Real Foodists: Sous Vide Venison Barbacoa with a Weston Vacuum Sealer

by Sean Callahan

Sean Callahan is the head of SouthPond Waterfowl & host of the podcast 'Pursuit to the Plate.'

Pursuit to the Plate is a one hour weekly podcast about fishing, hunting & preparing a good meal from your harvests. The podcast aims to share stories, recipes & know-how with current hunters, all the while engaging with a new generation of hunters through food. 

Here, Sean shares his latest adventures in Sous Vide cooking. 

Venison Barbacoa Recipe

Prep time: approx 2 - 3 hours
Cook time: 7 - 14 hours Sous Vide / 8 - 10 hours Slow Cooker
Number of servings: approx. 16 tacos

What you will need:
• Sous Vide Machine or a Slow Cooker
Vacuum Sealer and (2) 11” x 16"  pre-cut gallon sealer bags
(I use a Weston Pro 1100 for this recipe)

Sous Vide/Slow Cooker Ingredients:
• 2 - 4 lb venison roast
• 16 oz crushed ice

Brine Ingredients: 
• 1 small onion quartered
• ¼ cup salt
• 8 oz Negro Modelo beer
• 8 oz water
• 1 oz Tequila
• 3 tbsp ground cumin
• 2 tbsp minced garlic
• 2 tbsp sugar
• 3 tsp oregano
• 1 tsp chili powder
• ½ tsp turmeric
• ½ tsp coriander

Brine Directions: 

1. Combine all brine ingredients into a medium sauce pan (minus roast and crushed ice, setting those two aside).

2. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover with lid and let sit for 15 min.

3. Place the venison roast into the vacuum sealer bag. Combine the brine mixture (after sitting 15 min) with the ice. Stir until ice dissolves. Pour the brine into the sealer bag with the venison roast (you may need a hand with this step, it can get messy).

4. Once all the brine is in the bag with the meat, use the Pulse function on your Weston Pro 1100 Sealer until all of the air is out of the bag, then seal using the manual seal function. You may want to place a paper towel, folded, just before where you will seal the bag, to keep the brine out of the seal.

5. Place brine with meat in a bowl and put in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

6. After 24 hours is up, open the bag and discard the brine. Then pat the meat dry…very dry…and then let the meat sit in the fridge to continue drying while you prepare for the next step.

You’ll need another gallon sealer bag if cooking via sous vide for this as well.

Sous Vide/Slow Cooker Ingredients: 
• 2 sticks unsalted butter
• 4 oz sliced red, yellow, and/or orange peppers
• ½ red onion sliced (save other half for tacos)
• 2 cloves garlic smashed
• 2 sprigs fresh tarragon (or 2 tsp dried, get fresh though)
• 1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried, and again, use fresh)
• 1 sprig oregano (or 1 tsp dried, again, try to use fresh)
• 1 sprig cilantro (see above...)
• 1 tsp coriander (whole dried berries)
• 2 tsp ground cumin

Note: If using a slow cooker you’ll need: 12oz dark beer, 2 cups of beef stock (unsalted) and 2 cups water.

Sous Vide (or Slow Cooker) Directions:

1. For Sous Vide, place the roast in the open end of the sealer bag and add all remaining Sous Vide ingredients. Seal the bag.

Using the Weston Pro 1100 to seal Venison for sous vide

2. Prepare your sous vide machine and set it to 175° F. Once the water reaches 175° F, place the bag in the water bath for 7 - 14 hours, the longer the more tender the meat.


1. If slow cooking, place the venison in the slow cooker, add all of the remaining ingredients, then the beef stock, beer, and water.

2. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Now…Pulling the Meat: 


1. After cooking, remove the roast from the liquid, place in med-large baking pan, then pull/chunk the meat apart.

2. I like to full submerge the meat in the pan with the juice from the sous vide bag (or from the slow cooker). I then transfer the meat and juice to a lidded bowl large enough to hold it all and then place it in the fridge, preferably overnight.

3. After refrigerating, and when ready to serve, preheat your oven to 400° F. Transfer the meat back into med-large baking pan and bake for 30 - 45 min until bits/ends get a crisp exterior.

While baking, get the taco ingredients ready for assembly.

Plated Taco Ingredients:
• Approx 16 soft corn tortillas (warmed, but not fried)
• Queso Blanco – approx 16 oz (for melting)
• 1 cluster of green onions
• ½ red onion diced
• 1 large or 2 small tomatoes sliced
• Approx 1/8th cup fresh cilantro
• 4 whole limes quartered
• Jalapeno sliced, if you like spicy
• Also, if you like spicy, Sriracha sauce

Plate & Serve
Remove meat from oven, let cool, just long enough to handle. Plate a warm tortilla or two, add meat, melted queso blanco, green onion, red onion, tomato, and cilantro, then squeeze the lime quarter onto the taco, just enough for that splash of flavor (1 quarter per taco is what I prefer). I like to add jalapeno and some Sriracha on mine, go big or go home, eh?! Serve and enjoy!

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