Venezuela Pulled Beef or Carne Mechada, is one of the pillars of Venezuelan cuisine, learn to make it and you already have nailed a good chunk of all Venezuelan recipes, is a staple in every Venezuelan home, and also a controversial topic among Venezuelans, and yes you guessed it, every family has its own recipe, which one is the best? I truly don’t know, but this recipe is easy to customise to your liking once you understand the basics of it.
Pulled beef is also enjoyed throughout all Latin America and part of the Caribbean, with slight differences depending on the Country’s culture you’ll find it in Colombia, Panama, El Salvador, also called Ropa Vieja in Cuba and Puerto Rico. In Latin America Carne mechada or this style of pulled beef is traditionally paired with fried sweet plantains and beans, and makes a key component of Venezuela’s national dish Pabellon criollo which also includes rice, sometimes avocado, fried egg and fresh cheese. It’s used in other many preparations in Venezuela such as arepas, empanadas, pastelitos, bollos pelones, etc., reason why I decided to post this recipe as a stand-alone one which will be the component for some of my future recipes.
Now the story behind this particular adaption lies in my husband’s cravings for eating his mum’s Carne Mechada which I would often joke is one of those super red almost radioactive looking shredded beef, I’ve been trying to recreate my mother in law’s Carne Mechada for years, and this one is pretty close, a super tasty version, almost reminds me to a ragu sauce, therefore might be a little bit too saucy to add as a filling to empanadas and pastelitos, in which case you can actually finely diced the sofrito instead of blending it to a paste.
Tips to make Venezuelan Pulled Beef (shredded beef)
- For Venezuelan Pulled Beef we use traditionally skirt or flank steak which is a tough cut with lots of connective tissue and that goes super tender after cooking for about 40 min, and shreds easily, however here in Australia unless you ask the butcher directly skirt is not a popular cut to find so you could also use Chuck or Brisket though they are a bit tougher all you need to do is cook it until tender and that it easily shreds apart. If you have a pressure cooker or a slow cooker you can use these to cook your meat, if using a pressure cooker for skirt cook for about 20 min, all the tougher cuts might need 40 min to an hour.
- To avoid beef from drying keep it in the braising liquid while resting and when shredded add it directly in the sofrito sauce so it starts soaking all the flavours or keep in the liquid while you wait for the sauce to be ready.
- If you happen to find Slow-cooked Brisket that is fairly plain, that is no bbq sauce on top of it, you can use it as a shortcut, shredding it and adding it to the sofrito sauce, however, the resulting flavour profile might be a bit different than is cooking your own beef, you might need to adjust your spices a bit, but this had been a good hack when we are wanting to make empanadas and we have not made Carne Mechada previously.
- After the beef is cooked, is time to make a good aromatic sofrito which in Venezuela is mainly composed of sauteed onions, garlic, capsicum, and tomatoes [we also use aji dulce but it is really hard to find outside Venezuela you can try adding a few sweet chilli peppers which are not entirely the same of aji dulce] and herbs like oregano, and cumin.
- To add an extra punch and umami smoky flavour I used Worcestershire sauce and a bit of tomato paste.
- Garnish with parsley.
- This same technique can be used for pulled pork, chicken, and even fish for the last two I tend to keep the tomato off the sofrito.
Venezuelan Pulled Beef (shredded beef)Course: MainCuisine: Latin, VenezuelanDifficulty: Medium
1 kg of skirt steak or any similar braising beef cut
1 bay, leaf half an onion, 1 garlic clove, 1/2 red capsicum to braise the meat and water to cover
1/2 c reserved braising liquid
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves minced
1 sweet chilli (yellow or green)
1/2 red capsicum [1/2 a cup]
2 brown onions [2 cups]
4 riped tomatoes deseeded [2 cups]
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp fresh oregano
1 tsp chilli flakes [optional]
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
parsley for garnish
- Cook skirt steak with enough water to cover the steak, bay leaf, onion, capsicum and garlic on the stovetop for about 40 min or in a pressure cooker for 20 min, until is tender and you can easily pierce and shred. Keep in the braising liquid while it cools down enough to shred.
- Sofrito sauce
- In a blender place all the veggies and spices for the sofrito including the Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste and blend until it forms a paste.
- In a heavy bottom saucepan heat the 2 tbsp of oil to medium heat and add the sauce, it should sizzle a bit, cook stirring constantly until the tomato starts getting darker and the onion and garlic flavour mellows down, about 8-10 min it should have reduced a bit, at this point add 1/2 a cup of the braising liquid and start shredding your beef.
- Add salt and pepper and continue cooking for about 5 min to get a saucy consistency, incorporate the shredded beef and fold so all the shreds are covered with the sauce the beef should start soaking some of the sauce.
- Reduce heat and continue cooking around 10-15 min to infuse flavours to the meat and until reduced to a creamy sauce if it dries out too much to you can add extra braising liquid to loosen, adjust seasoning and sprinkle with parsley to serve.
- If you wish to have a drier shredded beef, finely diced the veggies instead of blending and sauteed until fragrant and cooked through, add the beef and make sure to add braising liquid so the beef doesn’t dry out.
- Another technique I recently saw which can cut down a bit of time in this recipe is adding all the sofrito ingredients with the beef in the pressure cooker and then shredding the beef and allowing for the sauce to thicken, as the veggies cook for such a long time the break apart and produce a deeply flavourful sauce.