Shredded Beef Tacos (Carne Deshebrada)

For years I’ve been complaining about Chris Kimball’s lack of steak tacos. Instead, he mostly has recipes for chicken tacos (see here and here). So I was pleased to see that the new March/April includes Shredded Beef Tacos, as I have been making my own simple steak tacos. Overall, Chris Kimball’s tacos are delicious, and he uses a few great techniques. He uses a bottle of bear and cider vinegar as the braising liquid. He uses whole chilis instead of lackluster chili powder. Chris Kimball also skips the traditional browning of the beef on the stovetop in favor browning in the oven (at end of step 2). Unfortunately, the recipe costs and astonishing $34, and the cabbage/carrot slaw is a lot of extra complexity for just a little payoff. Most of the extra cost was from using $8/lb boneless ribs instead of $3-to$4/lb chuck. Also, I found the clove/cinnamon too strong, though not so much so that it ruined the dish. Overall, I doubt that I will make these tacos again exactly as given, but there are a lot of improvements here that I will adopt. 4-stars.

Final tacos are delicious

Final tacos are delicious

Comments / Issues:

  1. While I paid $24 for 3-lbs of boneless beef, I could have paid just $12 for chuck. And truthfully, looking at the beef I think that my butcher was using  meat from the first few ribs (i.e. the chuck section). Chris Kimball wants to use rib meat to boost the beefiness, but if $34 seems to much to spend, then you can easily substitute a nice chuck roast. Especially if you use the cloves/cinnamon then I doubt you will notice the difference.
  2. The recipe calls for queso fresco (fresh cheese), which is traditional for Mexican tacos. My supermarket doesn’t carry queso fresco, so I had to import my queso from the Bronx. Chris Kimball says to substitute feta, but I think I would prefer to substitute a non-traditional Monterrey Jack and/or sour cream.
  3. Chris Kimball says to use a fine mesh strainer and a 2-cup measuring cup in step 6. I used a fat separator, which was much more efficient than skimming the fat from the measuring cup using a spoon.
  4. Leftover beef can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, and you should gently reheat before serving, being careful not to dry out the meat.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $34.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 4:30 PM. Game time 6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

Beef Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups beer
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 ounces (4 to 6) dried ancho chiles
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large onion
3-lbs boneless beef short ribs
18 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (1 cup)
Lime wedges

  1. Lightly crush your 6 garlic cloves and peel. Remove and discard the stem and seeds from your dried ancho chiles and tear into 1″ pieces. Slice your onion into 1/2″-thick rounds. Trim away any excess fat from your beef and cut into 2″ cubes.
  2. Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 325-degrees. In a Dutch oven, add bottle of beer, 1/2-cup vinegar, ancho peppers, tomato paste, crushed garlic, 3 bay leaves, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons oregano, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, cloves, and cinnamon. Set out onion rounds into a single layer on bottom of pot, which will keep the meat elevated. Arrange the beef on top of onion in single layer.
  3. Cover your Dutch Oven and bake at 325-degrees for 2-1/2 to 3 hours.
  4. While the meat is cooking, prepare the cabbage-carrot slaw; see recipe below.
  5. When the meat is browned and tender, remove the beef using a slotted spoon and set in a large bowl. Loosely tend with aluminum foil.
  6. Empty pot through a fine-mesh strainer into a fat separator. Do not wash pot. Fish out and discard the bay leaves and onions. Put the remaining solids into a blender. Allow liquid to settle for 5-minutes so that the far rises to the surface. Add de-fatted liquid to blender, supplementing with water so that you are adding a full 1 cup.  Blend for 2 minutes until smooth. Add sauce back to the empty pot.
  7. Use two forks to shred the beef into bite-sized pieces. Once the beef is cool enough to handle you can shred with your hands.
  8. Bring the sauce up to a simmer over a medium burner, add shredded beef and mix to ensure evenly coated. Adjust salt according to your taste.
  9. Finish making the cabbage/carrot cole slaw, see step 3 below. Warm your tortillas in the microwave. Crumble the queso fresco onto a serving small platter, and slice a lime into wedges.
  10. Spoon beef mixture onto tortillas, topping as desired with cabbage slaw, queso fresco and lime juice.

