A traditional form of Mexican barbecue whereby meat is wrapped in fragrant leaves (such as maguey or banana) and cooked over hot coals in a covered pit in the ground. This slow cooking process both roasts and steams the meat while imparting a smoky quality. Pigs, goats and lambs are often cooked this way, and a specialty of northern Mexico called barbacoca de cabeza ("head") refers to a cow's head prepared in this manner.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.