A popular Mexican dish

Let's take a look at one of the most popular Mexican food trends right now: Al Pastor. Literally, "in the style of the shepherd" (sounds authentic, no?) Al Pastor refers to a certain style of roasted meat, that is most commonly eaten as street food in Mexico - think Mexican Gyros. That is, a large amalgamated hunk of meat, typically pork, roasting on a vertical rotisserie that is just sliced off the spit and right into a warm tortilla, garnished with onion cilantro and pineapple.

Traditionally, there's a very particular process to making a hunk of meat like this that includes slicing the pork thin, marinating in adobo and pineapple, salting heavily, and then combining into a large mass. This allows the meat to breakdown, become more tender, and of course - taste better. This is, of course, a long process that is easy to mess up - which can ruin your outlook on Al Pastor. While I certainly recommend experiencing true Al Pastor -  even if it's someone else making it, what I've done today is a modern take on the traditional process that makes it a bit easier.

How to get started

Overall, it's very simple. Start with a whole boneless pork shoulder, rub it liberally with an adobo/pineapple mixture, and cook low and slow. If you've attempted to smoke or even braise pork shoulder for pulled pork, you'll know how long it takes to cook to get to the point where the collagen starts to turn into gelatin and connective tissues start to break down - in order to result in moist, fall apart pork. We're taking that idea and running with it - in the form of Sous Vide. If you know about the process, or have read my intro to the subject, you'll know how well suited this process will be for something like pork shoulder.

Essentially, the benefit we're going to have is to "braise" our pork shoulder in the typical adobo marinade, while it cooks for 50 hours at 143 F. Again, if you've had any experience smoking a whole shoulder, you might be familiar with the phrase "the stall" and its impact in terms of internal temperature and the breakdown of collagen and connective tissue; so, you might be saying - "but 143 F is too low to break down those tougher fibers that take a higher temperature to break down." And you'd be right in a normal sense, but not here. Temperature isn't the only factor in collagen breakdown; time also plays an important role. So the advantage we create for ourselves at such a low temperature is that we keep the meat incredibly moist, but also free of tough connective tissues.

So, after the 50 hours, we move the pork shoulder directly to an ice bath to stop the cooking process and then cut it into the shape/size we want to serve it. Then finally, we merely have to create a crust through searing/frying and serve with traditional flavors. In this case, the pineapple gel, avocado mousse, black been pudding, and elote. Without further adieu, here's the recipe and the finished dish.

Sous Vide Al Pastor

4 lbs. Pork Shoulder

1 can Chipotles w/ Adobo Sauce

1 oz Achiote Paste

3 oz Pineapple Juice

1 cinnamon stick

Start by pureeing the chipotles, adobo sauce, achiote, cinnamon, and1 oz pineapple juice together; use 1/2 the puree to rub over pork shoulder and set aside the other half. Vacuum seal the rubbed pork shoulder on high, and place in water bath set to 143 F for 50 hours. After 50 hours, immediately transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking process ASAP - with something this large, I usually fill a sink with 5 lbs of ice and just enough water to cover shoulder. Allow about 20-30 minutes to fully cool before thinking about portioning.

For portions, I shoot for slices about 1/2" thick, and about 4" long but it's ultimately up to you. For service, place reserved chipotle puree into sauce pan, add 2 oz pineapple juice and reduce until thickened (For those less "spicy inclined" you can add some honey to help).

For the shoulder, either pan fry the portions - or you can do what I did, and deep fry them 🙂 To finish, toss in a bowl with a little of the thickened chipotle puree.


32 oz Corn

1 oz Red Pepper, brunoise

1 oz Jalapeno, brunoise

1 oz Mayonnaise

1 oz Sour Cream

3 oz Grated Parmesan Cheese

.2 oz Smoked Paprika

.2 oz Cumin Cilantro,

Salt, and Pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl, mix thoroughly and set aside until service.

Black Bean Pudding

15 oz Can of Black Beans

1 oz Garlic

.3 oz Smoked Paprika

.2 oz Cumin

1.5 oz Chicken Stock


Combine ingredients in a Vita Prep - or similar blender - puree on high until smooth pudding forms, more chicken stock may be necessary but you're looking for a thick, smooth texture.

Pineapple Gel

6 oz Pineapple Juice

.5 oz Lime Juice

4g Agar Agar

Bring pineapple and lime to a boil, add agar agar and whisk to hydrate about 2 minutes. Allow to cool and place in heat safe container, then transfer to the fridge to harden. After fully gelatinized, puree in Vita Prep until fluid gel forms. Transfer to a squeeze bottle for service.

Avocado Mousse

2 Avocados, ripe

.5 oz Lime Juice


Combine ingredients in the Vita Prep, and puree until smooth mousse forms. Transfer to squeeze bottle for service.

Serve ingredients together, either plated or with tortillas and enjoy a wonderfully delicious & moist piece of pork.