Recipes for Mexican barbacoa require chuck beef or beef cheeks, white or yellow onion, minced garlic, ground cinnamon, ground cayenne pepper, dried thyme, dried oregano, bay leaves, salt and whole black pepper corns. Variations on ingredients include guajillo or jalapeño peppers, fresh tomatoes, orange juice and cumin.
To start, you need 2 to 4 pounds of chuck beef or beef cheeks. Rinse the beef, and remove any excess fat. Pat dry, and set aside.
Next, decide whether to cook the barbacoa in a crock pot or on the stove. Cooking time in a crock pot runs about six hours, requiring stirring every hour, while cooking on the stovetop takes about two hours. If using a crock pot, add all ingredients at the same time, set the temperature to high, and cover.
To make the spicy chile sauce, seed, chop, and mince guajillo or jalapeño peppers, onions, tomatoes and garlic. Add a little water, and salt to taste. Purée the ingredients in a blender, and pour the liquid into the crock pot or, on the stovetop, into a dutch oven.
Sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes. For the stovetop version, brown the meat in the chile sauce until it forms a crust, add the remaining spices and herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 2 to 2 1/2 cups of water, reseasoning as necessary. Bring to a simmer, reduce to low heat, and cook for two hours.
Serve with warm tortillas, cilantro, and lemon or lime wedges.