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What is authentic mexican ground beef seasoned with?

post #1 of 60
Thread Starter 
When I go to an authentic-style mexican restaurants, their ground beef tastes NOTHING like a taco seasoning pack or even my homemade taco seasoning that is probably derived from a seasoning pack.

Most, if not all, from this style of restaurant pretty much tastes the same so I think it must be pretty standard for their style of cooking. There are subtle differences between establishments, but not much.

I would say the meat is well seasoned, but not overpowering and the flavors that mainly come through do not seem to be the chili powder and cumin punch that you get from a packet.

Anyone know what I'm looking for?

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post #2 of 60
To answer the direct question: Probably no one does.

"Taco seasoning," or even "chile powder" per se are alien concepts to Mexican cooks. The usual combinations are pretty similar though. Here's a very basic example: Salt, pepper, a couple or three kinds of ground dried chilis, granulated garlic (ajo molido), cumin (comino), a little Mexican oregano (oregano), and a little thyme (temillo). Most American chile powders have a fair bit of cumin powder and rely on New Mexcio, California or both types of chilies. Your homemade seasoning has whatever cumin is already in the powder, plus whatever you're adding -- no wonder the cumin is overpowering.

Before I give you proportions for a blend, answer a few questions so we can nail down something that you'll really like.

You're asking about "ground beef," seemingly within the context of tacos Are you talking about the meat in a hard-shell taco (taco dorado)? Or is it meat used in some other dish? Are you sure the beef is ground and not shredded? Beef that's been cooked and shredded or chopped is more typical for most dishes like tacos, sopes, gorditas, tortas enchiladas, etc., than meat that was ground and browned. Not that ground meat is unknown in Mexico, there are lots of exceptions.

Can you tell if the meat you like is cooked with fresh onions? Garlic? Chilis?

Are there any Mexican markets easily available to you? What varieties of dried chilis do you see when you shop? What varieties of fresh?

"Authentic-style Mexican" covers a lot of ground. What part of the country do you live in? Tell me a little about the Mexican restaurants you like in general especially if they qualify as being regional at all. What is the clientele like. Mostly Mexican or Anglo? What brands or types of bottled hot sauce are on the tables?

What's your tolerance for "hot?" Will you be feeding other people? How would you describe the tolerance of the person who frequently eats your food, but has the lowest threshold?

Lots to ponder,
post #3 of 60
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the response. I am from Indiana, so I'm quite positive that what I am talking about as authentic style mexican is far different that someone from other parts of the country. The restaurants that I am referring to are mostly family owned and operated usually with one or two of the employees speaking passable English while the rest can recognize words from the menu and not much else. More and more of these restaurants have been popping up here in the last couple years, as the Fresh-Mex boom has FINALLY made its way to the mid-west. At least here, ground beef is far more popular than shredded. You can order shredded at most places, but most dishes coming out of the kitchen with beef are definately the ground variety except for carne asada tacos and such. And that goes for tacos, burritos, enchilades, etc. It is a very very fine grind though. Almost mushy in texture. I would assume it is ran through a food processor, but that is just a guess.

There are no visible signs of fresh onions, garlic, or chilis although the flavors are all there with garlic being the lightest of the three. One explanation could be that they are cooked with fresh, then processed though. A peppery, possibly chile punch are there, but it is not so overpowering like a packet. Its deeper, which would maybe make you think fresh chilis?

There are virtually no ethnic fresh food markets around my area. Limited varieties of chilis are available, but I honestly don't know what I could find because I do not shop for peppers often. Most of my dried stuff, I buy online. The restaurants I frequent are about 75/25 white to mexican. Reason being most likely because we do not have a large mexican population. There are a few tex/mex restaurants that my wife likes, and I've never ever seen a mexican person in one of those joints. Finally, I've never paid much attention to the hot sauces on the tables because I don't really use it much.
post #4 of 60
Watch Rick Bayless on "Mexico: One plate at a time". Even in Mexico dishes differ regionally from one another.

Also, check out the guest appearance of Rick on Chef Talk.

Or try the Frontera Grill in Chicago, which is owned and run by Rick.

