Carnitas de Puerco (or “pork carnitas”) are little chunks of pork from the fattier parts of a pig, like the shoulder, slowly fried until they are meltingly tender on the inside and crispy on the outside.
The challenge with making proper carnitas at home is that the traditional cooking method is to slowly fry at a very low temperature, or confit, them in a large copper pot full of pork lard over a wood fire. This process can take up to four hours, depending on the size of the meat.
Once all of the connective tissue and collagen in the pork has broken down, the heat is turned up, and the pork is fried until it’s crispy on the outside.
Cooking over a large vat of bubbling lard is impractical at home.
We’ve replaced the vat of lard with just a few tablespoons to initially brown the pork. We then add chicken broth and flavorings, then reduce the heat to very low, cover and slowly braise the carnitas for about an hour.
After the carnitas have become super tender, you’ll remove the lid and orange pieces, then crank up the heat to boil off all the moisture. Boiling off the water like this will leave you with the original frying fat as well as the fat that rendered out of the carnitas during the braising process.
You’ll be able to tell that all of the moisture has evaporated out of the fat when the solids and the fat separate. It’ll go from a gravy-like appearance to clear fat with solids swirling in it.
Now, you’ll fry your carnitas in the remaining fat until they’ve crisped up on the outside. About five minutes.
Be careful to continually stir your carnitas while you’re frying. The solids in the fat, such as the bits of orange, the herbs, and onions, will stick to the bottom of your pot if you don’t.
Just keep things moving until the carnitas are golden brown.
Once they’re done, take them out of the pan and place them on a paper towel lined plate to drain.
To make your tacos, gently break up the pieces with a couple of forks as you serve them.
Want a slightly healthier version of carnitas de puerco? Try our braised and broiled carnitas recipe.
Carnitas de Puerco – Pork Carnitas
- 3 tbsp. lard
- 2 lb. boneless pork shoulder - cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1/3 medium white onion - sliced
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/3 large orange - cut into 4 or 5 pieces, with the peel on, seeds removed
- 4 cups chicken stock - (1 quart)
- Heat the lard in your saute pan (a 12-inch saute pan is best) and add the pork. Fry, turning on occasion, until the pork is browned on all sides. About 10 minutes.
- Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly for an additional 8 minutes (be very careful, the fat tends to pop while it cooks). Add the remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer over low heat until the meat is tender, turning over once halfway through. About 60 minutes.
- Remove the lid and discard the orange pieces (I like to squeeze some of the pulp into the carnitas before discarding the oranges). Increase the heat to high, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot until all of the liquid has evaporated. About 10 minutes.
- Once you see the solids separate from the oil, fry an additional 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the outsides of the carnitas are slightly crispy. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.