Proper al pastor is made on a “trompo,” which is a vertical rotisserie, like you’d see cooking gyros. Thinly-sliced, marinated pork shoulder is stacked on the spit, creating an inverse-tapered (thin at bottom) cone of meat. Lacking such a setup, I just make a large stack in layers, using bamboo skewers to hold it all together if necessary. The trick is getting a good balance of surface area, which gives you those great crispy bits, with interior volume, where the really juicy, meaty pieces come from, while making sure the inside cooks before the outside burns too much (you can always shave off the outside while the middle is still cooking).

al pastor is great fresh off the grill, but also stores and reheats really well, making it a good choice when you need to do the grilling a couple days in advance.


  • 8-10 lbs pork shoulder roast (I prefer bone-in, it’s a little cheaper, and you can use the bones for stock)
  • 1 cup taco seasoning (I like the Spice Islands mix). Add Guajillo peppers, charred and sliced, for an extra touch
  • 2 quarts pineapple juice or blend
  • 40 corn tortilla
  • grated cheese (I like Kirkland “Mexican style blend”)
  • Cole slaw
  • cilantro-lime crema or sour cream
  • salsa


  1. Slice the pork shoulder thinly (1/4"-3/8"). Try to make the slices as wide as possible, but some narrow (1/2" or so) slices are expected.

  2. Layer pork loosely in a large foil pan or similar container. Liberally cover with taco seasoning, then pour in pineapple juice. Dig in with your hands and mix well. Refrigerate overnight.

preparing pork

  1. Prepare the grill for indirect cooking at 350°F

  2. On a baking sheet, or a grill basket if you have one, start stacking the meat, with the bottom layer being approximately squarish 8-10 inches on a side. Try to alternate layers of narrow and wide strips, alternating directions with each layer. You should end up with something that vaguely resembles the original pork shoulder in size. Insert a few bamboo skewers, maybe one in each “corner” and one in the middle.

arranging pork

  1. Cook on the grill until the center hits 160°F, about 4 hours. Cook time can vary a lot, so give yourself an extra hour or two, and use a temperature probe to judge doneness.

cooking pork

  1. After a brief rest to cool, slice the cooked meat thinly (1/4"), pulling out the skewers as you go.

slicing pork

  1. Heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the pork for a 3-4 minutes, flipping occasionally, until crispy.

  2. Heat tortillas on the griddle/skillet for about ten seconds per side. Add 1-2 oz al pastor, large pinch each of cheese and cole slaw, a dollop of crema/sour cream, and a spoonful of salsa.

tacos al pastor

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