Try differentiating "carne molida" from "carne picada". :)

post #5 of 60
When we cook ground beef for, say, tacos or rellenos, my wife calls it
a Picadillo.....I prepare it just like my mother in law.....she's from the Acapulco area and earlier in life...Ciaucingo...bad spelling....I use a blend
of pork and beef....medium grind.....toss with black pepper, cumin, and salt.
Cook at pretty high heat in a saute pan.....till browned...then add a blended mixture of onion, garlic, fresh tomato, salt, and serrano or jalepeno pepper....
a couple of vine ripe tomatoes, although any tomato will do....put all in the blender till smooth....add it to the hot saute pan....cook until the liquid is home I add, diced sweet potato, diced onion, and diced carrot.....perhaps a bay leaf or two.....good luck....perhaps not traditional, but the way they do it in guerrero.
post #6 of 60
Let's start with deeper. Fresh chilies taste "brighter" rather than "deeper." The two most popular Mexican chilies that qualify as "deeper" are chipotle and mulato. Since you didn't say "smoky," I'm guessing you're tasting mulato. There's a very popular trinity of chilies throughout most of Mexico which is mulato, cascabel, and jalapeno. You might want to think about ordering some dry mulatos and cascabels. You can either reconstitute them in warm water, seed, de-vein, chop and use as you would fresh. Or, do your best to seed and de-vein dry, and grind. The jalapeno you may mince and use fresh. If you've never used fresh chilies there are some technique issues we should discuss before you start.

The ground, cooked and ground-again theory may be right, but it seems like an awful lot of trouble.

Oh well.

In the meantime get some powdered California chili and see if you can't score a few cans of chipotle en adobo. A chipotle is a dried smoked jalapeno. Canned chipotle are reconstituted and marinated in adobo. Adobo, in turn, is Spanish for marinade. In this case the marinade has a fair bit of garlic, cumin Mexican oregano, and thyme. Plus, it's mighty hot on its own.

I'm going to suggest this mild preparation for two pounds of 80/20 hamburger.

2 pounds 80/20 hamburger
1 medium brown onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs salt
1 tbs ground California chili (it's a mild chili)
1 chipotle chili from a can of chipotle en adobo, minced
1 tbs adobo from the can
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp thyme

Mince the onion, garlic and chipotle very fine.

Start the hamburger to brown in a hot, dry skillet. When the fat starts to render add the onion, garlic and chipotle, and stir to distribute. When the meat is about half browned, rub the oregano and thyme to crumble them, then add them along with the remaining spices to the browning meat and stir to distribute. Continue to cook the meat until all surfaces are browned, reduce heat and cook through if necessary. Drain off any extra fat. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Let me know how this works for you,
post #7 of 60
Bayless has a very interesting take. If 200 regional cooks make a dish, and 195 make it pretty much one way; Bayless will take one of the five remaining recipes and tweak the heck out of it. His approach is scholarly but his cooking is original. I don't mean this as a criticism, but perspective. If you're looking for typical (as in "of the type," not as in "average") Mexican, Bayless is not your man.

Again, no "dis" intended. Bayless is great. Frontera is a kick; fun, delicious and very creative.

By my lights, the difference is mostly regional language usage. In Spain, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Ecuador, what any American would recognize as ground hamburger is almost always "carne picada," but in most of northern and estern Mexico and throughout most of el Norte (the US), it's usually carne molida. It varies around the rest of Latin American. Sometimes, but not usually, the difference might be the quality of the grind. Sometimes, picada might actually be minced or chopped.

Spanish varies a lot by region. To put some perspective on my opinion... If not perfectly bilingual, I'll do until something better comes along. My Spanish comes partly from Spain where I went to school for a little while, partly from the California educational system, and partly from the streets of Southern California -- which makes it about 30% Mexico, 30% Spain, 20% Cal/Spanglish and 10% Central America and 10% "around" (other traveling and people I meet).

post #8 of 60
Actually, my friend in Madrid says they speak Castellano, not Spanish. To them ground beef, is as you pointed out, carne picada (literally chopped meat).

In Central/South America, he pointed out that they speak a derivative of a more ancient form of espanol (don't have the ability to type an "n-yay").

My Bariquan friends (Puerto Rico) agree. They call it carne molida, but would understand what one meant if they used carne picada.

They also told me that when they worked in Spain, they gave up pretty much trying to communicate in Spanish, and instead, learned Castellano!

