just means the proteins need more time to break down and tenderize. Even 30 more minutes can make a world of difference between “okay” and melt-in-your-mouth beef.
  • Don’t skip soaking the shredded beef. This one step will transform the flavorful chunks of beef into flavor fireworks that are even more juicy and tender, because the sensational salsa chili sauce is now able to penetrate the meat.
  • Don’t forget to season. Taste the Mexican beef once it’s shredded and soaked.  If you feel like it’s missing something, it's likely salt and heat. Once you season to taste with salt, and either cayenne pepper or hot sauce heat, then all the flavors will come alive.