How to make cow head barbacoa

Cow head barbacoa DSC9458

“What do you want with a cow head?” asked the farmer selling beef at the Union Square Greenmarket. “We don’t sell cow heads here in New York—they’re illegal.”

Not to be deterred, I got on the phone and called my local butchers. It was the same conversation each time. First, they’d express shock and disgust at my query. And then they would curtly inform me that they could not ever, no way, no how get me a cow head as indeed, they’re illegal to sell in New York by order of the USDA. Something to do with eating cow brains having a connection to possibly getting mad cow’s disease.

So what’s a barbacoa-craving Texan in New York to do? I’ve made lamb barbacoa, but I wanted beef barbacoa. If I were at home, I could pop over to my local Fiesta grocery store and pick up a cow’s head in the meat section, nestled between the ground beef and slabs of brisket. But here my options were more limited, though I was advised that if I became friends with a farmer I’d probably have no problem getting a cow head.

Cow head barbacoa | Homesick Texan

I became friends with Elizabeth Karmel instead.

If you don’t know Elizabeth, she is America’s foremost female grilling expert, creator of Girls at the Grill, author of Soaked, Slathered & Seasoned and Taming the Flame and founding chef at New York’s best barbecue joint, Hill Country. And when she heard about my quest she graciously offered to help me get a cow head so we could make smoke it and make barbacoa.

She did indeed deliver, and last week a small group of us gathered at Hill Country to begin the two-day process of smoking a cow head in Hill Country’s smokers.

Cow head barbacoa | Homesick Texan

Back in Texas, a cow head traditionally is slow-cooked in the ground (though that’s a largely extinct practice now due to health departments’ intervention. Today, most cow head’s are cooked in an oven, slow cooker or on the grill). Elizabeth aimed to recreate this experience by wrapping the cow head in banana leaves and then containing the wrapped skull in two hotel pans.

For seasoning and moisture, we sprinkled a simple rub of black pepper, salt and cayenne over the skull and in its crevices, and added a couple of beers to the banana-leaf-lined pan. We also decided to smoke the tongue with the cow head, even though most barbacoa-making instructions call for it to be cooked separately. (Which makes no sense to me, but what do I know—I’m a cow-head-cooking virgin!)

I was struck by how simple the whole procedure was. Sure, the cow head was large and awkward and having three people available to help wrap it was advantageous. But save for a little mishap with one of the smoker’s shelves, there was little drama.

Cow head barbacoa | Homesick Texan

There was, however, much curiosity from those at the restaurant who witnessed our preparation. One of the pit masters said he wanted the teeth so he could have dentures made. Another took one look at the cow head and said he would never eat beef again. It was also amusing to note that those of us involved in eating and preparing the cow head were all women Kat Kinsman and the New York Times’ Jill Santopietro, were even wearing skirts as we pulled the meat from the skull), whereas those who were horrified by the cow head were all men. We were fierce!

The verdict? This was some amazingly tender barbacoa. And if I closed my eyes I could have been at a taco stand in El Paso. As we grabbed the meat from the skull and pulled it apart, you could smell the smoke and feel its moist tenderness. We stuffed the meat into flour tortillas and dressed our tacos with salsas, cilantro and onions. Each bite was a succulent treat. I even dared to try the eyeball— which was squishy and bland, and the brains—which had the smooth texture of sweetbreads.

Cow head barbacoa | Homesick Texan

If you have the time and the inclination, and the access to a cow’s head, I highly recommend you try this. Despite the savage-appearance of cooking a cow’s head, this barbacoa was ultimately a delicate treat.

Cow head barbacoa DSC9458
5 from 1 vote

Smoked cow head barbacoa

Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain


  • 1 cow head
  • Salt, pepper, and cayenne
  • Two bottles of beer
  • Long banana leaves


  1. Sprinkle the salt, pepper and cayenne all over the cow head.

    Completely wrap the cow head in several layers of banana leaves, securing it with kitchen twine.

