I promise you (and a real promise, not a politician-type promise) that this pork carnitas recipe will make you happy, mellow and in the greatest mood you have been in for months. These authentic carnitas will change how you view any meat you put in your tacos from now on.
How to Make Carnitas
- Use a fatty piece of meat – I get a lot of questions asking if you can use this same recipe and technique using a pork loin or chicken breasts and the answer is no. A pork butt is perfect because it has a lot of fat and sinew, which once it is slow cooked, becomes so tender it melts in your mouth. That will never happen with a low fat form of protein. If you want authentic carnitas, embrace the butt.
- Cook your Mexican Pork low and slow – To create the perfect tender bite that is infused with flavor, this recipe calls for a slow cooking process using a cast iron dutch oven in the oven, but you can certainly use your crockpot or slow cooker. However, you will end up with a larger amount of liquid to reduce so just give yourself more time to create that thick liquid.
- Use your broiler to concentrate the flavor – I know many of you will want to skip the last step of this recipe, but take a look at my photo. Do you see that gorgeous caramelization on the outside of the meat? That isn’t just for looks my friend! That is concentrated flavor so take the extra 3 minutes it takes to put the finished carnitas under the broiler.
Authentic Mexican pulled pork carnitas recipe are my most popular recipe for a reason! Because they are the best 🙂
- 4 pound boneless pork butt, fat trimmed and cut into 2 inch cubes
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 onion, peeled and halved
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 Tb fresh lime juice
- 2 C water
- 1 medium orange, juiced and keep the spent halves
- Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat to 300 degrees. Combine all the ingredients in a large Dutch oven, (this is my favorite one!) including the spent orange halves and juice. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, uncovered. Once it simmers, cover pot and transfer it to the oven. Cook until the meat falls apart when prodded with a fork, about 2 hours. You can also complete this step in a crock pot set on high for 6-7 hours. You will have more liquid to reduce in the next step however.
- Remove the pot from the oven and turn on the broiler. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the pan and place it on a large foil-lined jelly roll pan. Remove and discard everything from the pot except for the cooking liquid. Place pot over high heat on the stove and boil until it thickens and syrupy, about 20 – 30 minutes. You should have about 1 C of liquid remaining when it is finished.
- While the liquid is reducing, use two forks to pull each cube of pork into three equal sized pieces. Once the liquid has reduced, gently fold in the pieces of pork into the pot. Try not to break up the pork any further. Taste and add additional salt and pepper.
- Spread the pork back onto the foil lined pan and evenly spread the meat around so there is a single layer of meat. Place the jelly roll pan on the lower middle rack of the oven and broil until the top of the meat is well browned and edges are slightly crisp, about 5 to 8 minutes. Using a wide metal spatula, flip the pieces of meat and broil the other side until well browned and edges are slightly crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately in a tortilla with all your favorite toppings.
(recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated)