Save it
Share it

The Best Carnitas {Mexican Pulled Pork}

The best carnitas

The Best Carnitas {Mexican Pulled Pork} is cooked in the oven, then broiled! This gives the pork amazing flavor and is perfect for tacos, burritos, or quesadillas!

Whenever I’m looking for a complete knock-out recipe, I always turn to America’s Test Kitchen for inspiration. As crazy as this sounds, as I’m plugging’ away on the elliptical each day trying to burn off calories from indulging in desserts like Fried Ice Cream Cake, I watch past episodes of America’s Test Kitchen. And on a recent episode, I watched them create this insanely delicious looking recipe for Carnitas. I hadn’t made homemade carnitas, simply because the thought of heating a pot of oil to fry the pork did NOT sound like something I was up for, but they showed me that no oil is required to get fabulous results!

For those of you unfamiliar with carnitas, it’s typically pork that’s been cooked in a big pot of lard. Yes, fatty pork slow-fried in port fat. While delicious, I had absolutely no intention of buying a few pounds of lard to cook a few pounds of pork in. This non-traditional method that I’m going to show you today eliminates the lard, and the frying, but still produces an amazing result!

You will start with around 4 pounds of boneless pork butt. Make sure there is no bone, otherwise you’re going to have a hard time with the next step which involves cutting the meat into small 2-inch chunks before cooking it. You will need an oven-safe dutch oven to get this recipe started. Toss the 2-inch chunks of meat in the dutch oven, and to it add 2 cups water, juice from 1 lime,1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 2 bay leaves, and an onion that has been peeled at halved. In a small bowl, juice 1 large navel orange. Discard any seeds, then toss the orange and the juice from the orange in the pot. The orange is going to produce great flavor!

Heat the dutch-oven to medium-high heat on the stovetop. Allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes. The goal here is to get everything up to temperature pretty quickly before placing it in the oven. After the mixture has simmered for about 10 minutes, cover it and place it in a 300 degree oven. At this point it’s going to cook for a good 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. You’ll stir the meat halfway through the cooking process.

 

The best carnitas 3

When the meat is tender, you’ll take it out of the oven and use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the cooking liquid. Discard the orange, onion pieces, and bay leaves from the dutch oven. Next, you will place the dutch oven back on the stove over high heat. Your goal now is to reduce the liquid down until it is thick and almost syrup like. This process will take about 15 minutes. While the liquid is reducing down, you’ll take two fork to split each piece into two so that you’re left with smaller chunks of meat like what you see above.

The best carnitas 4

The liquid should reduce down to about a cup. I know it seems impossible when you first start because there is a lot of liquid, but it’ll happen, just be patient! Arrange the meat on a rimmed baking sheet, toss with a little salt and pepper and when the cooking liquid has reduced down to about a cup, pour it over the meat and toss to coat. Place the meat in the broiler, on high for about 8 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the meat, then cook for another 8 minutes longer. When the meat is starting to crisp up and looks golden brown, you’re done.

The best carnitas 5

Carnitas work wonderfully for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and whatever else you can think of! I used the carnitas for tacos the first time around, and then used the leftovers for quesadillas. The crispy little pieces of pork are so flavorful and delicious, you will find yourself craving it! While this is not the authentic way to cook carnitas (Rick Bayless would likely not approve of this method!), it’s a bit easier and also a bit healthier.

