Barbacoa is a method of cooking meat slowly over an open fire or in a pit covered with maguey leaves. It originated in the Caribbean, but is most commonly associated with Mexican cuisine today. Barbacoa is traditionally made with goat, sheep or beef. Goat barbacoa is especially popular in northern Mexico.
The key to barbacoa is the slow cooking process which tenderizes the meat and infuses it with smoky, earthy flavors. Goat is well-suited to barbacoa because it has naturally lean meat that stays moist during the long cooking time.
What Cut of Goat is Used for Barbacoa?
While any cut of goat can be used, the most common cuts for barbacoa are:
– Goat leg (or goat hindquarters) – This is the largest cut and contains the leg bone. It’s often cut into smaller pieces before cooking. The leg meat has the most fat and connective tissue.
– Goat shoulder – This is another large, fatty cut ideal for slow cooking. The bone is left in for barbacoa.
– Goat ribs – Goat ribs have a good ratio of meat to bone/fat. Individual ribs are separated.
– Goat neck meat – Neck meat is flavorful and inexpensive. The fatty cuts enhance moistness.
The bones, fat and connective tissue all help keep the meat moist, while adding flavor. Cheaper cuts are preferred since the long cooking renders them tender.
How is Goat Meat Prepared for Barbacoa?
Goat meat must be properly prepared before barbacoa cooking:
– Remove hair/fur – Goat hair is typically removed by burning off the stubble. This can be done over an open flame or with a blowtorch.
– Remove glands – Certain glands in the goat meat can impart a strong flavor. These are carefully removed.
– Butcher into cuts – The goat is broken down into usable cuts like the leg or shoulder. The meat may be left bone-in or deboned first.
– Marinate – A wet marinade is used to infuse flavor and tenderize the meat. Common marinades include chiles, vinegar, oregano, cumin and citrus.
– Poke holes – Small slits or holes are poked throughout the meat to allow the marinade and smoke to fully penetrate.
Proper prep is key to ensuring moist, flavored meat after the barbacoa is cooked.
How is Traditional Goat Barbacoa Cooked?
There are two main traditional methods for cooking barbacoa goat:
– A pit is dug in the ground and lined with rocks or maguey leaves.
– A fire is built in the pit with wood and/or coals.
– Once the fire has burned down, the marinated goat is lowered into the pit.
– The meat is covered with maguey leaves, burlap sacks or paper.
– A sheet of metal covers the pit, then everything is covered in dirt to seal in the heat.
– The goat slow cooks for 6-12 hours depending on the size of the cuts.
– The steam and smoke from the coals tenderizes and flavors the meat.
Whole Goat Roast:
– A whole goat is placed over an open fire pit lined with hot coals or rocks.
– The carcass is splayed open and supported on a metal framework above the fire.
– The goat is turned regularly to cook evenly for 5-8 hours.
– The drippings fall into the fire, creating smoke that permeates the meat.
– The head and offal cook along with the meat.
Both methods steam and smoke the goat while it slowly cooks at around 200??F to 300??F. The result is incredibly tender, smoky meat that pulls apart easily.
Other Equipment Used for Goat Barbacoa
While traditional barbacoa uses open fires or pits, modern methods allow cooking it in standard kitchen equipment. Common alternatives include:
– Smoker – Goat can be smoked slowly for 10+ hours in a standard backyard smoker or smoker box attached to a grill.
– Oven – Marinated goat cooks well in a low 300??F oven for 8-12 hours depending on the size. Moisture must be added, so cover it or use a braising liquid.
– Slow cooker – Smaller goat cuts can be cooked on low for 6-8 hours in a slow cooker. This requires additional liquid like broth.
– Instant pot – An instant pot or electric pressure cooker can rapidly tenderize goat in 1-2 hours by cooking under pressure. Pre-browning may be needed for flavor.
– Roasting pan – For small batches, goat can be braised in the oven in a covered roasting pan with added moisture. Turn the meat every 1-2 hours for even cooking.
