Smoked beef birria is a BBQ inspired riff on the traditional Mexican stew recipe that can be made on your charcoal or pellet grill. This shredded beef birria is a flavor-packed way to enjoy taco night or indulge on a special occasion.
If you follow food accounts across social media, you may have seen this recipe becoming one of the hottest food trends in the last few years.
While you’re likely to find this dish (more specifically birria tacos) served from a food truck in Los Angeles, you can now travel solely to your own backyard and light up the BBQ with this inspired riff.
What is Birria?
Birria is a traditional Mexican stew that is commonly made with goat meat. However, it can also be made with beef (I used a combination of chuck roast and beef short ribs).
It’s typically served with corn tortillas and is often used as a filling for tacos (aka birria tacos) and served with a smoky chile based consommé for dipping.
It can be cooked in a variety of ways (braised in a Dutch oven, slow cooker, or even prepared in a pressure cooker), but one of my favorite methods is smoking it.
Birria smokes low and slow for hours, resulting in tender, flavorful meat that just shreds and falls apart.
This recipe takes time and some prep work, so it’s not going to fit into a busy weeknight (though the leftovers will be perfect for quicker tacos on Tuesdays).
If you’ve never had birria before, I highly recommend giving it a try – it’s definitely worth the effort!
Find the guided outline below to make an authentic and flavorful consommé de birria, prepping and seasoning your beef, smoking instructions, and ways to serve and enjoy this sensational dish. Let’s dive in!
- Knife and Cutting Board
- Measuring Spoons
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Baking Sheet
- Large aluminum tray or Dutch Oven
- Blender or Immersion Blender
- Meat Thermometer
This recipe was tested several times, taking into account several different variables (including using both charcoal and pellet grills).
Use my guided notes to help answer any cooking questions you may have in regards to the recipe preparation process, cooking method, and ingredient substitutions.
While I highly encourage you to read through this article, you can also jump to the recipe below and getting to smoking!
What meat is used in smoked birria?
There are many different types of meat that can be used to make smoked birria, but the most popular choice is the chuck roast.
Why? This cut of beef is more affordable, readily available, and depending on the grade it can have fairly good marbling and therefore great flavor (see how to make smoked chuck roast too).
It’s a great option for creating a rich, smoky flavor when slow-cooked over low heat (the slower cooking process can make this tougher cut very tender).
Other commonly used cuts of meat for smoked birria include:
- Short Ribs
- Beef Cheeks
Of course, it’s also possible to use more exotic ingredients like goat/ lamb (the traditional method) or veal if you want to experiment with different flavors and textures.
Ultimately, the choice of meat is up to you and will depend on what you prefer taste-wise as well as what’s available in your area.
Regardless of which type of meat you choose, though, smoked birria is sure to be a delicious and satisfying dish!
How to prep your meat for beef birria?
Smoking meat like beef chuck roast or beef short ribs can take several hours to become tender and shreddable.
Here are some quick tips for prepping ahead to help maximize flavor and slightly speed up the process:
- Cut the chuck roast into smaller pieces so it can cook and braise easier. I like pieces about 3-4 inches in size.
- Trim large, thick pieces of fat or silver skin off the chuck roast.
- Beef short ribs will come with a fat cap and layer of silver skin. Use a carving knife to remove this (better for smoking and adding flavor this way).
- Season your meat with a spice blend made up of Kosher salt, black pepper, Mexican oregano (or regular oregano), cinnamon, cumin, dried ginger, and chili powder.
- Lightly oil the meat and season on all sides, and reserve a few teaspoons for your consommé.
- The meat can sit overnight in the fridge and is ready the next day for the smoker.
How do you make the consommé?
The consommé is an essential part of making this dish because after the meat takes on its initial smoke and bark on your smoker, it gets braised in this flavorful broth mixture (this is where it gets its “stew” vibes).
This broth base is made up of a variety of fresh ingredients and dried spices with a focus on the dried Mexican chili peppers (I used guajillo peppers, ancho chiles, and arbol chiles) to create a flavor-rich broth that is also slightly smoky too.
Birria Consommé Ingredients Needed:
- Chicken Stock or Beef Stock: I prefer beef (since I am cooking with beef).
- White Onion: Rough chop into larger pieces to make it fit easier in the blender.
- Fresh Garlic Cloves: You can use whole cloves here and just toss them into the blender.
- Dried Chiles: Most grocery stores carry dried chiles like guajillo peppers, ancho chiles, and Arbol chiles. You can also purchase these online if necessary.
- Oil: You can use avocado oil, vegetable oil, or olive oil for this recipe.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: You can also use white vinegar or red wine vinegar
- Fire Roasted Tomatoes: Use the canned tomatoes here if you can. Many recipes use fresh Roma tomatoes, but the fire-roasted add a lot more flavor to the broth.
- Spices: Use leftover dry rub you created for the meat mentioned above or sub with traditional adobo seasonings
- Bay Leaves: I place these in the broth after it’s blended and the meat is added
The general process is to start by rehydrating and softening your peppers in a large skillet in oil over medium heat until fragrant. Be careful and move the peppers around frequently so they do not burn.
I let the peppers simmer on lower heat for about 5 minutes or so and then carefully pour in the beef stock.
Bring the mixture up to medium-high heat to finish softening your peppers fully.
Carefully transfer the hot liquid to a large blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend your peppers with the remaining ingredients until it’s one mixture.
I prefer to strain this mixture thoroughly and discard any thicker pulp, leaving a nice rich broth behind.
Set it aside to be used as your braising liquid later on in the smoking process.
