Classic recipe for American-style beef tacos. Kids will need to know how to safely use a stovetop and oven, but no knife skills are necessary. This recipe serves 4-6 people; time needed: 20-30 minutes.
Note: using a stovetop and oven can be dangerous - be sure the chef knows how to safely use a stovetop & oven. If in doubt, be sure an adult is present. Here's an excerpt from FireProof Children:
- Stay close to the stove and watch it carefully when you’re cooking food.
- Keep a pan’s lid and a dry oven mitt nearby, and know what to do if food or grease catches fire.
- Keep anything that can catch fire, including oven mitts, towels, wooden utensils, a safe distance from the stovetop.
- Turn pot handles away from the stove’s edge.
- Wear short, close fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
- Always use oven mitts when putting things in or taking things out of the oven.
- In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed
Step 1: Prepare Your Space, Set the Table, Prepare Ingredients
Clear off your kitchen counterspace to give you enough room for safe food preparation. If you have a dishrack or dishwasher full of clean dishes, put them away so there's room for dirty dishes in your way.
Once you have the space, get your your supplies for cooking the meat:
- Flat-bottomed skillet, ideally non-stick
- Spatula (non-metal if you're using a non-stick pan)
- Kitchen scissors
- Liquid measuring cup
- Spoon (normal silverware size)
Then, set your dining table with the following for each person:
- Fork & spoon
- Napkin or paper towel
- Glass for beverage of choice
Finally, assemble your ingredients:
- 1 lb ground meat (I use 85% lean beef in this recipe, but ground chicken, turkey, buffalo, or pork works too)
- 1 package taco seasoning mix
- 1 bag pre-shredded lettuce or cabbage
- 1 small can sliced olives
- 1 small bag pre-grated cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
- 1 container pico de gallo or salsa
- 1 small container of sour cream or plain greek yogurt
- 1 dozen hard taco shells (soft tortillas also can work!)
Step 2: Brown the Meat
Start by placing your skillet on your burner, and turn to medium-high heat.
Before the pan gets hot, open the package containing your ground meat and place in the skillet. With your non- metal spatula, start dividing it into smaller pieces.
As the pan gets warm, you'll hear your meat start sizzling. That's a good sign! With your spatula, keep dividing the meat into smaller chunks, and stirring around so all sides start to brown.
Keep dividing and stirring until the meat is cooked: the meat will turn darker (in this case, will go from pink to brown.) Once it has, turn your burner down to medium-low heat. Keep stirring the meat until it sizzles more quietly. This will be right away if you use a gas stove, but will take about 1 minute if you use an electric stove.
Step 3: Add Seasoning
Measure out 3/4 cup of water, then add the contents of one taco seasoning packet to the water, and stir the seasoning into the water with a small spoon. Then, pour this water-spice mixture on top of the meat in your skillet. Mix in with your spatula, and let it simmer (low heat), uncovered, for 10 minutes
As soon as the spice-water mixture is stirred in, preheat your oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit (you'll need a warm oven soon, and it'll take some time for the oven to heat up.)
Step 4: Assemble Toppings
While the meat is simmering, get your toppings ready:
- Open the can of olives, drain out about half the water in the can
- Open the bag of lettuce, carefully pour as much as you think will be eaten into a bowl
- Open the bag of cheese, carefully pour as much as you think will be eaten into a bowl
- Open the pico de gallo, carefully spoon as much as you think will be eaten into a bowl
- Open the yogurt or sour cream, stir with a spoon to make it smooth and easy to spoon out of its container
After preparing each topping, check and stir your meat (see step 5 to know if it's ready to turn off)
Place the toppings back in the refrigerator if you have space, if not place them on your dining table and be sure you eat within 30 minutes.
Step 5: Check Meat
Be sure to check your meat as it cooks - when most of the liquid that was in the pan is not visible, it's time to turn it off. When you do turn the stove off, cover the meat to keep it warm until serving time (using its lid, or a piece of aluminum foil.)
Step 6: Prepare Taco Shells
Make sure your oven has reached 325 degrees fahrenheit.
Get out a cookie sheet or other flat baking pan and place 8-12 taco shells on the cookie sheet (that's 2-3 taco shells per person.)
When the oven reaches 325 degrees, carefully place the cookie sheet of taco shells in the oven. Let them bake for 6 minutes, then carefully remove them with oven mitts or pot holders to protect your hands from the hot tray.
Step 7: Fill Taco Shells
Spoon a small layer of meat into the bottom of each taco shell. This is easier with the standing taco shells (pictured), if you have non-standing ones they will lay on their side, which is OK. Place 2 or 3 tacos on a dinner plate for each person.
Step 8: Serve Your Tacos & Eat!
If haven't already, place all the taco toppings (lettuce, cheese, etc.) in the middle of your dining table. Be sure everybody has filled their glass with a beverage.
Serve each person a plate with 2 or 3 tacos, and let them add their own toppings.
Be sure to have napkins handy - tacos are a yummy but messy food. Enjoy!