How To Make The Best Ground Beef Taco Meat

There are some iconic foods here in New York: hot dogs on the street, giant slices of pizza, bagels with cream cheese. You know what we're not known for? Tacos. You can find tacos in NYC, but they're either (a) not very good, (b) kind of on the pricey side for what they are, or (c) located at the far nether regions of the five boroughs. Having grown up in Los Angeles (closer to Mexico), I crave tacos on a regular basis. And if you want something done right, do it yourself.

What's the first key to good taco meat? Don't dry it out. By using a little bit of beer and tequila, you not only add some flavor, but you keep it nice and juicy. Second key: don't dry it out. Seriously, super-important not to cook it over too high heat or for too long. Third: season, season, season that meat. It's supposed to be the star and has to stand up to toppings. Fourth: (because the second key was a repeat) good tortillas. Bad tortillas beget bad tacos, never forget that.

This recipe is for some good old fashioned taco meat, the kind that's versatile enough to let you have your choice of toppings. What you should really do is quick-pickle some vegetables — the acid cuts through the rich beef, complements the sour cream and cheese and adds a nice crunch, so let's start with that. Here's what you'll need.

For the pickles:

  • 1 cup carrots, julienned
  • 1 cup radishes, sliced thin
  • 1 cup onions, sliced thin
  • 1 cup jalapeños, sliced thin
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons pepper

For the taco meat:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 jalapenos (or any other chilis, just be educated about what kind of spice you may be forcing upon yourself) chopped
  • 1 clove garlic smashed and pasted
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 4 ounces beer
  • 2 ounces tequila
  • Tortillas, shredded cheese and lettuce, sour cream and salsa for serving