Picture this: Mounds of juicy, tender, crispy-edged Mexican-style braised and fried pork, just waiting to be tucked into freshly made soft tortillas along with salsa, chopped onions, and cilantro for tacos. Now imagine that same braised and fried pork piled high on a plate alongside rice and beans. This authentic Mexican recipe is the classic way to make carnitas–well, almost. While the pork is traditionally browned on the stovetop, doing it in the oven is even easier and more effective. The pork goes from being braised to being fried, browning in its own luscious fat.–Roberto Santibañez
LC Can You Have Too Many Carnitas? Note
This recipe for Mexican-minded lusciousness makes what some would consider to be a plethora of pork. Hardly a problem in our minds, seeing as we can’t imagine not being able to pack away a batch of this subtly infused Mexican-style braised and fried pork. Should you wish to make just half a batch, the author advises that you cut the amount of pork, salt, and oregano in the recipe below in half, but that you rely on the same amount of water, onion, orange, garlic, bay, sweetened condensed milk, and lard (mmmm, lard). You’ll also want to rely on a slightly smaller pot than what the recipe suggests. Consider your baby batch the diminutive–though not exactly diminished–form of carnitas. Carnitas-ito, anyone?
Hands-On Time: 20 minutes | Total Time: 2 hours | Serves 8
- 4 pounds fatty pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 3 cups cold water
- 1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 orange, preferably seedless cut into 2 wedges
- 1/4 cup lard (or, for the lard averse, vegetable oil)
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican, crumbled
- 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons fine salt, or 3 to 4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1. To make the Carnitas in your slow cooker, see the Slow Cooker Variation below.
To make the Carnitas on your stovetop, Place all of the ingredients in a wide 6- to 7-quart heavy pot. (Don’t worry if everything isn’t completely submerged.) Bring to a boil, skimming any scum that collects on the surface as necessary. Reduce the heat to medium-lowish and simmer vigorously, stirring occasionally, until the pork is fork-tender and the liquid has completely evaporated, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Discard the orange pieces and bay leaves. (If the liquid hasn’t completely evaporated, transfer the pork to a bowl and continue to simmer the liquid, stirring often, until it disappears.)
- 2. Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C)
- 3. If you’re not using an ovenproof pot, transfer the pork and fat to a dish of some sort that’s ovenproof. If you’re already using an ovenproof pot, you’re all set. Slide the pork into the oven, uncovered, and let it fry in its own fat until it’s browned, 20 to 30 minutes. There’s no need to stir. Serve the carnitas straight from the pot. (Leftover carnitas—as if!–keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
Slow Cooker Variation
- Easiest Carnitas ever. Use only half the liquid in the ingredients list above. Toss everything in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours or, if you’re in a hurry, on high for 6 hours, uncovering the slow cooker for the final 3 hours. Transfer the chunks to a large skillet and, if desired, shred the pork using 2 forks. Heat the pork in the skillet over medium to medium-high heat until it’s crisp at the edges but still knee-weakeningly tender within.
[Editor's Note: Bear in mind, no two slow-cookers are exactly alike, just as no two cooks are exactly alike. This slow-cooker approach worked really, really well for us, although if you have a different slow-cooker cooking technique you want to try by all means, do so. And, natch, we'd love if you'd share it with us in a comment below.]
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Carnitas Recipe © 2011 Roberto Santibañez. Photo © 2011 Romulo Yanes. All rights reserved.