The Meat of It
Let the vast universe of succulent cuts, chewy entrails, and cooking techniques be a mystery to you no more.
Al pastor: Literally “shepherd style.” Usually sliced pork seasoned with an adobo (marinade) of chiles, achiote, and citrus juice and cooked on a vertical spit known as a trompo. Adapted from a cooking method brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the early twentieth century.
Arrachera: Marinated skirt steak, usually grilled.
Barbacoa: From the same root as “barbecue.” Refers to both traditional earthen-pit cooking and the meat so cooked. In Texas today, barbacoa is usually steamed or braised portions from the cow’s head.
Birria: Highly seasoned stewed lamb, goat, or other meat. Typical of Jalisco.
Bistec: From the English word “beefsteak.” A thin cut that’s either grilled or cooked into stews.
Buche: Pig stomach.
Cabeza: Cow’s head. A “taco de cabeza” can include any part, such as cachete, or be served as a mix (“surtida”) of head meats, including sesos, ojo, and lengua.
Cabrito: Kid goat, specifically milk-fed, less than 25 days old.
Cachete: Beef cheek.
Carne asada: Grilled meat, usually beef, sliced thin.
Carnitas: Literally “little meats.” Usually pork butt simmered and fried in its own fat.
Chicharrón: Fried pork skin. Often stewed in tomatillo or other sauce.
Deshebrada: Means “shredded.” Usually beef or chicken.
Guisado: Homey, slow-cooked stew.
Lengua: Beef tongue, usually braised and chopped.
Machaca: Shredded dry beef, also known as carne seca. Becomes machacado when mixed with egg, etc.
Picadillo: Ground meat, usually beef, often cooked with onions, potatoes, carrots, and chiles.
Sesos: Brains, usually calf.
Suadero: A smooth beef cut cooked in fat and finished on a griddle. May be mixed with tripe or other offal.
Tinga: Shredded meat, usually chicken, prepared in a chipotle or other sauce.
Tripas: Small intestine, usually of a cow, fried or stewed. Also known as tripitas.