Beef Mechado is a Filipino-style beef stew made of larded beef chunks braised in tomato sauce with potatoes and carrots. It’s a delicious and filling dish that pairs well with steamed rice.
The presence of marbling usually determines the quality of the beef. The more marbling it contains, the better the cut. The intramuscular fat visible as white specks embedded within the muscle fibers helps the meat retain its juiciness and tenderness.
As we all know from our adobos and crispy patas, the fattier parts are the tastiest. In beef mechado, this culinary fact is applied via an ingenious technique of inserting “wicks” of pork fat called lardons or lardoons into cheaper, leaner beef cuts.
As the larded beef pieces cook, the threaded fat strips melt and add flavor and tenderness.
What Mechado means?
Mechado comes from the Spanish root word, Mecha, which means “wick.” Influenced by Spanish colonization, this Filipino stew traditionally uses the cooking practice of larding inexpensive meat cuts with strips of pork back fat.
It has, however, been adapted to suit local tastes. Calamansi juice and soy sauce, and aromatics such as garlic, onions, and bay leaves are key ingredients in the braising liquid for a depth of flavor. Chunks of carrots, potatoes, and bell peppers complete the dish with added color and texture.
The term mitsado has evolved over the years to include other cuts of meat such as pork, chicken, beef ribs, and fish stewed in tomatoes. These present-day versions have mostly dispensed the larding process.
Difference between Mechado, Afritada, and Calderata
Onions, garlic, and tomatoes are the holy trinity of Filipino cooking and provide the groundwork for many Filipino dishes such as afritada, kaldereta, and mitsado. But while these classic dishes are similar in their cooking process and use of potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers, the addition of a few key ingredients gives them their distinct taste.
Afritada- chicken, pork, or beef stewed in fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce; other versions include pineapples for a sweeter taste
Caldereta- made of beef or goat with added olives, liver spread, and chili peppers for a richer flavor and kick of heat; other regional versions also use coconut milk for a touch of creaminess
Menudo– traditionally made with bite-sized cut pork along with liver, garbanzo beans, raisins. and occasionally hotdogs or Vienna sausages
Mechado- braised in tomato sauce, calamansi juice, and soy sauce for a tangy and savory flavor
Beef– chuck roast, top or bottom round, or brisket are great inexpensive cuts to use
Pork back fat– skip if you want to trim down the fat and calories
Potatoes and carrots – these root/tuber crops deliciously extend the dish
Calamansi or lemon juice– infuses flavor and helps tenderize the meat; about 1/4 cup
Soy sauce– adds umami flavor
Tomato sauce– substitute chopped fresh tomatoes, if you like, for a fresher taste
Onions, garlic, and bay leaves– aromatics add depth of flavor
Bell peppers– use a combination of green and red for a more festive color
Cut the beef chunks into uniform sizes to ensure even cooking. Two to three inches is a good size to fit in a wick of pork fat.
Use a small knife to make a small incision on the meat and insert the pork fat. For larger cuts of beef, chill the lardons until firm and use a larder needle to easily insert into the meat.
While you can marinate the beef in the citrus juice and soy sauce if you like, I find this extra step unnecessary as the beef will cook long enough in the braising liquid to absorb all the flavors.
To keep the potatoes and carrots from falling apart, pan-fry first until lightly browned.
Brown the beef in hot oil to build flavor. To sear properly, don’t overcrowd the pan and cook in batches as necessary.
Low and slow is the key to a best-tasting stew. Tougher cuts of meat need to be cooked over long periods to break down connective tissues into fork-tenderness. Don’t rush the cooking process lest you end up with a tough and chewy texture.