I love carnitas. Well, let me clarify, I love good carnitas. I’ve had bad carnitas and, well, not only do I not love bad carnitas, when I’ve had bad carnitas, the experience was traumatic. But good carnitas? Well, good carnitas are downright irresistible. It’s definitely one of my favorite meat dishes.
I live in Southern California where Mexican food is as common as a hamburger, so we’ve been eating carnitas for years, even pre-Chipotle. I think most people probably know about carnitas nowadays, but in case you are wondering what the heck I am talking about, carnitas (which translates as “little meats”) is a Mexican pork dish where the pork is cooked for a long time and comes out all tender and delicious like.
As you now know, I love these ‘little meats’ a lot, but for some reason I never thought of making carnitas myself. But last week I was like, “Self, why don’t you make your own carnitas already?” And I was like, “Self, you are totally right.” And then I did. And it was awesome.
Here’s the thing. The carnitas came out perfectly. So so so so good. And it was crazy easy to make. Also, pork shoulder is my new favorite cut of meat. I am for sure going to use it next time we do Korean BBQ beef tacos. Why was I so clueless about pork shoulder and the fact that homemade carnitas is basically the best thing EVER? And I call myself a food blogger!
I had googled carnitas recipes and read through a whole bunch of them and was leaning towards Melissa D’Arabian’s recipe. Then Sara commented on my menu a few weeks ago specifically saying to try that recipe, even though I hadn’t mentioned it, so I figured it was meant to be. The recipe was fabulous and is definitely the one I will use from here on out. Maybe I should do some experimenting but, honestly, when something is this good why mess with it?
- 2½ pounds bone-in pork shoulder (2 pounds boneless)
- Salt (I like kosher, especially for the final step, but it's not necessary)
- Black pepper (freshly ground if you have it, regular if you don't)
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 4 cloves of garlic, pushed through a garlic press or minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, cut into quarters
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and ribs removed, roughly chopped
- 1 orange
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Rinse and dry the pork shoulder. Salt and pepper liberally. Place pork shoulder in a slow cooker.
- Mix together the oregano, cumin, garlic and olive oil. Spread half of the oil mixture on one side of the pork shoulder, flip over and then rub the rest of the oil mixture on the other side of the pork shoulder.
- Place the onion and jalapeno in the slow cooker with the meat. I put some of the veggies on top and some around the edges.
- Cut the orange in half and then squeeze the juice into the slow cooker. Place the two orange halves in the slow cooker.
- Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4 hours (I cooked it on low for 8 hours). Flip the meat over halfway through cooking.
- Once the meat is super tender, turn off the slow cooker and remove the meat. Pull the meat apart with a fork, discarding bone if using bone-in shoulder.
- Heat vegetable oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Sprinkle pan liberally with more salt. Evenly layer the carnitas in the pan once the pan is hot and cook just one side until you get a nice crispy edge on the meat touching the pan.
- Remove from heat, stir together, do a little taste test and add a bit of salt if needed (probably not needed, but check anyway).
- Serve with fresh cilantro, salsa, hot sauce and tortillas. You could also add other items to your taco (rice, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, guac, etc), but Nate and I found that the carnitas were just so good it was better to have a simply-dressed taco.