Grilling: Tacos al Pastor

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.

About the author: Joshua Bousel blogs about grilling on his blog, The Meatwave, and appears weekly here on Serious Eats during grilling season.

Tacos al Pastor

Adapted from Steven Raichlen

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Grilling: Tacos al Pastor

About This Recipe

Rated:

Ingredients

  • 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

Procedures

  1. 1

    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.

  2. 2

    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.

  3. 3

    Finely chop remaining onion half and place in medium bowl. Add cilantro; toss to combine. Set in refrigerator until ready to use.

  4. 4

    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.

  5. 5

    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.

  6. 6

    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.

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