Carne mechada, also called carne deshebrada or carne deshilachada, is shredded meat that serves as a base for a number of recipes in Central and South America, including as filling for empanadas and arepas.
From Cuba’s rather unappetizingly named but delicious “ropa vieja” (“old clothes”) to Venezuela’s national dish pabellon criollo, where the beef is typically accompanied by rice, beans and fried plantain, every cook and grandma has a recipe for carne mechada that is their own.
In its simplest form, carne mechada or shredded beef is beef that is boiled for a few hours (or just one hour in a pressure cooker) in water or a broth including various spices and herbs.
The best beef cuts to make carne mechada include skirt steak, flank steak or brisket.
This carne mechada recipe is a Costa Rican recipe, which can be adapted based on the recipe the shredded beef ends up being used for.
Depending on what carne mechada will be used for, it will be shredded in long threads (like for taco) or short threads (like for picadillos or hashes).
The key to prevent meat from drying up is to make sure to add broth to it. Also, cooking carne mechada it in a pressure cooker will help keeping the beef moist.
This recipe is validated by Chef Randy Siles Leandro, first Ambassador of Costa Rica’s National Plan for Sustainable and Healthy Gastronomy. Randy is the owner and creator of OS restaurant, cofounder of Autóktono and founder of Academia Artesanos de la Gastronomía in Costa Rica.
- 1½ lb flank , skirt or brisket (in one piece)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion , chopped
- ½ red bell pepper , chopped
- 1 clove garlic , chopped
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon Lizano sauce (or Worcestershire sauce)
- 1 carrot , cut in large pieces
- ½ bunch cilantro , tied with kitchen string
- 5 cups water
- Remove excess fat from meat.
- Add oil to pressure cooker and brown meat on all sides on medium-high heat.
- Sauté onion, bell pepper, garlic and incorporate carrot and cilantro.
- Season with salt, thyme, oregano, cumin, Lizano sauce and bay leaves.
- Add water to cover the meat completely.
- Cover the pressure cooker and cook for 1 hour from the sound of valve.
- Open the pressure cooker and let the meat broth cool.
- Remove cilantro and carrots.
- Strain the broth and return the meat to the broth.
- Keep meat in broth until ready to use.
- Shred meat (long or short threads) with a fork and knife (or two forks) and add a little broth to keep it moist.