Yucatan-Style Slow-Roasted Pork

Yucata-style slow-roasted pork piled on a flour tortilla with pickled onions.

Of all the recipes in the cookbook I cowrote with Boston chef Andy Husbands, The Fearless Chef, the one for slow-roasted pork is the one I’m asked for the most. Sometimes I serve it simply, with salsa, sour cream, and tortillas on the side, but trust me, this meat can go into all sorts of recipes, including Cochinita Pibil Tacos, AKA pulled pork tacos.

I’ve simplified this recipe a little from Andy’s original version, cutting out a 24-hour marinating step, replacing the traditional banana leaves with good old aluminum foil, and using one of my favorite smoke stand-ins, Spanish pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika), instead of oregano. The pork is spicy and deeply flavored and colored, thanks in no small part to the large quantity of annatto seeds (also called achiote) that goes into the paste. (These little brick-colored pebbles are worth seeking out at good Latin markets or online through such sources as Penzeys.com.)–Joe Yonan

LC Annatto Annotation

Too lazy or hungry to hold out for finding annatto before making this slow-roasted pork recipe? That didn’t stop some of us from turning out a still quite South-of-the-border-inflected pulled pork, even sans the traditional ingredient. We heard no complaints.

Yucatan-Style Slow Roasted Pork

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 20 M
  • 6 H
  • Makes 4 tacos
5/5 - 1 reviews
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Preheat the oven to 275°F (135°C).

Using a spice grinder or a coffee grinder reserved for spices, grind the peppercorns, annatto seeds, and cumin seeds to a fine powder.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, cilantro, and salt and process until finely chopped. Add the orange, beer, red pepper flakes, allspice, pimenton, ground ancho, and the ground peppercorn mixture and process until a fairly smooth paste forms.

Place a 2-foot sheet of aluminum foil on your work surface. Place the pork in the middle of it. Spread the paste over the pork, coating it on all sides. It may seem as though there’s an obscene amount of paste, but go ahead and use it all. Then tightly seal the pork inside the foil, tucking in the foil all around as you go. Use another long sheet of foil to create a second layer around the pork, being sure to seal it tightly so no steam can escape. Place the pork packet in a roasting pan, add enough water to come a couple inches up the side of the foil-wrapped pork, then use a third piece of aluminum foil to cover and seal the whole pan.

Roast the pork until it is falling apart tender inside its package. You can tell this by inserting a skewer through the top of the foil and into the meat and if it encounters no resistance or, with practice, by pushing on it and discerning the level of falling apartness, 4 to 5 hours. (If you’re not sure, err on the side of longer cooking, as you really can’t overcook this.)

Remove the foil-wrapped roast pork from the pan, transfer to a baking dish and let it cool for at least 30 minutes before slashing open the foil. Discard any large, visible pieces of fat. Then use two forks to shred the meat. Combine the meat with enough of its juices so that the meat is very juicy but not swimming in sauce. If desired, reserve the rest of this sauce for other uses, such as spooning it onto a pulled pork sandwich.

Consume the pulled pork however you like—as is, as tacos, as a pulled pork sandwich—and let any leftovers cool to room temperature. Refrigerate the leftovers for up to 1 week or divide them into 4 to 6 portions, seal in heavy-duty plastic freezer bags, and freeze for up to 6 months.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

This recipe delivers fork-tender pork that’s full of flavours that, at least to me, are unusual and exciting. It’s easy to put together, and is very low-maintenance— once it’s in the oven, it doesn’t need any interference, and once it comes out it’s so easy to shred that it takes only minutes. I’d point out that the pork is very strongly flavoured, and has a slightly bitter edge to it, so pair it with something that will complement this and you’re on to a winner.

I love Sunday dinners like this one. Put a spice-rubbed hunk of meat in the oven for the day while doing other things around the house, and finish the day with a fabulous meal that takes very little effort. The meat came out exactly as promised: lusciously tender.

With so much pepper in the rub, I thought the meat might be spicy, but it wasn’t at all, and it went very nicely with the heat of the habanero salsa. Based on the fumes coming from my food processor, I was concerned about whether we’d actually be able to eat the salsa, but the citrusy flavor of the lime juice and the mellowness of the scallions balanced the heat perfectly. For those who are more sensitive to spicy foods, we found that a small dollop of sour cream and a few slices of guacamole helped temper the heat. We loved this meal and would definitely make it again.

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