My Madrid friend, interestingly, told me that 1000 years ago, the Portuguese and Spaniards spoke the same language. Until a Spanish King came along that had a "lisp". He demanded everyone speak as he did, and that is how the languages diverged.

Apparently 1000 years ago, the Polish and Russians spoke the same language. He didn't elucidate on how their mutual languages diverged.

post #9 of 60
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the responses, and thanks for the recipe boar d laze. I will give it a try. I have cooked with chipotles in adobo before, and also with jalepenos. Past that I don't have a lot of pepper experience. I may try to use half of one with no adobo sauce because I have used these before and the seasoning I'm looking for it a little less spicy than I think it would be with a full pepper and some sauce.
post #10 of 60

Long post deleted. My apologies for being so pedantic. Too much pressure at work.

post #11 of 60
Not being truly bilingual or a language expert, I only repeated what my friend in Madrid told me.

However, when I take Spanish subtitles from movies like "Blow" and send them to him for translation, he almost always is unable to tell me what it means.

However, his description of the food at El Bulli makes my mouth water whether he's speaking Polish, Castellano or English! :)

post #12 of 60

Cilantro and Hot Sauce

Try a bunch a finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and a few dashes of cholula or tabasco sauce. Cook the cilantro for a bit to mellow its flavor and push it into the background.
Keep those fires burnin'
Keep those fires burnin'
post #13 of 60
I'm in Oregon, and a friend from Maine thinks Mexican food here is way too spicy. He also knows that what he was used to was nowhere near authentic.

Most Mexican food here in Oregon is not very close to authentic, either, but maybe a step closer to some version of authentic.

It is almost impossible to predict any version of what some consider Mexican food in Ohio or New Brunswick or anywhere outside Mexico, imo, just because many are not even close, or may be somewhat close to some regional Mexican food, though who knows which. At least that's the conclusion I come to. I had a good friend whose wife was Mexican and she made great food. My next door neighbors are Mexican and they make great food. They are neither similar to each other or similar to the local Mexican restaurants. You confused? I am too :^)
post #14 of 60
I think some of the taco vans (street vendors) must be doing something right, since a lot of our Spanish-speaking population eat there for lunch. Cilantro, fresh chopped onions and tomatoes, fresh lime, mostly soft corn tortillas, pickled veges (carrots, jalapenos, cilantro, a bit of onion), and very tender meat. Fresh radishes and cucumbers. Tasty stuff, though maybe just a common denominator version. For meat, I especially like the lengua (tongue), chicken, and shredded beef.
post #15 of 60
Commercial taco seasoning frequently has masa flour in it as a thickener. I worked with someone from Mexico and he brought in taco fixings once a month. The suggestions for less spice all around would be right especially the hot chili's. You ca get dried chipotle (my spanish is terrible forgive the spelling) from Penzey's, Pendery's, and several other online spice shops.
post #16 of 60
The description of the texture of the meat, plus the taste makes me wonder if the meat isn't all or part chorizo.
post #17 of 60
Thread Starter 
I've wondered that myself and I probably should just ask, but very few of the employees speak much English and all. I've had straight chorizo in the past, and am fairly certain that it isn't all chorizo. It could be a percentage, but then again that seems like it would be against some sort of law to not disclose that somewhere on the menu. If you order ground beef, it should be ground beef.
post #18 of 60
You can get all beef chorizo so it would still be accurate as "ground beef".

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #19 of 60
We raise our own beef and I make chorizo from that ground beef. It's really good.
post #20 of 60
What ever the particular cook for the home it was being prepared in was taught to use. Kinda like most peasant/working class ethnic cooking where every family/mom/cook had a different list of ingredients.:D

Although There have been some very tasty suggestions so far. :beer:
post #21 of 60
Ground beef chorizo is too high-tone for me. I think of Mexican style (as opposed to Spanish) chorizo as being about half glands and whatnot.

post #22 of 60
Now you're talking about the kind of chorizo I grew up on. The original mystery meat. :)
post #23 of 60

Spanish and Castellano

These observations, while fascinating, are, I'm afraid, entirely incorrect.