    In a banana-leaf-lined hotel pan, pour two bottles of beer.

    Set the banana-leaf-wrapped cow head into the pan, and fold over pan-lining leaves.

    Cover cow head and bottom pan with another hotel pan. Secure tight with kitchen twine.

    Smoke at 250°F for 24 hours, remove meat from head (will have to peel the skin off of the tongue), pull apart and make tacos!

  1. deceiverofmen

    wow. cool. i wonder if its possible to obtain just cow cheek.

  2. Wow!!Just curious – you did not mention how the tongue tasted? Was it cooked all the way? I am cooking a tongue at home as I write this. That's dinner for you in El Paso, Texas.

  3. I am totally impressed and just wish I could have been there. Next time you guys smoke a cow's head, let me know and I'll come up from Philly for it.

  4. Lisa Fain

    Deceiver of Men–You should have no problem getting beef cheeks or tongue–it's just the whole head that's illegal here.

    CPTexas–It tasted wonderful! We shredded it and mixed it with the rest of the meat. Enjoy yours!

  5. tejasjeff


    Yes you can just use cheek meat.
    The Sams Wholesale clubs here in San Antonio specifically sell large packs of Cheek Meat specifically for all the little mom and pops to make Barbacoa.
    Because of the long prep ,it is almost always a weekend item like Menudo.
    Nice work Lisa.
    I have only had the real deal one time in Mexico.
    Wrapped in Burlap bags and buried .
    I will never forget the sight of removing that Cabeza from the ground and chowing down.
    Yoou might mention that this like tripe was considered the poor workers meal in Mexico in the past.

  6. Wow! You most certainly are fierce! Not sure I'll ever try it, but it was fun to read about.

  7. Bravo to brave women! I will probably be freaked out by the teeth though. 😀

  8. Wow! Just, wow! You're one tough lady. This makes me miss my ventures through Fiesta.

  9. This was so interesting to read, and funny because you were all women! 🙂 I've never heard of this dish, but it reminded me of times when my grandmother used to cook cows brains for my grandfather and who knows what else. He was a butcher in a butcher/grocery store close to KC in the earlier 1900's and I remember him talking alot about meat! And my Mother used to cook cows tongue,(and a few other interesting parts), occasionally. Enjoyed this post!

  10. William Conway

    Wow. You are now officially my hero.

    There's an excellent account of making barbacoa in Smokestack Lightning.

    And Americans don't know what they're missing. My mother made cow tongue all the time when I was a kid. It's succulent and delicious.

  11. gabrielaskitchen

    Orale! Many many years ago for my younger brother's baptism in Albuquerque we had a matanza and roasted a whole pig underground, head and all. I also spent my summers as a child in El Paso eating all parts of the cow…I'm sad to hear that it's illegal in NY, not that I'd have a place to cook it anyway. Another reason for me to return to the Southwest after I'm done with NYC. Thanks for this great post!

  12. Ranchand


  13. ShoeGirl

    I had no idea that they didn't serve barbacoa in New York. And to think that I would love to move from Houston Texas to New York. I'm not too sure about that now. LOL! WOW! They do not know what they are missing. I bet the chefs involved with the cooking of this barbacoa are glad you asked about that head! YUM!

  14. Maggie ~:)


    I'm passing this blog on to a friend of mine who once tried to cook barbacoa and wasn't happy with the results. Maybe this recipe will do the trick.

    And yes, Fiesta is such a lovely place. I now have a Newmarket(Sunflower Farmer's Market) across the street from Fiesta in my neighborhood. So hypothetically I can shop for organics and stinky cheeses and cross the street to get pigs feet and cow head all in one shopping trip. I'M NEVER MOVING!!!

  15. habanerogal

    I say brava to all you wonderful fierce women. Just try and stop you !