Guide to smoking your beef birria:
This recipe works on any grill or smoker, use what you prefer to cook on (I smoked my birria on my large Big Green Egg for reference).
Because you’re smoking with beef, you can use a stronger wood like hickory for the smoke flavor. Preheat your smoker to 250 F. and set it for indirect heat.
Remove your dry-rubbed chuck roast and beef ribs and place them onto the smoker.
Let the pieces smoke for an hour and spray with beef stock to help the smoke adhere and a bark to form.
I prefer to let the beef cuts smoke for about 3 hours or so. When the smoked meat hits an internal temperature of 165 F. remove it from the smoker and transfer to the foil pan.
Pour the prepared consommé poured over (don’t forget to toss in your bay leaves here).
If you use short ribs for this recipe, I would suggest taking the meat off the bone before adding it to the liquid.
Place it back onto the smoker and let it cook in the consommé for a few more hours or until the meat is fall apart tender and easy to shred with tongs or forks.
This whole process took me around 5-6 hours on average from the four different tests I did.
Pro Tip: Remember your BBQ is never done to time, but to temperature and tenderness.
Carefully transfer the foil pan onto a cookie sheet to carry it in easier off the smoker. Use two forks to shred the beef.
How to serve and enjoy birria and birria leftovers:
Place the stew into a bowl and garnish with cilantro, lime, and diced onions.
While this is a great way to enjoy this dish, the popular and trending method is to make the ever-popular birria taco recipe (also known as quesabirria).
This is done by skimming off some of the beef fat in the consommé, dipping the entire tortilla in the liquid, and then pan fry the taco.
Each taco is stuffed with queso fresco, the shredded beef mixture, and served with extra onions and cilantro.
Do you have a lot of leftover birria? Try making using the meat for burrito bowls, serve with your eggs as a breakfast hash, or as nachos.
Smoked Beef Birria
- 3 lb. Chuck Roast trim and cut into 3-4 inch pieces
- 3 lb. Beef Short Ribs remove fat cap and silver skin
- 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
Beef Birria Dry Rub
- 1 tbsp. Kosher Salt
- 2 tsp. Black Pepper
- 2 tsp. Garlic Powder
- 1 tbsp. Cumin
- 1 tbsp. Mexican Oregano sub with traditional oregano
- 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. Ground Ginger
- 3 Ancho Chili Peppers trim the stem and remove the seeds
- 6 Guajillo Chili Peppers trim the stem and remove the seeds
- 4 Arbol Chili Peppers trim the stem and remove the seeds
- 1/4 cup Olive oil
- 4 cups Beef Stock extra for spraying your smoked meat
- 1 small White Onion chopped in large pieces
- 4 cloves Fresh Garlic
- 1 14.5 oz. can Fire Roasted Tomatoes I like the muir glen brand best
- 1 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
- Ideally the meat is most flavorful when prepped a day in advance, at minimum the spices should marinade for at lest 2 hours.
- Start by trimming your chuck roast into 3-4 inch pieces. Trim larger pieces of fat off of the meat and discard.
- Trim the fat cap and silver skin off the top of the short ribs.
- Lightly oil all of your meat so it's completely coated.
- In a bowl, whisk together the dry rub ingredients. Remove 2 tsp and set it aside for the consommé.
- Coat the meat pieces in the rub mixture and place them on a baking sheet and cover lightly and let sit overnight in the fridge.
- Trim the stems off your dried peppers and cut or slice them open to remove the seeds. Set the dried peppers aside.
- In a large shallow pan, combine the 1/4 cup of olive oil and the dried chiles and simmer over medium heat. Stir frequently to move them around the pan to start rehydrating them.
- After 5 minutes, carefully pour the beef stock into the pan (be mindful of the hot oil). Bring the heat to medium-high and let the stock and chiles simmer for another 5 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and let cool briefly.
- While the stock mixture cools slightly. Prep the onions, garlic, remaining dry spices, -roasted tomatoes, and vinegar. You can add directly into your large pan if you want to immersion blender or carefully transfer the prepped ingredients and the hot stock mixture into a large blender. Carefully blend until smooth (please take caution).
- Pour the blended consommé into a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Use a whisk to help move the mixture through to create a light, smooth, and thinner consommé. Discard the remains in the strainer and set the consommé aside to be used as the braising liquid for later.
How To Smoke Birria:
- Preheat your charcoal grill or pellet smoker (or a smoker of choice) to 250 F. and set it for indirect heat. Hickory is a great wood to use for this cook!
- Place all of your large pieces of chuck roast and beef short rib directly onto your grill grates and smoke for 60 minutes.
- After an hour, spray some beef stock over the meat to help the bark form. Spray every 45-60 minutes until the internal temperature of each piece reaches at least 165 F. (approximately 3 hours or so).
- Heat the consommé up in the microwave or on the stove. You want it hot before adding the meat to it.
- Remove the pieces of beef and place them in a large aluminum pan (or a Dutch oven you can use on your smoker). If you used the short ribs, I recommend cutting the meat off the bone for easier shredding later. Pour the reserved consommé over the beef pieces to begin smoking and braising your beef birria.
- Return the pan to the smoker and continue to smoke for another 2-3 hours. You want the meat to be fork tender and it should be easy to shred and pull with forks or by hand. You can also chop it with a knife. I usually check for an internal temperature of 203 F. or higher for tenderness.
- Serve the meat as is like a stew in a bowl. Add lime wedges, cilantro, and diced onions over the top. Additionally, this meat is perfect for making the popular food truck tacos called quesabirria.