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Carnitas | Mexican Braised and Fried Pork

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?

Carnitas Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 2 H
  • Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  • 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. Just toss everything in the slow cooker, reducing the amount of water by at least 1 cup, and cook on low, covered the entire time, for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 6 to 8 hours, or until the pork is tender and falls apart. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chunks of pork to a large skillet, leaving the cooking liquid in the cooker. If desired, shred the pork using 2 forks (or your fingertips if you like things messy). Heat the pork in the skillet over medium to medium-high heat until crisp at the edges but still knee-weakeningly tender within. If desired, dribble a little of the strained cooking liquid over the pork before serving to moisten and flavor it. (If the cooking liquid is quite watery, pour it into a saucepan and simmer until it reduces to the desired consistency.) Want more details for using your slow cooker with this recipe? Check out what our testers had to say in the TC comments below.

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