  16. Wow, so glad to hear that it turned out well! I'm preparing barbacoa this weekend (in the oven, though), I hope mine is as yummy as yours sounds! Congrats on locating a cabeza in NY!

  17. Verrrry interesting. I have to admit this is totally new to me, although I have heard of people eating cow brains. I just didn't know you cooked the whole HEAD to get to them.

  18. I don't think I could do it…It just looks sick, disgusting to look at. You're brave for doing it though. Think I'd prefer the Lamb Barbacoa though…even though I'm not a lamb fan!.

  19. Anonymous

    I am Texas born and raised and I never cared much for barbacoa. I tried it once and it was stringy and greasy. My grandfather raised beef cattle and of course I went with him to feed the cows and take care of them as a kid. Seeing the actual head just creeps me out. Its not something I could ever do.

  20. postJazz

    One day, I will pluck up the mental energy required to like offal in general. Cheeks I can handle, that's just meat. Even the concept of tongue isn't too ick, not that I've eaten it since I was abou 5 (a five year old will eat most things if you don't tell them what they are and appear to enjoy it yourself). I've eaten kidneys in pies and liver when it's been served to me and I've had no choice. It is not a self-respecting foodie thing to do, not to like offal. But…I'm still squeamish. Odd textures. But. If you smoke something and serve it to me with hot sauce and coriander (I'm a Brit, cilantro is coriander leaf…) I suspect I would be leaping to taste it, no matter WHAT I know it is. Still might draw the line at brain…

    …good on you, Lisa. One day I will just eat what I'm told to and not ask questions and THEN I stand to be converted…

  21. Marjorie

    I have checked your blog out several times via Winifred's blog.

    I made one of your recipes for chili and it was delicious. I am too delicate to attempt this cow head thing though.

    We recently returned from a trip to the Texas hill country totally loved it especially Fredericksburg. I want to move there ASAP! I took some pics of the longhorn cows. I would love to have one in my yard just to look at.. they are so beautiful.

  22. Kinda weird. I was just discussing with a friend that he try barbacoa during his next trip to texas. Then this is posted that afternoon. I'll have to show him the recipe. If only there was a taco truck around…

  23. Roger Medina

    I managed to find some "cachete" cheek meat here in Nashville. I put it in a crock pot with salt and pepper and about 8 large bay leaves on the bottom. 12 hours later I had succulent barbacoa just like I remembered in Eagle Pass, Texas!

  24. tbsamsel

    Que amable! I have a friend back in Texas who has built a below ground pit for doing that very same thing. I'll see if I can find some pictures..


  25. It's been almost a year since I moved to NoVa and one of the things I miss the most is barbacoa.

    I used to teach Tex-Mex/Ranchero classes back home and those North Dallas housewives had similar reactions to the guys in the kitchens whenever I would bring up cookin' a cow's head.

    They were so squeamish about the idea that I would end up using beef ribs.

  26. Anonymous

    Cow;s tongue is the most delicious part of the cow. just boil it with some onion and salt-garlic for about 3 hours, when done do corn tacos with a red hot sauce add cilantro an enjoy it.

  27. HoustonGurly

    You are one brave woman. I'm not sure I could get past the thought of having an entire head of a dead cow in my hands…

  28. Lisa Fain

    Marisa–Yes! You must come next time!

    TejasJeff–What an experience! And I haven't made menudo yet, but it's on my list!


    Veron–The teeth are a little freaky, but they're kind of funny, too.

    Laura–I know! I miss Fiesta so much!

    Lynda–I bet he talked a lot about meat! And butchers always get the most interesting cuts.

    William Conway–I need to read Smokestack Lightening–not sure why I haven't yet.

    Gabrielaskitchen–A whole pig underground? Wow–that's something!


    ShoeGirl–Yep, they were all pretty excited to be eating cow head!

    Maggie–I'm jealous! And yes, you should never move!


    Alta–I'm sure yours will be awesome!

    Abby–I'm sure there are some butchers that separate the brains from the head.

