How to Cook Barbacoa without a Pit in the Ground

My Slice of Mexico

First of all, what is barbacoa?  There is some confusion about the Spanish word barbacoa, for its similarity to the English word barbecue, and the fact that both are techniques to cook meat over coals.  Whereas the arrangement for a barbecue involves cooking on a grill, if we were to compare the Mexican barbacoa to any cooking technique from the United States, it would be better to think of a Hawaiian luau under the moon, featuring the kalua – a technique of cooking large pieces of meat, or even whole animals, in an underground oven that the locals call imu.  However, Mexican civilizations probably developed their technique independently; this is corroborated by the long existence of the piib, an underground oven that has been used in the Yucatan peninsula, and some parts of Central America, since pre-Hispanic times, and some historians believe that the word barbacoa comes…

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