Posted April 7, 2007 by Nick Lindauer in Recipes

How to Make: Pork Carnitas

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Carnitas (from the Spanish for “little meats”) is a type of braised or roasted (often after first being boiled) pork in Mexican cuisine. Sometimes it is actually prepared by frying. It can also be made from beef using a chuck roast, although using pork seems to be the more common method.

Pork carnitas is traditionally made using the heavily marbled, rich ‘boston butt’ or ‘picnic ham’ areas of the hog. Contrary to their misleading names, these are neither butt nor ham areas, but rather the upper and lower sections of the front shoulder of the hog. The 6 to 16-lb sections are usually cut down to a workable (6 to 10-lb) size and seasoned heavily before slow braising or slow roasting, generally in the range of 160 to 180 °F for 8 to 12 hours. At this stage the collagen in the meat has broken down sufficiently to allow it to be pulled apart by hand or fork or chopped with a cleaver.

They are often sold by the pound in many Mexican restaurants.

Having been dismantled, some of the rendered liquid is added back to the pork. Prior to serving, the pork is placed in fairly shallow pans to maximize surface area, then roasted at high (375 to 425 °F) heat for a few minutes to produce the famous alternating texture of succulent softness and caramelized crispness.

After a very successful first attempt at making carnitas, I decided to give it another try a few months later with a few recipe tweaks.


  • One 7lb pork butt, cut into 10 large chunks
  • 1 very large onion, quartered
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Peel of 1 orange & the juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 to 3 quarts low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons lard

Pork Carnitas

Step 1:
Place the pork in a large stockpot. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the lard. If the pork is not covered with liquid, add more chicken broth. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, uncover, and simmer until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork, about 3 hours.

Pork Carnitas

Pork Carnitas

Step 2:
Remove the pork from the broth with a slotted spoon and place on a platter. Allow to cool, then pull pork into smaller pieces.

Pork Carnitas
Before & After Baking

Step 3:
Preheat the oven to 450F. Place the lard in a baking dish. Toss in the pork, and then roast in the oven, uncovered, until lightly browned and sizzling, about 30 minutes. Remove and serve.

Pork Carnitas

Step 4:
Eat. I dressed up the carnitas tacos with some guacamole and that’s it – they didn’t need much more then that. The addition of the orange peels and garlic to this recipe was well received and made for slightly sweet pork with a citrus flavor that barely touched the back of the tongue. I will definitely give these a whirl again in the future, with a few more recipe tweaks, you can be sure of that.

Nick Lindauer

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