    PostJazz–Yep, the eyeball was weird but the rest of the meat had the texture of moist brisket.

    Marjorie–Isn't the Hill Country gorgeous? Hope you get to move there soon!

    Dubdoc–What a coincidence!

    Roger Medina–Oh, yum! That sounds fantastic!

    TBSamsel–Too funny! I'll have to watch Giant again just to see that scene!

    Grovite–Why did you choose ribs instead of cheeks?

    Anon–I love the tongue as well!

    HoustonGurly–Yeah, we gave ours a name to make it a little less intimidating. We called it Pedrito!

  29. Lisa Fain

    Sara and Anonymous–It's not for everyone!

  30. Wow! I forgot all about barbacoa… I grew up on a cattle ranch in East Texas, and my grandfather built a gazebo with a smoker just for cow heads! Well, maybe not just for cow heads. I love this. Nice work ladies.

  31. tbsamsel

    You forgot to mention the scene in the 1950's Texas epic, GIANT, where the cabeza de res is pulled from the pit, thus causing Elizabeth Taylor's character (a tender flower of Maryland who has been brought back to West Texas by Rock Hudson) to plumb pass out.

    I don't recall it as being a lamb's head.. even the MAD magazine parody had it as a cow's haed.

  32. Boniface.'.

    Nothing like going into grandma's kitchen, as a child, opening the lid on a huge pot and having dinner look back at you.

    I love barbacoa! Thanks for the article.

  33. bluejeangourmet

    I love the drama of this post, and the photo right before the jump.

    One thing that I don't think has been mentioned in regards to the squeamishness is that respect for the animal is a good lead-in to eating ALL of it. I love how ya'll honored that, skirts & all.

    Plus, most who started eating barbacoa & fajitas (before they were trendy and back when they were "little belts" aka tough cuts of meat), did so out of necessity and transformed the food into something delicious.

    But Lisa, you didn't mention what ya'll were drinking while waiting for the cowhead to smoke???

  34. Interesting to say the least, I have never heard of barbacoa and I am not too far from Texas. I would probalble try it if I did not see the head.
    Teressa in Arkansas

  35. it was so cool to see this post.

    i have just moved back to new mexico, and in the freezer case i saw something labeled: barbacoa – cow cheek, and i wondered what that was used for.

    thank you for always posting mouth watering recipes!

    🙂 kim

  36. StuffCooksWant

    Wow… just found your site and I gotta say, I really have no plans to make this dish, although I do fancy some ribs, burgers, tacos of all kind, etc. That pic of the cow head… ick.

    However, I can't wait to delve deeper into your site and find some good stuff that I will make!

  37. Daniela Restrepo

    As a Colombian, I'd have to say that this looks way more appetising than pig's lung or snout

  38. masdevallia

    Fierce, yes. My word of choice is hard-core.

  39. uh …. gross !! that said I do believe, very much in the practice of offal eating habits and not wasting any part of an animal.

  40. Westex BBQ

    Mighty impressive Lisa!
    (and fierce is an understatement).
    I always wanted to try it but was never in the right place at the right time. "Legends of Texas BBQ" by Robb Walsh pays homage to Brownsville Barbacoa as well.
    Would love to be in the loop if you ever do it again.

  41. Lisa, you're my hero. You make a home-sick Texan proud to be a New Yorker.

  42. This is one of the many, many reasons I love your blog!

  43. Anachro1

    LOVED this webpage!

    Even though I have been gone from Texas some 28 years, I still make Sunday morning barbacoa using beef cheek meat which I find in San Francisco's Mission district for a mere $1.99 a pound.

    Thanks to your flour tortilla recipe, I can relive the meals of my childhood.

  44. Married to a Mexican

    I'm speechless! I have been planning to do a Barbacoa video for a while. What you have done here is beyond amazing! This really takes the cake.


