Tacos are always a favorite dinner option because there are just so many variations. You can use chicken, fish, pork or beef and then choose from a number of ingredients for the extras. The options are endless. A colleague suggested that we try tacos al pastor since he had seen a friend prepare it at home. So, here we are with our version of At Home Tacos Al Pastor.
Tacos al pastor is essentially marinated pork strips that are cooked on vertical spits, similar to a Turkish döner kebab and Greek gyros. We don’t have a vertical spit at Cutco, so that is where the at-home portion of this recipe comes into play. We had to figure out how we could cook a stack of vertical meat in the oven. To say it got interesting is an understatement, but we learned from our mistakes and finally made it work.
Prepping the Pork
Using a Boning Knife, cut your pork shoulder into 1/4-inch slices.
Prepare the marinade by combining the achiote paste, guajillo chili powder, cloves, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, vinegar and pineapple juice, which we used from a can. The achiote paste is very granular so you need to really work at mixing this all together until it’s smooth. Pour this marinade over your pork slices in a bowl and then thoroughly coat every slice of pork. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. The longer you let the pork sit in the marinade, the better and stronger the flavors.
Making Tacos Al Pastor
Because the meat is cooking vertically, you need to prepare your oven properly by removing the oven racks, leaving the bottom one in place. Keep one rack handy for a trick on keeping the meat from tipping over.
Peel the pineapple and slice into one-inch rounds, leaving the core of the pineapple intact.
Now comes the fun part. On a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, stack two of the pineapple slices. Put one skewer through the middle of the slices. Put each marinated slice of pork over the skewer and push down, layering each slice of pork in a different direction. Continue until all the meat is on the skewer and then put two slices of pineapple through the skewer on top. If your tower of meat is unstable, we suggest placing two more skewers through the meat. Place the remaining pineapple slices around the tower of meat.
Place the meat into your pre-heated oven and bake for approximately 1 ½ hours, until the pork reaches a temperature of 150 F. Now here’s our little tip to keep the meat from toppling over in the oven. You should have enough room to put one of your oven racks back in the oven. Place it so that the tips of the skewers come through the rack (the top rack may touch the top of the pineapple). This will stabilize the tower of meat.
Once the meat is cooked and rested, hold the skewer and use a 6-3/4" Petite Carver to slice downward, cutting the meat into strips. Make sure to rotate the meat and cut it evenly from all sides.
Assemble your tacos by placing the meat into the tortilla and stacking your favorite taco toppings. We used chopped onion, cilantro, some of the roasted pineapple – cut into chunks, salsa verde and lime juice.
While this was At Home Tacos Al Pastor was impressive to look at, the taste was even better. I can truly say I’ve never had a better taco. The seasoned meat cooked in this method, along with the flavoring from the pineapple and our toppings – yum! We hope you give this a try. It’s definitely worth the effort.
At Home Tacos Al Pastor
- 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into ¼-inch slices
- 3 tablespoons achiote paste
- 2 tablespoons guajillo chili powder
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- 3/4 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- 1 pineapple, peeled and sliced into 1-inch rounds
- 3-4 bamboo skewers
- 12 small corn tortillas
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 cup salsa verde
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- In a large bowl, place your pork slices.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the achiote paste, chili powder, garlic cloves, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, vinegar and pineapple juice until smooth. Pour the marinade over the pork slices, then toss to make sure the slices are coated on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Remove racks from the oven, leaving one on the bottom and heat the oven to 350 F.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Place two slices of the pineapple on the baking sheet. Take a skewer and push it directly into the middle of the pineapple. Push each slice of marinated pork through the skewer, layering one on top of the other. Once the meat is placed, push two pineapple slices through the top. Put two additional skewers in the meat stack to ensure it will stay upright. Place remaining pineapple slices on the baking sheet.
- Bake for approximately 1½ hours, until the pork is slightly charred on the outside and deep red. Take out of the oven.
- Rest the meat for about 10 minutes, then using a sharp knife, carve off thin slices of pork and roasted pineapple. Dice remaining roasted pineapple.
- To assemble the tacos, place the pork on a tortilla, top with some diced pineapple, onion and cilantro. Drizzle the salsa verde over everything. Squeeze some fresh lime juice over the taco and serve.