While these methods don’t impart the same smoky flavor, they allow you to enjoy tasty barbacoa goat even without specialized equipment.
What Flavors Are in Barbacoa Goat?
Barbacoa goat is infused with earthy, spicy and savory flavors from its preparation:
– Smoky – The wood smoke provides a distinctive charred, smoky flavor you can’t replicate any other way. Mesquite or oak wood are commonly used.
– Savory – The natural umami flavors of the meat are concentrated during long cooking. This enhances the rich, meaty taste.
– Spicy – Signature barbacoa spices like chili peppers, garlic, cumin and oregano add layers of mild to intense spice.
– Sweet – Ingredients like orange juice, plantains and agave nectar add pleasant sweet notes.
– Salty – Salt is almost always used to brine or season the meat. Other salty ingredients can include soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce.
– Herbal – Cilantro, thyme, bay leaves and epazote are examples of fresh herbs used in marinades or garnishes.
– Tangy – Some acidity is usually added through ingredients like vinegar, lime juice or tomatillos.
– Earthy – The charred maguey leaves contribute an earthy essence.
– Umami – Ingredients like mushrooms, tomato, chiles and Worcestershire sauce boost the savory umami flavors.
The combination creates complex layers of flavor in the tender meat.
What Sides and Condiments Go with Goat Barbacoa?
Barbacoa goat is served alongside typical Mexican accompaniments:
– Corn tortillas – The tender meat is wrapped in warm corn tortillas to create tacos and burritos. Flour tortillas can also be used.
– Onions – Thinly sliced raw white onions add crunch and a sharp contrast to the rich meat.
– Cilantro – Chopped cilantro leaves lend a fresh, bright note.
– Lime wedges – Fresh lime juice cuts through the fattiness.
– Salsa – Tomato-based salsa adds sweet acidity, while chili-based salsas bring more heat.
– Guacamole – Cool, creamy guacamole balances the smoky meat.
– Rice and beans – Mexican rice and refried beans are standard sides.
– Consomm?? – The flavorful juices left in the barbacoa pit can be served as consomm?? broth for dipping.
Adding your own desired toppings and condiments lets you customize each bite.
How do you Serve Barbacoa Goat?
There are several ways barbacoa goat is served:
– Tacos – Small pieces are wrapped in corn tortillas with onions and cilantro for classic barbacoa tacos.
– Burritos – For burritos, the meat is accompanied by rice, beans, salsa and other fillings.
– Bowls – As a hearty protein bowl over rice, beans and roasted vegetables.
– Soup – Cooked down in broth with vegetables to make pozole or birria soup.
– Nachos – Chopped or shredded barbacoa makes tasty nacho toppings.
– Salads – Adds hearty, smoky protein to leafy greens for salad entr??es.
– Sandwiches – Either as traditional Mexican tortas, or on buns like classic pulled pork.
– Pizza – Scattered across pizzas in place of or along with sausage or other toppings.
– Meat itself – The fork-tender meat can be served as-is, no tortilla required!
You really can’t go wrong turning succulent barbacoa goat into just about any dish.
What are the Benefits of Choosing Goat Meat?
Barbacoa goat isn’t just delicious – it offers health advantages over other red meats like beef and lamb:
– Leaner – Goat meat is lower in fat, especially saturated fat. A 3oz portion has 2.58g fat compared to 4g in beef.
– Fewer calories – With 143 calories in 3oz of goat compared to 179 calories for beef.
– High protein – Goat meat has 27g protein per 3oz serving. Protein builds muscle and satisfies hunger.
– Iron – Goat provides more iron than beef, lamb or chicken with 3.3mg per 3oz serving. Iron transports oxygen in the blood to our cells.
– Lower cholesterol – Goat contains 63mg cholesterol in a 3oz serving, significantly less than beef’s 79mg.