  45. Oh my gosh. You're nuts. I love ya, but you're nuts. I'd try it, but I'm not sure I'd ever want to see where it came from. 🙂
    PS – did you try calling butchers in Queens? I bet they would have hooked you up. Queens is cool like that.

  46. Anonymous

    For those of you with a musical inclination, check your music sources for a tune by Randy Garibay titled 'Barbacoa Blues'.


  47. I'm impressed! As a former resident of Austin, now living in Oklahoma, I know how hard it is to find a cow head even here.

    I do regularly make tongue tacos. My friends love them and always ask how I get the meat so tender.

    I love your site and have RSS'd it. What in the world is a a Texas girl doing in New York?

  48. I don't eat beef, so I'm having a hard time imagining how this meat is different from other cuts. A lot more tender? Is the tongue meat chewy?

  49. Lisa Fain

    Gwenn–Your grandfather's gazebo sounds amazing!

    Boniface–Ha! Indeed!

    BlueJeanGourmet–A little bit of water and a little bit of rye.

    Teressa–Exactly–you seldom saw the head at the taqueria, just the delicous meat.

    Kim–If you make it you will definitely be rewarded!

    StuffCooksWant–Welcome! And if cow head's not your thing, there are certainly plenty of other meat-based recipes to try!

    Daniela Restrepo–Can't say I've ever seen pig's lung. How does it taste?

    Westex BBQ–I can't believe you of all people have never done this! You have to try it!

    .–It was good day for homesick Texans in New York, that's for sure!

    Cynthia–Awww, thank you!

    Anachro1–Cheek meat sounds like the solution to my problem–surely that's not illegal in NYC.

    Tina–Can't wait to see your barbacoa video!

    Mike–Thanks for the tip, I'm listening to it now–"I love my barbacoa with a Big Red on the side!"

    Ixa–Ha! Long story why I'm here! And yes, tongue tacos are amazing!

    Lisa–It's very moist and tender, not chewy at all.

  50. doggybloggy

    very nice – I miss meat cooked in the ground!

  51. Barbacoa is the best hangover food ever…Eat 2 tacos, take a handful of aspirin, drink a huge glass of water, another beer and go back to bed!

  52. That's amazing. Bravo! Last week I was at an on-farm dinner called The Whole Hog. The chef talked about cooking the hog's head; he didn't smoke it, though, I think he boiled it (and made a head-cheese torte that was tasty).

  53. Bbq Dude

    Pure Genius! If only my smoker were big enough for a cowhead…

    Time to get a bigger smoker, I guess.

  54. epicurious eateries

    This post makes me miss Texas even more!

  55. Anonymous

    Wow! What an adventure- great reading! Here in Tejas I make barbacoa in my slow cooker overnight for Sunday morning. At the grocery store- HEB- you can buy cow cheek and tongue to make the barbacoa. It turns out great in the slow-cooker-

  56. Anonymous

    Oops- that was me- Evy- that posted from Texas about the slow-cooker…I would hate anonymous posts on my blog! Sorry–I just don't have an "identity" yet to post with my name

  57. Donn in Dallas

    I just stumbled across the site and I am impressed by your determination. When I leave Texas, I won't miss much, but I will miss the food. It absolutely floors me that in North America's (and arguably the world's) most international city, you can't get barbacoa. Can you at least get cabrito? Cabrito: yummmm.

    Yes, those cow heads at Fiesta are impressive. Of course, you can also simply get barbacoa at their in-store taqueria, or at any one of the five taquerias you will have passed on the way there.

  58. Anonymous

    Hi I know where you can get a cow head. CHINATOWN. it's just communicating that might be a little tough without a proper asian guide.
    Pig head available there as well.

    The pig heads are dirt cheap in flushing, queens chinatown.
    I've never bought a cow head but, since aside from the cheek, the rest is usually soup bone stuff, i can't imagine it being expensive.

