Tacos and gyrating meat hold a special place in my heart, making tacos al pastor a super food in my book. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, a vertical broiler has yet to make its way onto my wedding registry. Not to be discouraged, I set out to recreate tacos al pastor the best way I know how: by grilling them.
The deep smokey spiciness provided by guajillo and chipotle chiles mixed with the sweetness of the pineapple came through extraordinarily on the grill. These flavors combined to make a truly delectable taco, leaving me content on the taste part of meal—but the absence of gyration left a bit to be desired on the texture side. What I love about gyrating meat is how the outer layer becomes nice and crisp due to being exposed to the heat; when that layer is sliced off for a sandwich or taco, you get a unique combination of the crunchy outside and tender inside. I was unable to achieve that crunchiness on the grill without totally overcooking the pork, and in the end, a well cooked meat was more important. Even though the grilled tacos al pastor were excellent, they will never be a replacement for the real deal.
Tacos al Pastor
Adapted from Steven Raichlen
- 6 guajillo chiles
- 1 large white onion, halved
- 1 pineapple, peeled, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
- 3 garlic cloves, halved
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 large or 2 small chipotle chiles and 1 to 2 teaspoons adobo from canned chipotle chiles in adobo
- 2 1/2 - 3 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Corn tortillas
- Salsa Verde
- Lime wedges
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place guajillo chiles on a baking seat and heat in oven until puffed up and aromatic, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Seed chiles, tear into pieces, and process in a spice grinder into a fine powder.
Coarsely chop 1 onion half. Coarsely chop 2 pineapple rounds, discarding core; cover and chill remaining pineapple. Place chopped onion and chopped pineapple in blender. Add orange juice, vinegar, chile powder, garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, and chipotles; puree marinade until smooth. Place pork in large resealable plastic bag. Add marinade and seal bag, releasing excess air. Turn to coat. Chill at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.
Finely chop remaining onion half and place in medium bowl. Add cilantro; toss to combine. Set in refrigerator until ready to use.
Light 1 chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals out evenly over the charcoal grate.
Grill remaining pineapple until warm and slightly charred, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Grill pork with some marinade still clinging until slightly charred and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer pineapple and pork to work surface; chop pineapple into 1/2-inch cubes, discarding cores. Chop pork. Transfer to platter; toss to combine.
Grill tortillas until warm and slightly charred, about 10 seconds per side. Place pork mixture into tortilla and top with onion-cilantro relish, salsa verde, and lime wedges.