What is universally known as "Spanish" is, in fact, castellano. In Spain, there are four official languages, catellano, catalán, vasco and gallego. Castellano refers to the language of the region of Castilla. In most of Spain, Spanish (AKA catellano) is spoken. In addition, in the regions where Spanish (AKA castellano) is spoken as the first (and usually only) language, the people refer to the language as "Spanish" (español). However, in the regions where Spanish is not the first language, it is considered politically incorrect to refer to Spanish as "español" since catalán, for example, is also a language of Spain and, therefore, Spanish. In these regions, it is polite to use the term "castellano" instead of "Spanish" in order to distinguish it from catalán while recognizing that catalán is also a language of Spain.

So, long story short, castellano = Spanish.

As for the lisp, I'm afraid Castillian Spanish (in Spain) contains no more lisps than the English language. The letter "z" is pronounced like the English "th" in the word "think". The letter "c" when followed by a soft vowel (i.e. "e" or "i") is also pronounced like "th". However, the letter "s" is always pronounced just like the English "s". To pronounce it otherwise (in Spain) is to pronounce it incorrectly.

Spanish and Portuguese are significantly more different than just the pronunciation of z and c. If they were ever the same, it was only as Latin.
post #24 of 60

Yes. You're right.

I'd posted most, if not all, of the same information but deleted the post because I get tired of being a handy-dandy encyclopedia, plus in addition to information it had too much attitude, so...

It's nice to see pervasive mis-information corrected, especially as nicely as you've done it. There's more to the stories of the birth Portuguese and the cedillo; but you stopped at the right time. Had you told them more completely, you'd have ended up agonizing about being too pedantic. Trust me.

Latin Americans tend to either ignore the issue of the cedillo, or have fallen for the Fernando myth, while non-Spanish speaking Americans love the myth. Deduction says you're most likely Spanish or a major.

Mucho gusto,
post #25 of 60
Well hombres, from my friend Artur in Madrid:

I'm not a linguist and what I told you I've read and heard from my Spanish friends.

I did not exactly said the Portuguese and the Spanish spoke the same language, their languages were so similar that were almost the same.
the same happened to the Slavs, Polish and Russian were very similar ages ago but then they went their own ways.

Castellano is the most pure version of Spanish. we, in Madrid, make this distinction because there are as many variants of Spanish as of English. the same words mean different things in, for instance, Ecuador, Mexico or Spain.

there are four official languages in Spain: Español, Catalán, Gallego and Eusquera. there are also various dialects, one of them is "andaluz" which is quite difficult to understand for foreigners as they tend to "lisp" and cut off the endings of the words.

whereas Español is spoken in all Spain, Catalán is known only in Catalonia (and I think everybody there can speak it), Eusquera is "spoken" (I use brackets as this language is mostly artificially created by the nationalists and very few really can speak it in everyday's life - I know that this point of view will be attacked but reality is reality) and gallego (very similar to Portuguese). Those three languages are now being taught in schools so today's kids will hopefully be able to speak them.

I hope this short answer is enough to maintain the discussion

un abrazo,

post #26 of 60
My fave street food is a picadillo puffy taco served by an ancient Mexican lady in the mercado in San Antonio. So savory and a three napkin 'stoop' treat. I asked her son for the recipe and this is what I got....ground chuck, salt, pepper, cumin, mexican oregano, onion, cubed potato. I make it all the time now using the pinch of this a handful of that method....
post #27 of 60

humpty99 - I know exactly the ground beef you're talking about.  The reason the taco meat seams like it is finely ground is that they start out with raw ground beef and enough water to cover the meat (for 2 lbs. of meat you need about 4 cups of water).  Add your seasonings (salt, minced fresh garlic, minced fresh onion) and let it simmer until the water has evaporated and your taco meat looks like you want.  You can add a little chili powder, but they don't use enough to turn it dark brown like the packages you buy in the store. 

post #28 of 60

Deleted. I was being a know-it-all and off track. I hate when I do that.

Edited by OregonYeti - 7/25/13 at 9:10pm
post #29 of 60

Well, in the language department, I've been fascinated about the Basque language.  Nobody seems to know where that came from.


It isn't Indic, Latin, Germanic or anything else.


Has there been linguistic research that has added to knowledge of this?



travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #30 of 60

They somehow kept an old language from being overtaken. I find it fascinating that their language remained independent. They must have resisted outsiders, been very proud, were just ignored, or something. They do stand out.

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