Sous vide barbacoa beef will send your taste buds straight to Flavortown. And we don’t say that lightly…
Thanks to cooking sous vide, we can easily transform a chuck roast into tender, juicy shredded beef. Then we create a delicious, Mexican inspired barbacoa sauce and smother the shredded beef.
Top the barbacoa beef with fresh onions, cilantro, pickled red onions, avocado or whatever toppings you want and you'll be in heaven!
An essential part of cooking sous vide is putting ingredients in an air-tight bag or container. The two most common techniques to package your ingredients are vacuum sealing and using the water displacement method.
A vacuum sealer removes all the air and seals the contents of a plastic bag through a vacuum. Ensuring the food is airtight and properly sealed prevents the bag from floating, which can result in uneven cooking. If you are in the market for a vacuum sealer, I’d recommend the Anova sealer.
The displacement method is a technique where you first place your food and marinades in a sous vide bag. Next, submerge the bag in a container of water, and allow the pressure to force all the air out of the bag. Once all the air is out, zip up the bag and you’re all set!
Both of these methods work for this barbacoa, so use whichever you feel more comfortable with!
Shredded Beef Time and Temperature
Through loads of experimentation, we’ve found that cooking the chuck roast sous vide at 79.5C/175F for 24 hours is the perfect combo. Leaving the roast in for 24 hours breaks down the connective tissue (collagen), which is the sweet spot for extremely juicy barbacoa. Also, cooking the chuck roast at a temperature of 175F ensures the meat is tender and easily shreddable.
Just make sure you have a reliable sous vide that accurately regulates the temperature of the bath or your results may vary (check out the Anova or Joule). For other time and temperature options, check out our cooking guide.
Best Way to Sear Chuck Roast After Sous Vide
Searing is the most critical step in the sous vide process. Getting a deep, rich sear can make your food look like it is Michelin star quality. Failing to do so will make your dinner guests wonder why they let you cook again.
If you want to get an amazing sear on your roast, you’ve got to:
1. Pat the meat completely dry with a paper towel
2. Season generously with salt and pepper or seasoning of your choice
3. Sear at extremely high temperatures.
First, pat the meat completely dry using paper towels. After the meat is dry, lightly brush the roast with olive oil then season generously with salt and pepper or a seasoning of choice. Note that brushing with olive oil is optional, but will allow the seasoning to stick to the meat better and results in a deeper sear.
At this point you want to determine the best searing method. For barbacoa, we suggest pan searing, grilling or using a searing torch. The trick is getting the pan, grill or torch extremely hot, then searing for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. This results in a quick, high-quality sear without overcooking the roast.
Sous Vide Machine – To cook sous vide, you’re going to need a device to precisely regulate the temperature of the bath water. The two best sous vide machines in the game right now are the Anova Precision Cooker and the Breville Joule.
The main difference between the two is that with the Anova you can control the device both manually and with a mobile device, and with the Joule you can only control the device by using your mobile device. Either way, both sous vide machines are top class and you can’t go wrong with either choice.
12-quart Container – Although you can use a basic stockpot for your sous vide cooking needs, I highly recommend buying a large plastic container. They are inexpensive and spacious, so you won’t have to worry about cooking a big roast in a small pot. I recommend a 12 quart Rubbermaid container, as it is BPA free, sturdy, and large enough for just about anything you will be cooking.
Container Lid – If you are going to buy a plastic container, I highly suggest buying a compatible lid for it. When you sous vide for a long duration, the heat of the water causes evaporation. With a lid, it eliminates a majority of the evaporation so you can cook for 24 hours care-free.
Cast Iron Skillet – If you are looking to take your searing game to the next level, we recommend investing in a cast iron skillet. By using a cast iron in this recipe, you’ll achieve a deep sear on the protein. Cast irons are also extremely handy for searing just about any and all sous vide meat. Lodge offers the best quality and price, which is why it is our favorite cast iron brand.
Next Level Sous Vide –Looking to take your sous vide skills to the next level? The Next Level Sous Vide eCookbook will push your culinary boundaries with 65 delicious recipes that are equally approachable and tasty. With pro tips and a detailed explanation of the sous vide process, you will be on your way to maximize your sous vide skills.
Interested in more sous vide essentials? Check out our full list of recommended gear.
Sous Vide Barbacoa Beef Recipe
- 1 3 lb boneless chuck roast
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup beef broth
- 3 chipotle chiles in adobo
- 2 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the chipotle chile can)
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Preparing the Beef
Set sous vide machine to 79.5C/175F.
Lightly season the chuck roast with salt. Put the roast in a sous vide bag, and remove the air through a vacuum sealer or the displacement method. Drop the bag in the bath for 24 hours.
Preparing the Barbacoa Sauce
In a food processor or blender, pulse together chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, garlic and beef broth until well blended.
Pour chipotle mixture into a mixing bowl. Add in cumin, oregano, lime juice and apple cider vinegar and whisk ingredients together. Once mixed, add in bay leaves and let the mixture sit overnight in the fridge to emulsify the flavors.