  59. tbsamsel

    Thought I'd find some chachete (beef cheeks) at the caricerias in Richmond, VA, but they don't have 'em. I called the fancy butcher and he said I could get a 30 pound bag of them. (??!!)

    I think I'll try up in DC.


  60. Deryn Mentock

    Wow! I've lived in Texas for 20 years and never heard of cooking a cow's head. But then, I'm originally from Oregon so, what do I know?! Eyeball poppers do seem a little extreme to me, though.

  61. Twilight

    Hahah, you reminded me of a great, old memory of my dad chasing me around Fiesta with a frozen, wrapped cow head. I recently went back to that Fiesta, many years later, and noticed it was all renovated and nice. No cow heads to be seen. Although the seafood I bought that day was awesome and inexpensive, I was a little sad as well that it wasn't the same anymore.

  62. Anonymous

    you can smoke the tongue, or slow roast it wrapped in foil with onion, bell peppers, and chili powder. I would think, though, using cayenne, while adding wonderful heat, would impart too much bitter taste. I would say some oil-roasted serranos for heat wrapped in with the cabeza would be better….

    As for tongue, my favorite dish is to chop it up post-smoking and make a guisada with it, and serve in tacos, corn or flour, with a nice green salsa. Just don't make the gravy too thick LOL!!

  63. Great post! Just discovered your blog and boy, this post brings back memories of Sunday mornings growing up (and every time I visit my family in San Antonio). We always had pan dulce and barbacoa with homemade tortillas. But you forgot the guacamole (no onions please!). Can't have a barbacoa taco without some guacamole and salsa. Maybe you need to start a barbacoa NY Meetup group so we can sample your recipe! Or maybe, organize a tamalera. Reminds me of sitting in my grandmother's kitchen helping her, my mom and aunts scrape a hogs heat to prepare the pork for the tamales. It was an all-day affair with just the gals cooking, spreading, wrapping, and making buenuelos while waiting for the tamales to steam. Can't believe I've been here five years and never heard of your blog. Good find today! Thanks!


    p.s. Since you have the "in" with Hill Country, ask them to learn how to serve Dos XX "dressed." The bartenders there look at me like I'm crazy!

  64. I have often thought about trying this, but get a certain amount of family opposition!!

    I guess it's understandable,but I've gotten them to eat cheeks and all agree the flavor is fantastic slow cooked in the smoker.

    Very interesting post. I'll keep working on the folks:)

  65. I was debating where to go out for dinner and now I want Barbacoa and now I have to search for a good place to go. Luckily, I am in Austin, that wouldn't be too hard to find, we shall see. Over the weekend, I had some fish heads and now I'm searching for cow head to eat. Wonderful world of food I am in.

  66. I'm drooling!! Back in Lubbock, about twice a week I would swing by Mama Josie's (awesome burritos!) and pick up a breakfast burrito with barbacoa, potatoes, onions and cheese. Sometimes I'd sub chorizzo. Heaven! We're in Virginia now and I thought I'd get all Texas-y by taking breakfast burritos to a church brunch. People were baffled. I had to give lessons on how to construct and eat them. Have mercy!

  67. LOL I was in El Paso Tx for nearly 20 years and I have never eaten a cows head or tongue. Though I am sure if you presented me with the meat I would have happily ate it on my taco and been happy as a lark and shocked once you told me what I had ate. Seeing this though I am not entirely sure I will be wanting to eat beef again

  68. Anonymous

    You are my hero. NY Texan as well and picking up a goat head and some shank for this weekend! Thanks.

  69. CORobert

    Wow does this ever bring back memories. I have had the "real deal" several times in Orange Grove and Alice Texas, usually at my wife's family gatherings. We left there many years ago and grab barbacoa in Alice at Chente's every time we go down. The nearest comfort food we normally find in our part of Colorado is usually lengua, and occassionally tripas or menudo. Looks like I am going to have to befriend one of our local ranchers and try this recipe for myself. Got a pit for cooking hogs, might just do the head the traditional way. We'll see.

