Howdy, everyone and thanks for joining me in the backyard today. Y’all know how much I love good street food. We are fixin’ to have a fiesta today, because I am going to teach you how to make the most tender, juicy, authentic tacos al pastor you can ever imagine.
Get You a Vertical Spit
To make these right, you’re going to need a vertical spit. The one I’m using you can get here from Amazon, but don’t worry – you can also throw the pork directly on the grill. But, the skewer does make for good presentation and easy basting while grilling.
Vertical roasting was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. Schwarma is a delicious street food, and tacos al pastor was born of the same cooking methods, but with Mexican chiles and spices for flavor. It’s so delicious that your neighbors are going to come knock on the door and ask what that good smell is, so make extra.
Tacos al Pastor is traditionally made on a ‘trompo” – a large vertical roasting spit that can sometimes hold up to 200 lbs. of meat. The trompo slowly spins and restaurants cut the meat off of the spit as customers order it, ensuring everyone gets the crispy, caramelized edges.
TIP: If the spit comes with two different size stakes, make sure the one you use can fit under the lid of your grill or smoker.
Pork butt marinated in a rich red chile based sauce is stacked up on the spit and roasted low and slow until it’s tender and crispy. The pork butt we are using is sliced into 1/2 inch slices and marinated for 12 hours so whatever you don’t fit on the spit can be grilled and served with the rest.
Start with about a 7 or 8 lb. pork butt. If the shoulder bone is still inside just slice the bone off the meat and slice the remaining meat into 1/2 inch slices.
TIP: Taking the time to separate the muscles before slicing will increase the tenderness of the finished pork. You can also ask your butcher to do this or purchase pork steaks.
Tips for the Marinade
I love the flavor of traditional dried chiles, and we get to use them for this marinade. Start by gathering dried cascabel, guajillo and New Mexico chiles. I am going to rehydrate these by boiling them for a while in a large pot of water with two onions and two of the biggest garlic cloves I can find.
TIP: Removing the seeds from the chiles before boiling makes the sauce easier to strain later.
Boil for about 10 minutes or until those chiles are really plump.
While the water boils, get whole cumin, whole oregano and cinnamon sticks.
TIP: Heating the whole cumin and oregano seeds for a minute in a hot skillet will bring out the aromatics in each and increase the flavor.
Combine the citrus juices (pineapple and orange) with the seasonings, some apple cider vinegar for balance, and the spices – including the Mesquite Seasoning with the ancho powder from our website if you have any – and set it aside.
Pack the chiles, onions, and garlic in the blender and blend until smooth. Strain, and then add the sauce back in with the citrus juice and spices. Blend for a good while.
TIP: Cool off the marinade to room temperature so it doesn’t cook the meat prematurely.
Marinate and refrigerate for 12 hours.
Start by slicing a pineapple into 1/2″ thick circles. Use one of these as a bumper, putting it on the spit first. Then, slowly criss-cross the pork slices, arranging them so that they cover the entire spit in a circle.
Top with another pineapple slice, and then place on indirect heat for about 1 hour at 350 degrees F. After that, baste the meat every 20 minutes for an additional 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the meat has cooked through.
TIP: Rotate the spit and marinate the meat in its own juices every thirty minutes to an hour.
I use a mix of oak, mesquite and apple wood to get the heat going. Remember to place the spit over indirect heat.
Slice the remaining pineapple and a red onion and grill with the remaining meat over the fire when the roasted pork is just about done.
Fix the Tacos and Enjoy
Slice the meat downward from the skewer into bite sized pieces. Serve on a corn tortilla with the grilled onion and pineapple. Don’t forget to share with neighbors, friends, and family. It’s the reason we do what we do, and I am so grateful for you and all of those who watch and share my videos.
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Tacos al Pastor, Street Tacos – Cowboy Kent Rollins
- 6 dried guajillo chilies
- 6 dried cascavel chilies
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 white onions quartered
- 6 to 7 lb pork butt or 4 lbs. pork steak
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- 1 cup of orange juice
- Juice of 2 limes
- 1 cinnamon stick ground
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- ½ tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon Kent’s Mesquite Seasoning or or your favorite all-purpose blend
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ⅓ cup adobo sauce
- 1 pineapple cut into ½-inch thick rings
- 1 purple onion sliced into rings
- 12 corn tortillas
- Queso fresco for topping
- Cilantro for topping
- Place the chilies, garlic cloves and white onion in a in large stock. Cover with water and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes, or until the peppers are tender.
- Meanwhile, remove the bone from the pork butt and separate the muscles (you can also have the butcher do this for you or use pork steaks instead). Slice the meat into about ½-inch thick strips.
- Return to the chiles and strain the contents from the pot and place in a blender. Blend until smooth and pour the contents into a colander over a large bowl, to strain out stems and seeds. Place the strained sauce back in the blender.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the apple cider vinegar, pineapple juice, orange juice, lime juice, cinnamon, oregano, cumin, Mesquite Seasoning, honey and adobo sauce. Whisk together well.
- Pour the juice mixture into the blender and blend well.
- Let the mixture cool close to room temperature then pour into a large bowl. Place all the meat into the bowl and stir to coat well. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
- Preheat the grill to 350 degrees F (I used a blend of oak, mesquite and apple woods). Put one pineapple slice on the bottom of the meat stand or spit (see notes below). Stack the meat on top through the stand stick until you reach the top. Top with a pineapple ring.
- Place the meat stand on the indirect side of the grill, close the lid and cook for 1 hour.
- Rotate the stand 180 degrees and spoon the juices from the bottom of the stand to generously baste the meat. Close the lid and add more wood chunks if necessary. Cook for an additional 1 to 1 ½ hours, basting every 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meat has cooked through.
- Move the meat stand over to the far edge of the indirect heat. Add the remaining pineapple slices and onions to the direct side of the grill. Cook on both sides until the onions are tender and the pineapple has good grill marks and char.
- If you have leftover meat slices, place on the direct heat side of the grill and cook about 3 to 4 minutes per side.
- Remove the onions and pineapples from the grill and chop. Remove the meat stand from the grill and place on a baking sheet. Slice down the stand to cut the meat off, about ½- inch thick.
- Warm the corn tortillas on the grill. Top each tortilla with a large spoonful of the meat, pineapple, onions and top with queso fresco cheese, and cilantro, sprinkle with lime juice and serve.