Carnitas is Mexico’s version of pulled pork. If you’re new to Carnitas, try this recipe and it might become your new addiction.
Made by slow cooking pork fully submerged in lard, this confit method of cooking yields pork that’s unbelievably rich and tender with loads of crispy golden bits.
Don’t skip the step to brown the Pork Carnitas. Pan frying to get the golden bits is not optional – the cooked and shredded pork has to be double cooked in the skillet to capture the elusive combination of flavourful juice and crispiness.
My secret of the recipe is to include soy sauce in the rub to add into another layer of the flavour, which you would not expect from a Mexico restaurant. But this is optional for you.
- 2kg/4lb pork shoulder, skinless, boneless (2.5kg/5lb bone in)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorn
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 japapeno deseeded, chopped, (optional)
- 3/4 cup fresh orange juice (from 2 oranges)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
Step 1- Slow cook the pork shoulder
- Preheat the oven to 325F°/160C°.
- Rinse and dry the pork shoulder, Rub all over with salt and pepper.
- Combine the Rub ingredients then rub all over the pork.
- Place the pork in an oven-proof pot, top with the onion, jalapeño (optional), minced garlic (don’t worry about spreading it) and squeeze over the juice of the oranges.
5. Cover the pot and bake in the oven for 3 to 4 hours until the pork is tender and can be easily pulled apart. Remove the pork from the pot. Use your hand or two forks to shred the pork.
6. Skim off the excess fat from the juices left in the pot. This is optional. Only do this if you think you have too much fat in the juices. If you have a lot more than 2 cups of juice, then reduce it down to about 2 cups. The liquid will be salty, it is the seasoning for the pork. Set liquid aside – don’t bother straining onion etc, it’s super soft.
Step 2 – Crisp cooked and shredded pork
- Heat 1 tablespoon of cooking oil in a large non-stick pan or well-seasoned skillet over high heat. Spread pork in the pan, drizzle over some juices. Wait until the juices evaporate and the bottom side is golden brown and crusty. Turn and just briefly sear the other side – you don’t want to make it brown all over because then it’s too crispy, need tender juicy bits.
- Remove pork from skillet. Repeat in batches (takes me 4 batches) – don’t crowd the pan.
Step 3 Taco Fixings
- warm tortillas according to packet instructions.
- Pile up the crispy pork carnitas. Spoon pico de gallo or any spicy tomato salsa on the pork then top with 1 or 2 spoons of sour cream. Enjoy!
1. Best way to store: Shred pork but don’t pan fry. Keep pork and juice separate, refrigerate up to 5 days or freeze up to 3 months (for freezer, I put pork in containers/ bags and put juice in ziplock bags in the same container).
Gently reheat juice to make it pourable (congeals when cold). Pan fry per recipe, drizzling with juice.
3. Storing leftovers after pan frying: Keeps extremely well, but tends to lose juiciness when it cools down. Just drizzle with juice, cover with cling wrap and reheat – the crispy bits hold up very well. It’s not quite as crispy as when cooked fresh, but still seriously tasty.