The Meat Cooking Method Carla Hall Is Most Excited About - Exclusive

Cooking meat can be as simple as a quick sear on both sides or more complex like a braise or multi-step process. And while certain meats lend themselves particularly well to one technique over another, there's a lot of room to play around and experiment. Still, despite the many options, one method stands out amongst the rest for Carla Hall.

In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Hall looked back on the time she spent filming her Max series, "Chasing Flavor," which followed her around the globe as she sought the origin stories of some of the U.S.'s favorite dishes. From ice cream and hot chicken to barbecue and chicken pot pie, Hall discovered the multifaceted histories behind popular foods. Not surprisingly, meat showed up a few times along the way, but the most intriguing technique for Hall came amid the al pastor episode.

The influences behind this beloved dish, which is cooked on a verticle spit called a trompo, were unexpected to Hall, with a story extending far beyond the food in question. And tasting al pastor tacos immediately led her to wonder how she could recreate the method used to cook this style of meat.

How did the vertical spit technique arrive in Mexico?

If you think the origins of al pastor, which means "in the style of the shepherd" in Spanish, come from Mexico, think again. If shawarma comes to mind when you think of meat on a vertical spit, you're on the right path — Lebanese immigrants are responsible for its introduction. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Middle Easterners made their way to Mexico to escape poor conditions due to the downfall of the Ottoman Empire, culinary traditions in tow. 

Once the vertical spit reached Mexico, the lamb was swapped for pork, and the marinade skewed toward local staples like chilis, pineapple, and achiote. To assemble the preparation, thin layers of pork are speared into a large mass on the spit, which continuously bastes in its juices as it roasts, leading to a tender and succulent result.

Hall is eager to experiment with the technique and notes, "I have looked it up online, I'm trying to figure it out. With all my products, I'm like, 'Can we do a vertical spit?' It just makes so much sense." Aside from cooking pork al pastor-style, she points out that the options are endless; just marinate some meat with onions and give it a go.

You can catch Carla Hall on "Chasing Flavor" which is available to stream on Max as of February 1.