A Sous Vide Machine Isn't Necessary For Chipotle Copycat Barbacoa

While sous vide cooking is, as some have pointed out, not all that dissimilar to the old "boil in a bag" method of reheating food, many see it as being a super-fancy technique for food preparation. While it may have been more a matter of efficiency than a desire to provide a truly gourmet experience that prompted Chipotle to adopt this technique for making its barbacoa, nonetheless, this beef, which is cooked off-site in a central processing facility, is nevertheless prepared by what the company has claimed is, indeed, the sous vide method.

Our copycat Chipotle barbacoa, not so much. In fact, not at all. Recipe developer Lindsay D. Mattison is aware, as she tells us, "Most home cooks don't have a sous vide machine." Nor does she feel that too many of us would be willing (or able) to dig a barbacoa pit in the backyard to cook the stuff old-school. Instead, her barbacoa recipe calls for cooking the meat in the oven. While she uses a Dutch oven for this purpose, any sufficiently large oven-proof pan will work as you can always form a lid out of aluminum foil if necessary. Mattison explains that "the ambient temperature of the oven keeps the liquid at the perfect simmer level," so essentially this appliance is serving as a jumbo-sized slow cooker here.

You can also make the barbacoa on the stovetop or in a slow cooker

While Mattison praises the convenience of oven-braising, she does say, "It's totally acceptable to braise your Chipotle barbacoa copycat ... on the stove top." You'll need to simmer it at a very low heat if you choose to go this route, as she explains, " You don't want the barbacoa to boil, but it needs to be warm enough to produce some bubbles."

Yet another option is to simmer the barbacoa in an actual slow cooker, which Mattison says "will make your meat just as tender as a Dutch oven." She does say that it'll take eight hours to cook as opposed to three and a half in the oven, but this could be a plus if you want to start it in the morning and have it ready in time for dinner. Yet another point in the crockpot's favor is that it won't heat up the kitchen like an oven might do.

If you're really in a hurry and/or still looking for a way to justify purchasing a pricy Instant Pot, you can also use this appliance, although it's not optimal since you'll need to cut the meat up before you cook it. Sure, it'll be done in about an hour and a half (plus the time for the pot to heat up and de-pressurize), but Mattison admits that using an Instant Pot "doesn't result in barbacoa that's as tender as a whole-cooked, long braised chuck roast."