Carnitas de Puerco directly translates to “little pork meats.” It is, in fact, a Mexican version of pulled pork. What makes it shine, though, is the soft and juicy meat crisped up on the edges.
The challenge for a lot of people is that carnitas are traditionally fried in their own fat. Basically it’s deep-fried, or confit, pork chunks.
Not exactly diet food.
This recipe isn’t exactly diet food either, but we’ve replaced the deep frying process for braising, then broiling the pork to crisp it up.
One thing we don’t do when cooking our carnitas is use the traditional method of cooking them. We’ve adapted a technique developed by Cook’s Illustrated that uses far less fat and tastes just as good.
Typically, you would confit the chunks of pork in lard, then take them out and fry them in a pan until crispy.
What we do is braise the pork in chicken stock, a cup of Mexican Coca-Cola for caramelization (Mexican Coke uses sugar rather than corn syrup, use regular if you have to), along with spices and citrus, then crisp them up under the broiler.
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To crisp up your carnitas, you will pull them into chunks with a couple of forks, fold some of the reduced broth back into them, then put them under the broiler for five minutes, flip, then broil again for another three minutes.
You don’t want to broil them too long, or they’ll end up dry.
After you’ve finished crisping them up, pull them apart even further with your forks, and they’re ready to stuff into some tortillas.
To serve, put the carnitas into some toasted corn tortillas with your favorite toppings.
I like to put out several different toppings and let people assemble their own.
Here are a few things that go great with carnitas:
- Pickled red onions
- Roasted tomato and jalapeno salsa
- Cheese (a crumbly cheese like queso fresco works great)
- Shredded cabbage and radishes
- Sliced limes
Slightly Healthier Pork Carnitas
- 3 lb. pork shoulder - cut into 2-inch by 2-inch chunks
- 1 large yellow onion - peeled and quartered
- 1 medium orange - quartered, with the skin left on
- 6 cloves garlic - peeled and lightly smashed
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 large lime - quartered, with the skin left on
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. Mexican oregano
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1/2 cup Mexican Coke (or original Coke in the glass bottles)
- 6 cups chicken stock - or just enough to cover the pork
- Cut the pork shoulder into 2-inch by 2-inch cubes. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt, cover, and leave on counter for one hour prior to cooking.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Add everything to the pot and stir well. The orange and lime should be squeezed first before being thrown in.
- Bring to a simmer on the stovetop. Cover and move to oven and cook for 2 1/2 hours, or until very tender, stirring once halfway through.
- Remove from oven, then spoon the meat into one dish and discard the remaining solid ingredients. Reduce liquid to about one cup at a high boil.
- Gently pull the pork into smaller pieces, then fold about 1/2 a cup of the reduced liquid back into the pulled meat.
- Broil on center rack in oven until starting to crisp on top. About 5 minutes. Flip with a metal spatula, then broil another 3 minutes. Pull with forks into smaller strands and serve.
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