Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef

Barbacoa beef 1

Beef stew was, sadly at the time, a staple of our childhood. My mom would buy stewing beef and my dad, clearly unaware of the benefits of cooking such cuts low and slow, would brown the meat, add tomatoes and potatoes and green things and serve it up for dinner – and it was a long, meaty chew.

Nowadays, I appreciate the flavour potential of inexpensive cuts of beef – and I love a good dark, sticky braise. A recipe that calls for a few hours’ cooking time sounds daunting, but dishes like beef stew and carbonnade can be slid into the oven after school and be done by dinnertime.

browning beef

Of course, starting with the proper cut of beef is important, which is why so many people panic in the meat aisle, why Mike dreads me sending him to the store with vague cuts of beef on his list, and why having a good butcher is a very good thing. But when there isn’t someone behind the counter at the ready to answer any question you might have about what cut of meat is best for what, there’s an app for that. Of course there is! Everyone should have their own personal butcher in their back pocket. I was asked to take The Roundup for a spin, and so I sent Mike to the store with it to do some hands-on testing on a real-life stressed-out guy with minimal meat knowledge. He came home without that concerned scowl on his face, with a bonus pot roast and a request to cook it later.

beef app 1

The fact that apps are so compact and interactive makes them handy real-time resources. For those not so much in the know, The Roundup was created by Canadian Beef; it’s a well-designed, definitive guide to cuts of beef and how to cook them, with videos for those of us (all of us?) who find cooking very visual, interactive meat charts, recipes, nutritional info, and even the tenderness rule of thumb: the farther a cut is from the hoof, horn or hip, the more tender the meat.

But tenderness isn’t always the goal: the more inexpensive cuts tend to have more flavour once stewed, braised or otherwise slow-cooked, which allows the tough connective tissues break down to the point where the meat can generally be pulled apart with a fork or fingers.
Case in point: this super simple barbacoa beef – it’s far from authentic barbecue, but also the sort of throw-into-the-pot-and-walk-away dinner that I kind of love. Browning the meat quickly in a hot pan first adds a layer of flavour – then all you need to do is turn on the slow cooker. (It will work just as well in the oven – at about 300F for 2 1/2-3 hours.)

slow cooker

It’s also perfect for making large batches of – it takes exactly the same amount of time and effort to make twice or three times as much, which is ideal if you’re having a party or want leftovers to keep in the fridge or freeze for another day. And if you really want to doll them up, try filling crunchy corn taco shells and topping with salsa verde, chopped avocado, minced white onion and lots of cilantro.

Barbacoa Tacos 1

Barbacoa beef 1
Barbacoa beef 1

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Bites

Recipe link


February 25, 2015

You'll need less liquid in the slow cooker than in a covered pot in the oven - the juice of two oranges (which was what I had) worked for me in the slow cooker. Adapted from The Roundup - the app guide to buying and cooking Canadian beef.

  • Makes: Serves 4-6.


canola oil, for cooking

1 lb. simmering steak, such as blade, cross rib, or stewing beef

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2-3/4 cup orange juice

3 Tbsp. ketchup

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

1-2 Tbsp. grated ginger

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed

pinch dried red chilis

1 tsp. cornstarch (optional - I didn't need it)


1Set a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and when it's hot, add the beef, sprinkling it with salt and pepper in the pan. Turn to brown on all sides - you just want to get some colour - then transfer to a braising dish or slow cooker.

2Pour the orange juice into the pan and stir to scrape up any browned bits - pour over the meat. Add the ketchup, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and chili, stir to combine, cover and braise in the oven at 300F for 2 1/2-3 hours, or cook on low in the slow cooker for 6-8 hours.

3If it's too saucy and you'd like to thicken it up, stir the cornstarch into 1 Tbsp. cold water, add to the meat mixture and bring to a simmer until it thickens. Otherwise serve it as-is, with flour or corn tortillas, chopped purple or green onion, and fresh cilantro for serving.

Makes: Serves 4-6.

* This post was sponsored by the fine beefy folks at Canadian Beef – but I was happy to take the app for a spin, and I’m always up for cooking some good local beef.


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3 comments on “Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef

  1. Lori
    February 26, 2015 at 8:39 am

    This is the recipe I’ve been looking for, but didn’t know it until I found it. Thanks!

  2. Janel
    February 26, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    I love the barbacoa tacos at one of our local taco trucks. It’s much warmer to make them at home instead of waiting outside in the cold right now!

  3. Mary Graves
    April 5, 2016 at 1:13 am

    That dish is absolutely amazing. My husband really loved that. He said that was the best thing I have cooked. I have also added some thyme and meat has a better taste with it. Also sais it would be also good to add nutmeg.

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