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May 17, 2006 03:31 PM

Carnitas Recipe

  • j

Anybody have a quality and authentic Carnitas recipe. I have read many conflicting methods and I've found myself confused.

I am willing to go long and strong. I do not fear pork.

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  1. The most authentic method is to 'simmer' the pork chunks in lard.

    15 Replies
    1. re: paulj

      The best carnitas I've ever had are found in Tijuana in a restaurant called Carnitas Uruapan (Boulevard Agua Caliente No. 12650) across from the race track. They have a huge copper cauldron of simmering lard in the parking lot and throw the pork shoulders in whole.

      1. re: Christine

        I have to agree - lard is the way to go.

        Here's what I do.

        Pork Shoulder
        Orange Peel

        Cut the pork shoulder (as much big as you like) into very large chunks. In a big pot, melt enough lard to just cover the chunks. Add in the peel of one orange. Simmer the pork slowly in the lard for an 90 minutes. The pork should not brown during this time. If it starts to, turn down the heat. after 90 minutes, turn up the heat to medium high. Watch closely. When the pork has browned nicely, remove from the lard (will probably be around 15 minutes more) and set it on paper towells or newspaper or whatever. Give it a shake of salt. The pork will break up easily. You can either just break it up with your hands or chop it into large chunks.

        foolproof and so amazingly good.

        1. re: adamclyde

          Is lard found at Mexican markets?

          Also, orange peel...a surprising ingredient. Is it "authentic", or your touch...

          (By the way, I add orange peel to my turkey brine--fabulous.)

          1. re: Funwithfood

            I actually learned the orange peel from my sister in law's mother, who grew up in mexico. I've since seen it rather frequently in various recipes and at good carnitas places. So, not sure if everyone does it, but it certainly has some credence back in the "homeland." It gives it a subtle flavor and color boost as well.

            Yes, you can always find lard (manteca) at mexican groceries. It's usually in a tub behind the meats.

            Good luck!

            1. re: adamclyde

              just found this recipe, which at the end explains why the addition of orange is important (they use orange slices, not just peel). Thought you'd enjoy...


          2. re: adamclyde

            ok, i'm game, i want to try it, but i have a few reservations and they are as follows:
            -simmering in lard, does it totally stink up the joint? will my house smell like lard for days after?
            -how do i dispose of three pounds of lard (as the other recipe calls for)? will it harden back up when it cools? do i just throw it away after that? can i re-use it for something else?
            -do i cover the pot while it is simmering or leave it uncovered? (if i leave it uncovered, can i put a spatter screen over it so i don't get that fine film of grease everyhwere?


            1. re: Jupiter

              I have seen this method done only in large batches- outside on top of a propane burner...I don't think I'd do it inside- but we have alot of GREAT carnitas locally. You can strain the lard while liquid- I don't know what one could cook in it with out pork flavor. The lard will solidify. You could scrape the lard back into the tub it came in. If you were a really neat person- you could make suet cakes with it!!

              1. re: JalamaMama

                Suet Cakes??? Tell me more. Please

                1. re: JockY

                  Suet cakes are for the outside creatures to eat in the winter time. You take a slab of lard and press seeds into it, put it outside and they eat it. You can even buy suet cakes. The lard gives them some kind of benefit to keep warm - not sure of the science of it.

                  1. re: danhole

                    Too bad. I was thinking it might be like the suet dumplings my mother used to put in stews when I was a kid.

                    1. re: danhole

                      I melt the lard then pour it into a pyrex dish and then pour bird seed (only black oil sunflower seed - those other kinds of seed are just filler) and set it out. This method ensures seed throughout. The warmth comes from just having enough calories to burn to keep the little birds warm.

                2. re: Jupiter

                  Smelly kitchen? Yeah, there's that probability. I don't have a hood so I deep fry outside using my electric fryer.

                  Dispose? Like bacon grease, you should be able to strain and refrigerate for later use. For frying more pork. If this sounds inconvenient, cool, wrap and throw it away.