Remove bag from bath. Carefully take chuck roast out of the bag and pat dry with paper towels. Brush a thin layer of oil on the roast, and season the entire roast to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat up large skillet on high and add oil. Sear chuck roast for 60 seconds on all sides, or until browned. Remove from pan, and place on a plate to rest for 5 minutes. Once rested, shred the beef using two forks.
Heat up large skillet on medium low and add a touch of oil. Pour in barbacoa sauce and let warm for 1 minute. Add in shredded beef and toss until the beef is evenly coated in sauce. Let the beef simmer in the sauce for 3 minutes. Remove barbacoa from pan and use this delicious beef for the world's greatest tacos!
This looks fantastic - the oven step worries me a bit. Is it best to put the roast inside a browning bag or cover with foil? Or is it fine going naked into a roasting pan and straight into the oven? Thanks very much!
Jason Veselak says
Hi JW, I realized through testing this recipe a few more times that just searing the chuck roast on a cast iron on high heat is the best finishing method. I updated the body of the post to explain this process, but it looks like I forgot to update the actual recipe card. I'll change this up right now!
Best tacos I have ever made or eaten. Only extra ingredient I added was a few dashed of liquid smoke to the sauce to add to some more smoke flavor to the adobo sauce. I am so glad I found your site. You seriously stepped up the Sous Vide game. This is my third recipe of yours I have made and all have been stunning dishes ! The short Ribs recipe was amazing !
David Brown says
This stuff is the bomb! The sauce especially. We combine this with cojita cheese, esquites, lettuce, beans, and lime-cilantro seasoned white rice to make burrito bowls. Better than Chipotle!
Esquites recipe: https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/07/esquites-mexican-street-corn-salad-recipe.html
Emily Sanders says
Is this recipe spicy?
Jason Veselak says
Hi Emily, it is a medium spice level due to the chipotles in the recipe. If you want to make it less spicy, either try removing the seeds in the chipotle chiles or just reduce the amount of chiles added :).
Great stuff! I dump the whole can of adobe and chiles in to give it more bite.
Jason Veselak says
Fantastic, glad you enjoyed the recipe! I also do the same and love it, but had to scale it down a little for the blog for those who don't like that much heat.
The best shredded beef I've made and my second sous vide chuck roast. First chuck roast one I did for 36 hours at 130 and I strongly prefer the higher temp shredded beef from this recipe.
I used a 2.25lb chuck roast and did 16 hours at 175 instead of 24. It was difficult to deal with on the grill because it was already falling apart out of the bag so i don't feel like I would have benefitted from a longer time. I threw the clump of falling apart beef on the grill around 600 and engulfed the entire grate in tall flames from immediate grease flare-ups. Well crusted and delightful after about 40 seconds of this, did not follow the ice bath step.
I made the full sauce recipe and it was good. I used the sous vide bag juices for the sauce as the beef stock.
For extra spice I'm going to try using double the chipotles next time around as this was a bit mild for my preference but should be a people pleaser for those who want flavor without heat..
Finished with tacos. This is good with just cilantro and onions but also really shines with the Mexican style crema on it. You could definitely show off to friends with beef from this recipe and it requires very little active effort.
So easy, followed directions precisely and it came out perfectly. Definitely a crowd pleaser! Thank you!
Jeff Can't Read Directions says
Well, I didn't read through the directions very well. Not well at all. I put the meat in the bag, along with all of the ingredients for the barbacoa sauce, sealed it up, and dropped it into the bath. I'll let you know in 30 hours (the roast was frozen- 12 hours in the fridge) how it turned out.
Jason Veselak says
I hope it turns out well! I've never personally added all the ingredients to the bag, but I'd imagine it will add some really good flavor to the meat. My only concern is that the spice of the chipotles will become too overpowering, but it might just come out perfect. Let me know how it goes.
Jeff Can't Read Directions says
There was nothing wrong at all with adding the entirety of the ingredient list . My gf said at least three times how good was. The barbacoa sauce after it came out of the sous vide bag, had about the same viscosity as water, so it wasn't really usable as it was, but neither my gf or I thought it needed any added sauce.
When I initially placed the roast into it's bath, I was planning on going 30 hours with it, since it was still frozen. After thinking about it for a bit, I realized it wouldn't take long to thaw a 2.5# roast in 175 degree water. I pulled it out after 24 hours, and it was perfect.
Why don’t you sear it before you put it I. The sous vide?
I've made this a few times now and it's been awesome. Especially for how easy it is. I haven't used the beef broth for one of the cooks yet though. I may try it next time.
I usually skip the sear at the end due to the roast just falling apart from the cook. If you're wanting to sear it may make sense to do it before you bag it. Either way this turns out great and will be my go to recipe.
Making this tonight with beef cheek. Sauce has been in the fridge since last night and it tastes amazing, so I'm really excited for tonight! When do you remove the bay leaves?
Jason Veselak says
Awesome, hope it turned out great! Once the sauce is done sitting you can remove the bay leaves.