Mexican style carnitas may just be the most popular shredded pork dish in America, outside of pulled smoked pork butts and for good reason. It’s fatty, crispy, meaty, rich and with just enough citrus to balance everything out. You’ll often find that depending on where you dine on this delicious swine, the flavors can vary from place to place.
The cooking techniques and ingredients may change, but the final product yields crispy, golden brown pork with popping citrus notes.
Some recipes call for cola, orange juice and even sweetened condensed milk, with the main purpose of aiding in the browning of the pork due to the sugar content. I’ve found that these sweet liquids do addto the flavor profile, but aren’t necessary. One thing that I like to do with every batch is to add orange peels to the cooking mixture to add some brightness to the flavors. And at the end, I hit it with some fresh lime juice while it's crisping up in the pan for some extra acidity.
Below is my favorite way to prepare carnitas without the need of using a lot of rendered pork fat or constantly monitoring the meat during the cooking process.
For the Braised Pork:
One 3 to 4 pound pork shoulder, cut into 3 equal pieces
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup sweetened condensed milk (optional)
½ cup lager beer
10 allspice berries
5 sprigs of fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried)
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
Salt and pepper
For Finishing the Carnitas:
¼ cup rendered pork for (or other high smoke point cooking oil)
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 to 2 Fresh limes
Chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and black pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
- Place the pork into a large baking dish or dutch oven. Season the meat all over with salt and pepper.
- Place the remaining braising ingredients into the vessel. (If you used fresh limes and oranges for the juice, add the rinds). If the liquid is not covering the meat up to the halfway mark, add enough water to do so.
- Cover the cooking vessel with a lid or aluminum foil. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Check the pork for tenderness by poking with a fork. If the fork easily penetrates the pork, remove it from the oven. If it is still tough, cover and cook for another 45 minutes and check for tenderness. Repeat as needed.
- When tender, remove the lid/foil and let the meat rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes in its cooking liquid. (At this point the pork can be placed in the refrigerator for up to 3 days).
- Remove the pork from the cooking vessel and place into a large bowl or platter. Discard the cooking liquid and solids. When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it apart into large pieces.
- Heat the fat/cooking in a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Once it starts to shimmer, carefully add the pork, followed by the onions.
- Let the meat cook on one side until it crisps up to a nicely browned color (this can take between 1 to 3 minutes).
- Turn off the heat to the stove. Carefully flip the pork over to the other side. Add cilantro and lime juice to your liking. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more lime juice and cilantro to your tastes.
For a limited time, take 30% off your first year of OutdoorClass during our Black Friday sale! Learn from the best in class and sharpen your hunting, stalking, cooking, planning, and other skills before the season starts. Just use code OC30 on signup.
Time's Almost Up!
There's still time to save 30% on your first year of OutdoorClass! Just enter the code MEMORIAL30 at checkout and get started learning from the best hunters, outdoor experts, chefs, and more.