Cabbage/Carrot Slaw Ingredients:
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 head thinly slice green cabbage (6 cups)
1 onion
1 large carrot
1 jalapeño chile
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  1. While the beef cooks, prepare the cole slaw. In a large bowl, add 1 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt. Whisk until dissolved.
  2. Prepare your vegetables adding to the vinegar mixture as you go. Slice the cabbage in half, remove the core, and slice thinly. Peel the onion and slice thinly. Peel the carrot and shred. Remove the stem and seeds from the jalapeno, and mince. Toss to cover everything in vinegar, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour (but up to 24 hours).
  3. Drain cole slaw and mix in chopped cilantro just before serving.

9 Responses to Shredded Beef Tacos (Carne Deshebrada)

  1. Sonya says:

    Very interesting; I love your analysis.

  2. jeanf says:

    Mark, thanks. I always find it funny that CI/ATK doesn’t advocate a fat separator. At less than $20 it’s a cheap and invaluable tool in my kitchen. btw, pretty sure you meant bottle of beer and not bear. Although maybe CI knows something I don’t on adding flavour. 😉

  3. Jen says:

    I thought this meat was delicious. Leftovers were especially good over a salad the next day. Thanks for sharing your notes. I used the boneless short ribs but agree with your assessment that it would probably be just as delicious with chuck. I will try that next time, yep there will be a next time!

  4. fallingsnow says:

    I saw this recipe done on ATK and was dying to give it a try, so thank you ever so much for posting this recipe. I made mine using both short ribs and chuck roast, and honestly, I wouldn’t bother spending the extra money on the short ribs; the chuck roast was every bit as good. That being said…I found there to be an unpleasant amount of vinegar overall, and even having used half the amount of cinnamon the recipe calls for, I still felt like it overpowered the dish. If I made this again, I would definitely reduce the amount of vinegar (and cinnamon) in the meat, and probably skip it altogether in with the cabbage in lieu of fresh lime juice.

  5. MNMAMA says:

    thank you for posting this recipe. I made it last night and we all loved it. I might reduce the vinegar a little next time, too.

  6. whenonedoorcloses says:

    I can’t see ATK’s recipe so I’m not sure if you reduced the spices at all. I’m making this tomorrow and am curious should I should reduce to 1/4 tsp of both cinnamon and clove or if you’ve already reduced ATK’s recipe to 1/2 tsp? My husband is not a huge clove fan so I’m concerned that 1/2 might be too much. thank you!

    • Hi,

      I’ve been on spring break with my sons, but I hope they turned out great. I think that if you don’t tell him cloves are there,he will just think the tacos have a deep, rich flavor. But you could certainly cut it back and the tacos would still be delicious.


  7. Anonymous says:

    I just found your site and LOVE it! I keep trying ATK recipes, but am often disappointed with one aspect or another, so I love reading your take on them.

    I made this recipe, including some of your modifications, and it turned out fantastic, so I’m thrilled! As you suggested, I used Chuck instead of short ribs which was perfectly beefy (I can’t imagine the short ribs being too much better). I also cut the cinnamon in half and used just 1/8 tsp of cloves per your observation that as given they were too strong… I got a nice depth from them, but without being overbearing.

    I did make quite a few other changes – i.e. used beef stock instead of beer/vinegar (I don’t like beer **gasp**), threw in about a TB of unsweetened cocoa powder (for a slight mole-like note), used two onions, and threw it in the crock pot on low for 12-15 hrs, oh and DID brown the chuck and bloom the spices, tomato paste etc in the drippings then deglazed with stock.

    Anyway thanks again!!

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