The best carnitas 6

This recipe will feed a crowd! And while it does take a bit of time to make, it’ll be worth it, I promise! :)

The Best Carnitas {Mexican Pulled Pork}

The best carnitas 2

Prep Time: 15mn
Cook Time: 2hr 30mn
Total Time: 2hr 45mn

CARNITAS INGREDIENTS

  • 4 pound boneless pork but, cut into 2 inch chunks (remove any excess fat)
  • 2 cups water
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large naval orange, halved
  • Salt, pepper

TACO INGREDIENTS

DIRECTIONS

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Cut the boneless pork into 2 inch chunks.
  3. In a large dutch oven heated over medium-high heat, combine pork, water, lime juice, cumin, bay leaves, dried oregano, juice from orange, orange halves, and onion halves. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then cover and transfer to the oven.
  4. Bake for about 2 hours, stirring halfway through. When the meat is tender, remove the dutch oven from the oven.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the dutch oven and transfer it to a large bowl. Discard the bay leaves, orange halves, and onion halves. Place the dutch oven with the cooking liquid on the stove over high heat. At this point you want to reduce the liquid down to about a cup. It will be a thick almost syrup like consistency. This will take about 15 minutes.
  6. While the liquid is reduce, turn the broiler on to high, and take two forks to split each piece of meat into two so that yo are left with smaller pieces of meat.
  7. Transfer the meat pieces to a rimmed baking sheet. When the liquid has reduced down to a cup, pour it over the meat mixture and toss to coat.
  8. Place the meat in the broiler for about 8 minutes, then use a spatula to flip the meat and cook it for 8 minutes longer. When the meat is crispy, it’s done.
  9. Use the carnitas for tacos, quesadillas, or burritos.

Other Recipes To Try

Comments (22)

Write a Comment
  1. Brenda Christenson Belzer

    This sounds so much better than the boiling in oil way I was taught to make carnitas! So much more healthy!!!

  2. Brenda Christenson Belzer Yes! The thought of heating a bit ole pot of lard did not sound like something I was up for! This turned out really flavorful and delicious, and no oil or lard required! :)

  3. These were good especially when made by such a good cook like you :-)

  4. Lisa Ruiz – you are too kind, thank you. :)

  5. Kathy Mayotte – please try again, it should work: [centercutcook.com]

  6. Kathy Davis Mayotte

    I’m still getting the link not found error. I can find the recipe if I search for it, but I can’t link to the recipe through the search either. I tried in Chrome and Explorer.

  7. Do you think I could do this in a crock pot ?

    • Hi Sandi, without trying it myself, I’m hesitant to give you an answer one way or the other. If you cooked the pork in the slow cooker, you’d definitely want to still finish it in the broiler.

  8. I too am a huge fan of America’s Test Kitchen – I made this recipe from one of their cookbooks and it ROCKS!! Disclaimer: I have never made carnitas any other way, nor have I eaten any not made from this recipe, but these are so good, I don’t see what I could possibly be missing!

  9. These look so good! I only have two problems(maybe), I don’t have a Dutch oven, just a cast iron skillet, which is relatively deep, and I have pork chops I need to use. I’d like to use them for this because I don’t want just another pork chop dinner. Do you think I’ll have any big issue using my cast iron and chops?

  10. could you fix up to the point of reducing the broth and just freeze it for a later date than? Freezing the broth and the meat separate

  11. Judy Chitwood Echeandia

    This is OUTSTANDING! And has fast become a family favorite! Thank you! :-)

  12. Would you happen to have a recipe for the steak they have at Chipotle? My husband and I LOVE it, and I’d like to make my own, but don’t know where to start. Definitely will be trying this one though.

  13. This is outstanding. We fixed it and everyone wanted the recipe!

  14. We made these last night and oh wow. Perfect! When I was cooking I was concerned about how simple the recipe was and was certain I had missed something. Follow this easy recipe and be sure to heat your tortillas and serve with cilantro, red onions or sour cream!

    Is there a chorizo or steak recipe similar to this?..

  15. I made Korean style shredded beef ones last nite and topped them with slaw and avacado! They were awesome.

  16. Making them right now. Added a jalapeno for spice and a cup ofbeer for one cup of water. Can’t wait till they are done. My house smells amazing.

  17. Makes me think if souvlaki … Add some tzaziki!

  18. I followed your directions to the “t”. Oh my goodness! Soooo darn good! Thanks for this!

Write a Comment



Message is the only required field.
Emails are not published.