If you are looking for an epic recipe for beef cheeks that answers all your questions about this underrated cut- well you’ve come to the right place!

Beef cheeks are often an overlooked cut, but they are packed with intermuscular fat which makes for a flavorful and excellent textured dish. They are a less expensive alternative to cuts such as brisket and short ribs and lend themselves nicely to the same cooking techniques.

When you go to find Beef Cheek, they usually come in two ways, already trimmed and cubed (and often labeled “for barbacoa”), or in their whole form. I prefer the pre trimmed and cubed variation because there is no waste/product lost from trimming, whereas the whole form has a lot of soft fat and silver skin that needs to be cut off, usually resulting in about 35-40% loss on purchase weight. No matter which preparation you choose, they do both cook the same way. 

recipe for beef cheeks

 

How to Cook Beef Cheeks: On the Grill or Braised in Your Kitchen

Just like the traditional bbq cuts, beef cheek lends itself best to a low and slow cooking method to allow all the connective tissues and fat to gelatinize and render properly for the perfect bite. 

The optimal range for cooking is going to be between 225° F and 275° F to allow for a nice slow render. If the process is sped up by using higher heat, it can result in a final product with more of a “slimy” mouth feel opposed to a nice and silky texture. 

Cheeks are a much smaller cut than a brisket or ribs, so they are a little bit less forgiving when it comes to them potentially becoming dry. Here are two ways to avoid that-

  1. When they reach 165° F internal temperature add some beef stock to foil or butcher paper and wrap them tightly. Place them back on the grill and continue to cook them until tender
  2. Remove the meat from the grill at 165° F and place it all into a pan with marinade, beef stock, or other braising liquid of your choice. Cover tightly with foil and return to the grill until tender

Both methods will need another 2-3 hours to cook to completion once executed depending on the size of the product you are using. The final temperature when finished is between 195° F and 203° F, but it is easier to go by feel (whenever it shreds effortlessly and probes like butter)

** if you do not have a grill, you can mimic this process by searing the cheeks in a pan for some color and then braising them on low in a crockpot until they become probe tender**

recipe for beef cheeks barbacoa tacos

 

Alternatives to Beef Cheeks

Ground chuck, tongue, and oxtails or any cut that benefits from low and slow and a braising are good alternatives to Beef Cheeks. Try my Brisket Style Chuck Roast recipe for an easy and inexpensive cook that is always a family favorite.

Tools Needed

With any grilling, smoking or even cooking inside the kitchen, it is IMPERATIVE to have a Meat Thermometer. Here are my recommendations:

Recipe for Beef Cheek Barbacoa Tacos

Beef Cheek Barbacoa Tacos are the perfect vehicle for Beef Cheeks and let’s face it- who doesn’t love a good taco? This recipe includes a delicious Mexican Barbacoa inspired marinade that adds a ton of flavor to the meat while also helping to keep it tender while it braises in the liquid. Serve the Beef Cheeks with all your favorite taco fixins- I like to set up a taco bar at my house and let everyone make their own as I put out all my favorite toppings: cilantro, pickled onions, pickled jalapenos, tomatoes, hot sauce, Queso Blanco- have fun with it!

recipe for beef cheeks including a beef barbacoa taco recipe

The braising marinade for this recipe for beef cheeks adds a ton of flavor while also keeping the meat moist and tender.

 

Ingredients Needed for Beef Cheek Barbacoa Tacos

Marinade (for braising):

  • 1 large orange
  • 6 medium sized limes
  • 1 mango or ¼ cup guava paste
  • 1 small poblano, charred, skin scraped, and seeded
  • 2 small jalapenos, charred and seeded/de-ribbed 
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • ½ charred onion
  • 1 head of grilled garlic
  • 1 ½ cup beef stock

Alternative braising liquid:

  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1, 7 oz can chipotles in adobo
  • ¼ cup honey

Directions to make smoked (or braised) Beef Cheek Barbacoa Tacos:

  1. Preheat the grill or smoker to 275° F and set it up for indirect cooking
  2. If not pretrimmed, trim the beef cheeks until no soft fat or silver skin is visible 
  3. Season the meat liberally with Sunshine State of Mind 
  4. If you are using whole cheeks, you can simply place them on the grill. If using cubed, place them on in a grouping to slow the cooking process. 
  5. Smoke for about 2 hours
  6. To make the marinade, juice to orange and limes into a blender then toss in the mango (or guava paste), onion, garlic, salt, and beef stock and blend until smooth
    1. The color is not the most appealing, but it will taste delicious! If you would like it to be less “clumpy”, run it through a mesh strainer once blended. 
    2. You can also choose to use the alternative braising liquid, to prepare it blend all the ingredients
  7. Place the beef cheeks into a pan and pour in the marinade so only the tops of the cheek are visible
  8. Cover tightly with foil and continue cooking until they probe like room temperature butter, about 2-3 hours. 
  9. Remove the meat from the braising liquid, allow it to cool then shred it and add back in some of the liquid to taste.
  10. Serve on tortillas with cilantro, guacamole, and diced onion- or however you like!

 

beef cheeks recipe for beef cheek barbacoa tacos

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recipe for beef cheekse

Beef Cheek Barbacoa Tacos


  • Author: Taylor Carrol for GrillGirl.com
  • Total Time: 3 hours 25 minutes
  • Yield: 3 lbs beef cheeks- enough for 8 servings of tacos 1x

Description

This recipe for Beef Cheeks gives Mexican inspiration in the form of Beef Cheek Barbacao Tacos. The flavorful marinade and braising liquid acts to keep the meat moist while braising while adding tons of flavor at the same time.


Ingredients

Scale

Marinade (for braising):

  • 1 large orange
  • 6 medium sized limes
  • 1 mango or ¼ cup guava paste
  • 1 small poblano, charred, skin scraped, and seeded
  • 2 small jalapenos, charred and seeded/de-ribbed 
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • ½ charred onion
  • 1 head of grilled garlic
  • 1 ½ cup beef stock

Alternative braising liquid-

  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1, 7 oz can chipotles in adobo
  • ¼ cup honey

Instructions

  1. Preheat the grill or smoker to 275° F and set it up for indirect cooking
  2. If not pretrimmed, trim the beef cheeks until no soft fat or silver skin is visible 
  3. Season the meat liberally with Sunshine State of Mind
  4. If you are using whole cheeks, you can simply place them on the grill. If using cubed, place them on in a grouping to slow the cooking process. 
  5. Smoke for about 2 hours
  6. To make the marinade, juice to orange and limes into a blender then toss in the mango (or guava paste), onion, garlic, salt, and beef stock and blend until smooth
    1. The color is not the most appealing, but it will taste delicious! If you would like it to be less “clumpy”, run it through a mesh strainer once blended. 
    2. You can also choose to use the alternative braising liquid, to prepare it blend all the ingredients
  7. Place the beef cheeks into a pan and pour in the marinade so only the tops of the cheek are visible
  8. Cover tightly with foil and continue cooking until they probe like room temperature butter, about 2-3 hours. 
  9. Remove the meat from the braising liquid, allow it to cool then shred it and add back in some of the liquid to taste. 
  10. Serve on tortillas with cilantro, guacamole, and diced onion- or however you like!

Notes

Affiliate links have been used.

  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Category: Recipe for Beef Cheeks, Barbacoa
  • Method: Smoke, Braise
  • Cuisine: American, Mexican

Keywords: recipe for beef cheeks, beef cheek barbacoa tacos

Want more grilled beef recipes? Check out these posts!