My absolute favorite thing to eat when we visit Costa Rica is shredded beef. There are so many recipes that incorporate shredded meat: Costa Rican white rice, carne en salsa, estofado, picadillo de papa, Costa Rican-style tacos, sustancia, nachos… I have to stop naming the dishes because I just drooled on the computer keyboard.
Suffice to say that the shredded meat is incredible, and when we moved permanently to the United States, I spent an inordinate amount of time fruitlessly trying to replicate the unique Costa Rican flavor of shredded beef. I finally figured it out, and want to share it with you!
I use a slow cooker for my recipe, but it is also possible to replicate this process with a pressure cooker, and (of course) adjust the cooking time. Please note that this recipe will also finish with an incredible Costa Rican style beef stock, which can be used in lots of ways as well!
Costa Rican-Style Shredded Beef
Time: 12-14 hours
Hands on: 5 mins
Yields: 6 cups beef stock and 2 lbs shredded beef
- 1-2 TB salt
- 1-2 TB chicken bullion
- 1 -2 TB soy sauce
- 1/2 red pepper
- 1.2 white onion
- 1/2 bunch cilantro
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2-4 lbs of flank steak
- 6-8 C tap water
Place all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover, and place on warm overnight, or about 12 hours. Remove meat from the slow cooker and shred finely. Strain broth and set aside for cooking, or enjoy with rice as a typical Costa Rican sustancia (beef broth soup).
- One of my favorite things (apart from the flavor) about this recipe is that it is a great way to use up produce that might no longer be crisp, but still has flavor. I add them in BIG pieces to the slow cooker, just cutting them up enough that the flavor will release during the cooking process.
- DO NOT attempt to use a different cut of meat for this recipe, because it won’t taste right. More than half of my problem when trying to replicate this recipe was that I was using round roasts, rump roasts, etc. It’s not the right cut of meat, and won’t turn out right.
- There is a large variant in the amount of salt in the recipe. I have found that the meat is the best when I add the perfect amount of salt, which is hard to do. Because this style of meat is usually cooked again in many popular Costa Rican recipes, it’s important that the meat have an inherently salty flavor that’s cooked in. I usually do a tablespoon of salt per 3 cups of water, and generally cover the meat with 3-4 inches of water before cooking.
- The meat tastes the best when it is very finely shredded -which means getting your hands into the meat and dirty. I really don’t like to get meat under my fingernails, and so I use these plastic gloves when shredding (affiliate). The meat is easier to shred when it’s hot.