  70. HI…Barbacoa….mmmmmm. We live in northern New York, originally from Texas. My daughter and I love barbacoa, but living up here there is none to be found. My daughter was even thinking about asking her brother to send her some in dry ice. I read your article and found it very interesting. Thank you!!

  71. Being that you missed this in New York imagine being in FRANCE and missing it.. Reading your article I started drooling.. I can't wait to go back to Texas again..

  72. No barbacoa in New York?? I'm so sorry! I take for granted the fact that here in San Antonio, we can wake up every Sunday morning at 6 a.m. and buy a pound of barbacoa and dozens of tamales for breakfast right down the street!

  73. 1944 was when our family moved to town, I was 4 years old. When, on the farm, Daddy would butcher a hog or cow, Mother would take the head and use all the meat and make chili. Being around Amarillo Texas, no beans allowed. She had her own hand-crank meat grinder. Meat was coursely ground. To this day, I love my chili meat to be grissley and big ground hunks.

  74. Sally Doherty

    I am an Austin transplant to Southern California. I miss barbacoa de cabeza de vaca so much! Barbacoa here is basically shredded brisket doused in BBQ sauce. Recently I started searching for it and found out that "cabeza" yielded results. I found a restaurant in San Juan Capistrano that serves cabeza but it is cut into tiny chunks and is au jus. OK but not what I was looking for. I turned to Facebook and found out that one of my friends is originally from San Antonio and had found barbacoa in Covina at a restaurant called Nick's Taste of Texas. The menu on Nick's website listed barbacoa. I contacted Nick to make sure it was the real deal and he assured me that it is. I haven't make the trek yet but can hardly wait! Thanks for sharing your experience of cooking cow head. You and your friends ROCK! I'm glad I found your website.

  75. Kearby's Kitchen

    Silly yankees! What do you mean, you can't sell a cow head? As a never homesick Texan because I have the wonderful luck to have lived here in Texas all my life, I feel for you. I can go down the street to the Fiesta or Carnival or other Mexican market and find cabeza de vaca (cow head), cabrito, and any number of delicacies that most gringos don't consider food!

    I really enjoy your blog. It's in the blog list on my own blog. I've made your Ninfa's style green sauce twice and it is spectacular.

    I came across your cow head barbacoa recipe while doing a search for barbacoa recipes. I'm pretty adventurous, but I do have to admit that the only part of the cow head I've tried thus far is tongue, which is surprisingly mild and pleasant-textured.

    I'm actually trying to create a hybrid recipe that combines the preparation techniques for the cow head barbacoa with pork butt rubbed with an al pastor style spice mixture. It could be a marriage made in heaven!

  76. Mickey Lozano

    I am a Texan who just moved to Virginia and am really craving a piece of home (barbacoa). I have spent the past day calling around to butchers and small mexican grocery stores around here, but am having no luck. Any advice?

  77. Lisa Fain

    Mickey–You might ask a restaurant to see if they can order you one.

  78. I applaude you in your venture. I too am homesick. I am a California girl living in Utah now and man this place is so not Tex-Mex friendly at all. My mom is from the Valle,donna,Texas and my dad is from Nuevo Leon. We were raised eating all kinds of yummy stuff but the best has always been barbacoa. In Cali my dad had a "poso" hole in the ground, specially made for this. Man there was nothing better than waking up Sunday mornings to a freshly cooked cabeza along with a bowl of menudo….yummy

  79. Anonymous

    I have been looking for a barbacoa recipe for years .. Im a Texan living in Erie PA. I have been gathering old family recipes for myself and to pass on to my children .. One question though what preparation to the cows head . Do you skin the head , pop out the eyes , ect.

  80. Lisa Fain

    TexMexx–Most purchased cow heads are skinned, though the eyes are usually left in. They're considered a delicacy by some!

