This Pork Carnitas recipe is sure to reward you with juicy pulled pork packed with authentic flavor. The meat won’t dry out even when you char the tips.
One thing I believe very strongly in is that you need to try new things. Whether that is zip-lining high over a jungle or experiencing a jalapeno for the first time, opening yourself up to new (scary) things are essential to growing as an interesting human being. Sometimes it takes a gentle nudge or maybe even a full blow shove but in this quest we call life, walking on the wild side every once in a while is a necessity many do not afford themselves. I’m not suggesting you run out and wrestle the alligator in the lake that’s been stalking your dog for the past month but maybe order something off the menu that includes items you can’t even pronounce. Start there. Wrestling can come later….
THIS GIRL had no idea about any food that could remotely be considered ethnic or specifically, Mexican. Growing up, taco shells out of a box (you know the ones) was as close as I ever got to experiencing “Mexican” food and lets not forget the ready made seasoning packet that many of us still rely on in a pinch. But as time went by and I got older and wanted to try my hand at cooking new foods (Thanks Food Network!!), it became painfully obvious that there was a big scary food world out there that I had never even heard of. If it had not been for hours and hours of watching food cooking shows, I would not have any clue what olive oil was … or a roux… or how to break down a lobster .. or what CARNITAS is.
Carnitas. Juicy, succulent pulled pork with charred tips of yumminess. My journey into the land of making carnitas started many years ago. It’s been a bumpy journey, to say the least but after all this time, I finally feel victorious. My first attempts at making carnitas came out bland and over cooked. Then for years, I embraced the slow cooker method of making carnitas and things were much better but still not perfect. The meat was tender and flavorful but had a tendency to be somewhat dry. There had to be better way.
That better way arrived today!!
After hours of research and trolling the web, reading recipe after recipe after recipe and considering all methods of cooking, I decided it was time to leave the slow cooker where it was and try a different cooking method on this batch of carnitas. Slightly unorthodox, my latest way of cooking carnitas was leaving me nervous and apprehensive. Worst case scenario, we order pizza if it comes out horrible. Best case scenario, I solved the World Peace issue. OK, maybe not THAT life altering but honestly, for anyone who loves carnitas, nailing the recipe is adding a gold star to your Interesting Human Being plaque.
Yup, that earth shattering.
One hour went by.. then two… three and four… finally, I pulled the dish from the oven and nervously pulled back the tin foil. The wave of aroma was amazing and when the pork pulled apart like butter, I knew we had a winner. Then came the true test, the first taste. Porky. That what it tasted like… PORK! The meat was juicy through and through and tasted like pork. Not overrun with seasonings, not tasting like stock or soda… PORK!!
Mexican Pork Carnitas
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
Start with a 5lb boneless pork butt.
Usually when you buy your meat from a supermarket, there is a layer of fat still present. We are going to be slow roasting the meat in a very compact container so remove that layer of fat from your pork butt.
Next, slice your pork butt into large, thick slices and then then cut your slices into large chunks.
Pour your canola oil over the meat and using your hands, rub all of the meat together to ensure that all sides of each piece has been coated in the oil. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the salt, oregano, cumin, ground red pepper powder, pepper and chipotle powder together. In batches, pour over your meat chunks and rub together until all of the seasoning has been rubbed over each side of each chunk.
Smash each piece of garlic with the back of your knife to release the garlic from it’s paper exterior. Do not chop up the garlic clove but so make sure it has a nice ‘smash’ to it.
Larger pieces of garlic give off big flavors and this will be a background flavor to the carnitas as it cooks.
Mix in the garlic pieces with the meat. Cut up two oranges into large pieces and place in a casserole cooking container that will be just big enough to hold all of the ingredients. You want snug, you want overly friendly, you want no extra room in your vessel. Pour the meat / garlic over the oranges and arrange everything to fit nicely and then press down gently to compact the meat and oranges together.
Drizzle the remaining canola oil on top of the meat and then cover your dish tightly with foil.
Cook in your oven at 250 degrees for two hours. After two hours, increase the heat to 275 degrees for the next hour and a half.
Remove your carnitas from the oven and check for doneness. The meat should shred easily with no pull. Remove the meat to a large cutting board. Using two forks, shred the meat and remove any lingering fat pieces from the meat. Since the meat is cut into smaller pieces than if you were to cook whole, this part takes a few minutes but you don’t want to miss this step. Trust me, it’s going to be worth it.
Set your oven to broil. Pour out the oranges and most of the juices left from the cooking process. Return the meat to the casserole dish and move your oven rack up to just under the broiler.
When your broiler is red hot and ready, slide the carnitas under the broiler and babysit the process. Don’t answer your phone, don’t let the dog out, don’t do anything but stare at that pan of meat. The edges will start to darken and get crispy. This is pork gold! Once a nice char has been achieved, remove the meat, stir the meat and then return it to the broiler one last time. This whole process should only take a couple of minutes.
What you have at the end of this adventure is a juicy, pull apart pork dish that nothing can compare to. Cooking the meat in a compact space and in it’s own juices really brings out the pork flavor and creates a more juicy meat than if you were to use cooking stock or soda, as we have all tried in the past. This, by far, was the best batch of carnitas I have ever made.
Now, on to alligator wresting.