Carnitas is a Mexican dish that usually uses pork, typically shoulder roast, that is braised or roasted for a long time, sometimes an entire day. The meat is then shredded or pulled, and then cooked quickly in lard, which creates very crispy meat with a tender, melt in the mouth center. It's then served in a variety of ways. One method is to serve it similarly to fajitas. It can be placed on a dish and accompanied by salsas, fresh vegetables, beans, and guacamole, and then diners can use tortillas to create tacos or burritos.
In this recipe, frying in lard is omitted and the braised, shredded meat is broiled to produce the crispy outer crust.
- 3-4 pounds of boneless pork shoulder, (may be called Boston butt), or 4-5lbs of bone-in pork shoulder
Note: This amount of spice works well for 3-4 Lbs boneless pork shoulder, but it's a simple ratio so scale it for amount of meat you have at hand.
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp chile powder
- 1 tsp cumin (freshly toasted and ground if you can--it does make a difference)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- Water to cover (for our pan that's usually about 2 cups)
- Heat a dutch oven, or other heavy bottomed oven-ready, lidded pan, over medium high heat with just enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom .
- Pre-heat oven to 300ºF
- Cut pork into 1" to 2" cubes, trimming off any large sections of fat, (we need fat for the flavor, so just cut off any large pieces.) Toss pork pieces with spice rub.
- Brown the cubed pork well in the dutch oven, going in batches so there is only one layer of meat at a time.
- When all the meat is browned, de-glaze the pan with the orange juice, stirring to break up the brown bits. Introduce all of the meat back to the pan and cover with water until it's nearly submerged.
- Bring to a simmer, cover, and place in the oven.
- Stir the pot after one, and two hours, the pork should be very tender towards the third hour. When you're comfortable with the tenderness, remove all the pork to a platter and begin to boil the braising liquid on the stove top over high heat.
- After letting the pork cool for a few minutes, work through with your hands to separate and discard any fat or gristle pieces that hadn't melted in the braise. Tear the meat into smaller pieces.
- Turn on broiler and place a rack towards the top
- Toss the now shredded pork with some of the reduced braising liquid, (that should have boiled down significantly by now), and spread in a single layer on a sheet pan.
- Broil the pork for approximately five minutes per side until the outside begins to caramelize
- Serve! Tacos, burritos, whatever.
Carnitas saves in the fridge very nicely. Hold back an amount from the last step, (broiling), and refrigerate. Later, heat and broil it, and the result is indistinguishable from same-day carnitas.