Carnitas are the stuff of Mexican food magic. I've been experimenting for ages, trying dozens of recipes, techniques and tips from online, friends, cookbooks, and through shady back-alley dealings to find a way to make knock-your-socks-off restaurant quality pork carnitas at home. I have a big, hungry family, and I like to be able to make big batches of food that will last beyond a single evening's meal.
With the glee of a taco lover on Tuesdays, I'm pleased to share that I've perfected my own recipe for family-style carnitas that come out beautifully every time and taste just as good as the ones I've had at my favorite Mexican restaurants. So, without further ado, here's my recipe for carnitas for your tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, breakfast scrambles, and more. Enjoy!
California-Style Pork Carnitas
(yield: 3 pounds)
6-7 pound boneless pork butt/shoulder
kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder
Fresh orange wedges
Fresh lime wedges
Step 1: Season pork liberally with salt, pepper and garlic powder on all sides. Over high-heat in a large sauté pan or cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Sear pork on all sides (look for a golden brown crust). Remove from heat and wrap in a double layer of foil. Set on a wire rack placed on a foil wrapped baking sheet (for easy cleanup later).
Step 2: Bake in a 265° F oven for 8 hours.
Step 3: Remove from oven. Remove foil. Place cooked pork in a large bowl. Use two forks to shred.
At this point, if you don't plan on serving all the pork at once, you can set some aside to save in the refrigerator, while you pan-fry the amount you're going to use. The pulled pork will keep for a week in the refrigerator and can be pan fried on demand.
Step 4: To get the crispy, caramelized exterior on your pork that makes carnitas so incredible, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large sauté pan or cast-iron skillet. When oil is nearly smoking hot, add a single layer of shredded pork. Squeeze an orange wedge over the pork and toss the depleted wedge of orange into the pan as well. Let pork sit over high heat until golden brown on one side. Use a spatula to flip over, and brown other side. Once your carnitas are nice and golden and crispy, give them a taste. Season with a little salt or pepper if needed. Discard the piece of orange. Serve carnitas with wedges of fresh lime.
I like to serve my carnitas with fresh ancho peppers, seeded, sliced, and sautéed till soft and blistered in a bit of olive oil.