– Other minerals – Rich amounts of potassium, phosphorus and selenium.
– Gamey taste – The flavor profile appeals to some meat-eaters more than beef or pork.
Goat’s lean profile makes it a healthier red meat option when you want a break from chicken or fish.
Where Can You Find Goat Barbacoa?
Authentic goat barbacoa can be found in certain specialty Mexican restaurants or butcher shops. Look for these telltale signs:
– Pit or smoker on premises – Many traditional restaurants have their own barbacoa pit.
– Whole goat option – Getting barbacoa from a whole roasted goat is most authentic.
– Northern Mexico style – Northern Mexican eateries are most likely to serve goat.
– Weekends only – Since it takes so long to prepare, some restaurants only make it on weekends.
– Limited quantities – Only a certain amount is made each day since it requires numerous goats. First come, first served!
– Consomm?? – Serving the cooking broth/juices in cups for dipping indicates true barbacoa.
You may also find canned or jarred barbacoa goat meat in specialty Latin grocery stores. However, your best bet is to try it fresh-cooked if you can.
Tips for Cooking Barbacoa Goat at Home
With the right preparation, you can make delicious barbacoa goat in your own kitchen:
– Use bone-in cuts for maximum flavor and moisture. Goat shoulder or leg work well.
– Trim excess fat, but leave some on for added richness.
– Marinate for 8-12 hours or overnight in a chili/citrus blend.
– Cook low and slow at 300??F in the oven or a smoker until fork tender.
– Add liquid like broth in the oven dish and cover tightly with foil to steam.
– Flip the meat every 1-2 hours for even doneness.
– Pull large cuts apart with forks when done. Shred or chop smaller pieces.
– The meat should shred easily and be slightly charred on the edges when fully cooked.
– Finish with lime, fresh onion, cilantro, salsa and tortillas for authentic tacos.
With patience, the right cut of meat and a good marinade, you can make restaurant-worthy barbacoa in your own oven or smoker.
Recipe for Authentic Goat Barbacoa
This recipe for authentic goat barbacoa is adapted from traditional methods:
– 3 lbs goat shoulder or leg, bone-in
– 1 cup citrus juice (orange, lime or pineapple)
– 1?? cups chili puree (Guajillo or ancho)
– 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
– 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
– 2 teaspoons ground cumin
– 1 onion, sliced
– 2 bay leaves
– Salt and pepper to taste
– Corn tortillas, onion, cilantro and lime wedges for serving
1. Combine all ingredients except goat meat in a bowl. Whisk to blend into marinade.
2. Place goat meat in a shallow dish. Pour marinade over to coat. Cover and refrigerate 8-12 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 300??F. Transfer meat and marinade to a Dutch oven or oven-safe pan with a tight fitting lid. Add 1 cup broth or water.
4. Cook covered for about 8 hours, flipping meat every 1-2 hours, until fork tender. Add more liquid during cooking if pan gets dry.
5. Remove goat from the pan and let rest 10 minutes before pulling meat apart with forks.
6. Serve on corn tortillas with sliced onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lime.
This intensely flavored barbacoa transforms the affordable goat meat into a dish worthy of a celebration. Simple sides like tortillas, salsa and guacamole let the barbacoa flavor shine.
Goat barbacoa is a traditional Mexican delicacy that transforms a tough but flavorful cut of meat into fork-tender perfection. The slow cooking technique tenderizes sinewy goat meat while infusing it with smoky, spicy and tangy flavors.
Cooking the meat low and slow over a smoking pit or in the oven breaks down the collagen while forming a delicious burnished crust. Typical accompaniments like fresh tortillas, onions and salsa cut through the richness.
Barbacoa goat provides a leaner and more healthful alternative to beef barbacoa or other red meat dishes. When prepared authentically, goat barbacoa is a succulent and complex treat that provides one-of-a-kind smoky, spicy flavors you won’t get from other meats. It’s an amazing experience every adventurous meat eater should try.