Crispy pork carnitas

Be adventurous to work with cheap cuts meat (yet the best quality you can afford) in cooking, you will be pleasantly surprise on the flavours that you would not experience in the common expensive meat cuts.

I love using cheap cuts of meat in cooking, as we do a lot in Asian braises. Common options such as shoulders, belly, and shins are usually packed with flavour and very versatile in cooking. Plus, they are low cost, so they make great family meals.

I have a lot of experience making classic Southern pulled pork, which I serve on burger buns with coleslaw and chips. (Though I say classic, I don’t usually smoke the meat. I just use my household conventional oven.) But since I have been using the same dry rub and cooking method for the past few years, I thought it was time to experiment with something similar, yet different: crispy Mexican carnitas!

In carnitas, we still slow cook the meat in the oven, just like pulled pork, but instead of tossing the finished meat in homemade barbecue sauce, we transfer it into a shallow, ovenproof pan, and broil it in its own juices and fat for 5-10 minutes. Serve it with fresh cilantro, lime wedges, avocado, and home-pickled jalapeños on a taco shell or soft tortilla. It’s a very refreshing kind of meal to feed a big group on a warm summer day, with a cold beer or even a margarita or two!

Many recipes call for Mexican or regular Coca Cola in the marinade, but I just substituted two tablespoons of caster sugar. The whole idea of using citrus juices and Coke is to get that crispy surface on the meat when you broil it at the end. If you don’t want the extra sugar, I suggest you skip it in the slow cooking part of the recipe, then once the meat is ready, taste the juice and adjust the flavour before putting the meat on the broiler.

Enough to fill 8 large soft tortillas or double of small taco shells together with condiments

Ingredients

  • About 1.4 kg pork shoulder, fat trimmed, cut into large chunks
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1.5 tbsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar (optional)
  • 1 heap tbsp ground cumin
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 10 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered

Recipe Preparation

Preheat oven to 150℃, with top and bottom heating and no fan assist.

Put all ingredients into a large cast iron pot, toss well, and bring to a boil at medium high heat. Once it starts boiling, turn heat off and toss everything again. Cover lid and put in oven to slow cook for about 3-4 hours, or until the meat is fork tender. 

Remove pot from the oven and change to broil function or top grilling function at up to 240℃.Transfer meat pieces from pot with tongs to an ovenproof shallow pan. Using two forks, shred meat and spread it out. Strain juice with a fine sieve and reserve it. Discard residue. Taste juice and adjust accordingly.

Ladle 1-2 spoons of fatty juice evenly over shredded meat. Put pan back in oven on middle rack and let broil and brown for about 5-10 minutes. Check after 5 minutes to make sure meat doesn’t get blackened too quickly. When browned and crispy, remove from oven and serve warm on taco shells or soft tortillas, together with avocado, fresh cilantro, corn salsa, pickled jalapeños, and lime wedges.

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