These crispy Dutch oven carnitas are braised until mouthwateringly tender then quickly placed under the broiler until the meat has charred, crisp, edges. These will be the best pork carnitas you'll have!
Pork shoulder is the most underrated cut of meat in the grocery store. You won't find a protein packing more flavor per penny spent. When cooked long and slow, pork shoulder slowly transforms into tender shredded carnitas that have the uncanny ability to soak up whatever flavorings it is bathed in. Perfect for making the best pork carnitas you've ever tried!
What are they?
"Carnitas" means 'little meats', as they typically refer to braised or roasted pork that is cooked until it can be shredded into little pieces. This is what makes these crispy pork carnitas so dang tantalizing! Pork is braised on the stovetop in a pool of Mexican seasonings until it renders down into tender chunks of meat just waiting to lie in a warm tortilla blanket.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Pork shoulder - I often see people using pork loin instead, but boneless pork shoulder is the best cut of meat for this easy recipe. It is sometimes labeled as Boston Butt or Pork Butt even though it is a shoulder cut. Pork loin will work but it costs considerably more money and is too lean. The fattier nature of pork shoulder makes it ideal for longer cooking times because the rendering fat will keep it moist and luxurious.
- Lard - For authentic Mexican carnitas I recommend using lard, but you can substitute vegetable oil for this recipe.
- Dark beer - You can substitute chicken broth as your main cooking liquid if you don't like beer.
- Orange juice - Another citrus can also work, such as grapefruit.
- Yellow onion - Use a red onion for stronger flavor.
- Garlic cloves - Garlic cloves are best, but garlic powder can be substituted.
- Chili powder
- Ground cumin
- Dried oregano - Mexican oregano is best, but regular oregano is also great if that is what you have on hand.
How to Make Crispy Pork Carnitas
There are two important steps in the cooking process to making these Dutch oven carnitas. Even if you decide not to follow my recipe specifically, following my methods will yield exceptionally crispy carnitas.
The first step of the process is to braise your meat on the stove top over medium high heat. True, this can be done in the slow cooker, however, you will extract more flavor if using a Dutch oven, or similar pot.
The reason your Dutch oven is best is because the slow cooker doesn't kick out enough heat to brown the meat, or effectively reduce the braising liquid into a concentrated sauce. Browning the meat takes 5 minutes of your time and creates a rich depth of flavor that simply can't be replicated in a slow cooker.
The final step is broiling the meat. Braising makes the meat exceptionally tender, but broiling it briefly will create crispy edges that really add great texture to the pork tacos. I recommend broiling the pork before you shred it so it doesn't dry out. You are only looking to crisp the exterior of the pork, you don't want to crisp the entire shred.
How to serve them
The best way to serve your pork carnitas is as carnitas tacos. My personal favorite combination is piling the shredded meat into 6" tortilla shells (corn tortillas are popular, but I strongly prefer soft flour tortillas) with roasted tomatillo guacamole, pico de Gallo, fresh cilantro, a smear of sour cream, and a squeeze of lime juice. However, if you are looking for some different ways to serve carnitas try them loaded in burritos, burrito bowls, quesadillas, and piled over nachos.
This pork carnitas recipe will make exceptional leftovers. Simply reheat the carnitas in the microwave till it reaches your desired temperature. If the pork seems dry add a splash of water to rehydrate. Any leftovers should be stored in an airtight container and enjoyed within five days. Otherwise, carnitas freeze well when placed in an appropriate freezer-safe container.
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Dutch Oven Carnitas
- 4 pounds pork shoulder cut into large chunks
- ¼ cup lard (can substitute olive oil)
- kosher salt to taste
- 24 oz dark beer (can substitute chicken broth if you don't like beer)
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1 onion chopped
- 8 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- Heat lard in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Liberally sprinkle salt on pork shoulder pieces then place in dutch oven to brown. Approximately 3-5 minutes per side.
- Once pork has formed a nice crust add remaining ingredients, cover, and reduce heat to low heat.
- Cook for 3 hours, or until pork is tender and easily shredded with a fork.
- Once tender, remove the cooked pork pieces from dutch oven with a slotted spoon (reserving cooking juices) and set on a sheet pan. Place the pork under the broiler until slightly charred. Rotate as needed to prevent excessive burning.
- Transfer pork back to the dutch oven, shred the meat with a fork and combine with the cooking juices. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.
This recipe was originally published on April 1, 2017 on FoxValleyFoodie.com.