  81. slychic69

    I too shall be cooking a tongue this weekend but am wanting to be most generous in spicing it up. By the way someone asked if you could by the cheek meat by itself. You can get it at Walmart.

  82. Anonymous

    Barbacoa is indeed the most delicious breakfast food! I grew up eating this every Sunday morning and you don't have to make it yourself, just go to Tortillera or Mexican Meat Market and they have it for you. With just made corn tortillas and Barbacoa 🙂 Heavenly. My dad always wanted some tongue & brains (this I never cared for). Years ago my ex and I were godparents to a family in Mexico, they did the buried cow and all and it was interesting to see how the old fashion tradition works. Pretty neat! I don't understand why its illegal in some places, fully cooked food of any kind we have always been told kills all possible bacteria right? All I can say, if you try and don't like it, it's Ok, differnet strokes for different folks people (^,^)

  83. Anonymous

    Thanks Lisa!

    Manny R.

  84. Anonymous

    Barbacoa is the bomb for sure. I live in Santa Teresa right next to El Paso so I know of this succulent treat very well. Some of the best tacos ever.

  85. Anonymous

    My grandparents use to have a tamale business in Houston. They would make barbacoa on the weekends. I remember my grandfather buying the cow heads, cleaning them and wrapping them in butcher paper. They had a large steamer/cooker in which he would prepare them. They would cook for an extended period. I fondly remember all that barbacoa, the ojos (eyes) and the brains. The line of customers would go out the door on Sundays. I never acquired the taste for brains, but the barbacoa was the best. Sadly my grandfather just passed away and I never really learned the proper way to prepare barbacoa. Luckily I learned the family recipe for tamales. I miss those Sundays. The tongue was also some of the best eating. It beats any pot roast out there. A warm tortilla, pico de gallo and tongue are the best.

  86. Anonymous

    I celebrate this adventure with you, even four years later in 2013! I have to say that nothing will ever compare to Raul's BBQ restaurant in the border city of Laredo, TX. Call me naive, but I truly believe that all the rest are just trying to recreate what Raul's has to offer. It's authentic, tender, juicy, tasty barbacoa. My preferance is on corn tortilla, with a pinch of salt, and a spoonful of well made salsa. My husband will eat his with eggs and refried beans and washes it all down with a cold Mexican coke. Yum, I know what's for breakfast in the morning. Denise

  87. Anonymous

    Ah, how I miss my Nuevo Laredo barbacoa! Had some on a trip to San Antonio recently but I haven't been able to find it in California.

  88. Lisa Fain

    Maverick–Very cool. Thanks for sharing!

  89. mavrick1987

    I gave it a try in the authentic pit style, and it turned out great.

  90. Anonymous

    I have 2 frozen cow heads in my freezer right now waiting for me to cook them, I'm in MN, we will be cooking them in an open pit.

  91. Andrea at Opulent Cottage

    So awesome Lisa! I just googled and found this after hubby saw the cow heads at Fiesta and wondered what anyone does with them. We do shop there often and this is the first time we have seen them. Maybe a little barbacoa in our future! Thanks for a great post 🙂

  92. carmen garcia

    Lisa do you remember the temp of the smokers? Going to try on a Weber. Barbacoa can't be found in Northern California!

  93. Lisa Fain

    Carmen–It was probably around 250.

  94. i was born and raised in San Antonio, Tx i now live in Minnesota, twice a month i buy cheek from walmart and cook it in my crock pot over night on high just season with salt,pepper, cumin and i add lemon pepper and omg my family loves it … simple amd easy

  95. Laurie Bellino

    I live in Illinois and don’t have access to banana leaves. What else can be used in place of that?

    • Lisa Fain

      You can order the banana leaves online or you could just use foil.

  96. Zachary Williams

    What are you supposed to do with the skull when you’re done? I guess I could put some red LEDs in the eye sockets and make a zombie cow skull for Halloween!

  97. Mark Stavlo

    Lisa, what temp did you smoke it at?

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