This Is The Best Cut Of Meat To Use For Al Pastor

Tacos al pastor are some of the tastiest tacos that will ever hit your taste buds. The origins of this beautiful and succulent pork it contains can be traced from the Middle East to Mexico to the United States (via The World), and thankfully into our mouths. The meat is roasted upright. As it roasts, it spins and is shaved from the edges so you are assured to have a mixture of textures – juicy and crispy meat – in your corn tortilla (via Serious Eats).

However, to try to make al pastor at home can be quite the undertaking. Al pastor is generally made with boneless pork shoulder. It is thinly sliced and marinated in guajillo chilies, wonderful smelling herbs, and achiote, which is a red spice that comes from evergreen seeds. The meat is then stacked liked an upright skewer to form a dome, topped with onions and pineapple, and slowly roasted to perfection as it spins on what is called a trompo. Approximating that process isn't easy, but it all begins with the right cut of meat. And luckily, there are al pastor taco lovers on the internet who have done the research and shared their findings on the best cut of pork to use when making this dish.

Use a combination of meat cuts

To imitate an authentic al pastor in your home kitchen, you're going to need to use a combination of meat cuts. The Serious Eats Food Lab tested traditional pork shoulder, pork sirloin, and pork belly. Pork shoulder proved to be more difficult to work with than expected and unless you have some serious knife skills, this probably should not be your first choice. However, if you really want to use pork shoulder, one writer suggests keeping it in the freezer for thirty minutes. This makes the meat firmer and thus easier to slice (via Chicago Tribune). 

However, Serious Eats recommends using a combination of pork sirloin, which comes from the pig's back, and some bacon. Pork sirloin doesn't have a bone, so the slicing and dicing of this cut don't come with the same perils as pork shoulder; however, pork sirloin doesn't have the fat that's needed to keep the meat juicy. Pork belly, on the other hand, is very fatty. This is the cut where bacon comes from. 

Using the belly and shoulder together added just the right balance of fat and flavor. Unfortunately, by itself, pork belly proves too fatty for al pastor and too difficult to slice as thinly as needed. This led the food Lab to try using bacon. Bacon is pre-cut, salty, and when it's paired with the pork sirloin, it's like a collaboration between Lil Nas X and Billy Ray – perfection.