Tacos for 125: The Meat

Margarita chicken taco
When I originally started to plan this meal I was gunning for lime-garlic chicken and a flank steak preparation of some kind. As I got to pricing it out I quickly realized that I would need to replace the flank steak with ground beef because the steak would have eaten up to much of my limited budget. By switching to ground beef, not only would I have a beef taco but I could also make a 5 gallon pot of southwestern style chili.

During my search for a large container of lime juice for the chicken I wasn’t having any luck with finding a gallon size offering on the shelf. I did stumble upon half gallon containers of margarita mix though. I took a look at the ingredients and I realized it had what I needed as for as citric acid to be a good marinade for the chicken. I switched on the fly and bought a gallon of regular margarita mix for marinade.

I bought 30 pounds of chicken breast and 30 pounds of ground beef. 20 pounds each for tacos. The margarita mix was actually a great marinade that I plan on using again, it provided the yummy lemon-lime flavor with a bit of sweet. I seasoned the ground beef for tacos with a simple chili powder-cumin mix that provides all the great flavors of those store-bought taco seasoning packets without all the extra sodium.

After the meat for the tacos and southwestern chili was made I had 10 pounds of emergency chicken left that we never had to use. The plan was to see how things were going and cook it on the fly if necessary but we never had to break it out.

All of the meat was made the day before, refrigerated and then heated to temperature for service before the party. I stored everything in 5 pound bags which I brought out of the refrigerator and warmed up as needed throughout the party. It worked better than I had even planned and I would do this exactly the same way if I had to do it again.

Salsa Verde
Gaujillo Sauce
Ancho Sauce
Meal Overview

Ground beef taco

Makes 20 pounds; 3 to 4 hours
20 lbs Chicken breast
1 gallon Margarita mix

Marinate, grill chicken
In a large kitchen bucket soak chicken in margarita mix for two hours. Half an hour before removing chicken, prepare charcoal grill. Remove chicken from mix shaking of excess liquid. Season chicken with salt and pepper then grill in batches. Cook chicken until cooked through. 6 to 8 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165°.

Dice, serve
Let chicken rest and cool slightly, then dice into small chunks. Put chicken in a warmer for service. If making a day ahead, store in gallon sized bags and  refrigerate until 1 hour before service time then re-heat for serving.

Makes 20 pounds; 1 hour
20 lbs Ground beef (5 lb batches)
1 C Chili powder (1/4 C per batch)
3/4 C Cumin (3 Tbs per batch)
Salt and Pepper (Approximately 3 Tbs salt and 2 Tbs pepper per batch)

Cook, season beef
In a large pot over medium high heat cook ground beef in 5 pound batches until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes per batch. Stirring occasionally, breaking up any chunks. Season with salt and pepper at the start. Half way through cooking add chili powder and cumin. Once finished remove to a large vessel and serve. If making a day ahead, let cool and store in gallon zip lock bags, refrigerate until an hour before service then reheat for serving.


Unknown said...

How do you recommend reheating the meat? Can you do this in a chafing dish or the oven? I am looking to do a similar taco bar for 100 people and want to prepare the meat the day before.

behindthebites@gmail.com said...

I used 6 quart slow cookers with a little water in bottom, once it got hot I turned the setting to warm and it was good to go all day.

Debolina said...

HI Justin,
Thank you for posting this - so helpful!

Do you think I can make the meat 3 days before and then freeze it? If so, should I reheat it in the slow cooker?


behindthebites@gmail.com said...

I would definitely freeze the meat once it's cooled immedietly after cooking it if you're going to serve it three days later. I would then thaw it some in the microwave before putting it in the slow cooker to get hot again.

Rob said...

approx. how many servings did the 20 lbs. make?

behindthebites@gmail.com said...

Rob - A general guide to cooking for a crowd is plan on 4 oz. of meat per person. 4 people for every pound. 4 x 20 = 80 people. That 4 oz portion will provide meat for at least 2 tacos. Make sure you plan for that.

Unknown said...

What ratio of hard/soft shells do you recommend?

behindthebites@gmail.com said...

Deborah - I have never put out hard shells for a large crowd, only soft. I do put out tortilla chips so people have the option to make a plate of nachos though. (approx. 2 oz per person) I wish I could answer your question better but I would only be guessing.