                  Cover it? It'll spatter mostly right when you put the meat in. Be careful. After that, you're pretty safe.

                  1. re: Jupiter

                    Pork cooked in pure lard (no preservatives) smells heavenly. Yes, it will scent the house for a few days, but it's neither strong nor disagreeable. Heaven.

                    I've started to save the drained fat from the pork shoulder roasts I do in the dutch oven. A wee bit adds so much to refired beans and other dishes.

                3. re: Christine

                  I know exactly where that place is at, I have ben going there since I was a kid. I agree they have the best carnitas ever. I do have my own verson of a recipe, that I learned at a very high end restaurant that won me over as well.
                  1 whole pork shoulder
                  1 Tsp coriander seeds
                  1 Tsp cumin seeds
                  1 Tsp black pepper corns
                  1 large orange sliced in rounds
                  8 whole garlic cloves
                  2 bay leaf

                  Place the pork shoulder in a roasting pan fill pan until the pork is fully sumerged in vegetable oil. Add the rest of the ingredients, cover with foil. Place in a preheated oven around 275 degrees for about 3 hours. Shred with a fork, serve with warm tortillas and tomatillo salsa...yum

              2. I find Farmer Johns lard under the tortilla shelf/end of isle in the store. Or you can check the bottom shelf near the olive/canola oils- or the baking section maybe?

                2 Replies
                1. re: JalamaMama

                  I would strongly advise anyone making carnitas or any other Mexican dish that requires lard to, if at all possible, avoid the Farmer John's product or any other brand of the foul tasting, hydrogenated/preserved white bricks. If available go to a Mexican market/carniceria and buy freshly made lard. It's not expensive, usually tan in color and often comes in those round plastic containers with a snap on lid. Compared to the white bricks, the flavor is wonderful, trust me!

                  1. re: sel

                    Those same stores as well as supermarket chains like Food 4 Less in Latino neighborhoods also usually carry pork fat that you can chop and render for lard yourself. The advantage is that you know exactly what you're getting, and after you strain the final product you'll have delicious cracklings for tossing into beans, soups, cornbread batter, etc.


                2. Let me just say you don't need to cook up 6 lbs of carnitas at a time. You can use 2 lbs of pork shoulder steak and the results will be just as good. Using only a cup or so of lard. This is my mothers recipe which was her fathers before her. He was born and raised in mexico.

                  Season cubed pork with salt, pepper, cumino and mexican oregano.
                  Add seasoned pork to rendered lard along with finely diced onion, 3 cloves finely minced garlic, 1 orange sliced and a bunch of chopped cilantro.
                  Simmer over medium low heat for 1 hour in a covered dutch oven.
                  After 1 hour remove cover and raise heat and cook until pork has become crispy.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: EricShawnSmith

                    oh great googleemooglee....THANK YOU ERIC for the most authentic recipe....we made this today and were transported back to mexico....we have been searching for a good recipe for a long time

                    and thanks to SEL also for suggesting we purchase fresh lard at a mexican was only $1 for a huge tub


                  2. Cant find it on the web but Bon Appitte did a great issue on Mexican food. For Carnitas they used fatty country style ribs with simmered in water with some other stuff orange peel and brandy for sure. Anywho cooks unconvered for a while then finishes cover off till water is gone. Rendered fax get the pork crispy. I'll look again for a link


                    16 Replies
                    1. re: don515

                      I don't think it is on the Epicurious site. I've looked a few times. Luckily I have the March 2003 issue it was printed in. I'll post the ingredients later when I find it.

                      1. re: JockY

                        thanks - I have searched for it there too to no avail. :) Looking forward to it!

                        1. re: foxy fairy

                          Darned if I can find it anywhere but I swear the recipe came from epicurious.

                          It consisted of simmering a pork shoulder in water with garlic, oregano, orange juice and some other spices for several hours. Once the pork is soft and the water has evaporated, fry the remaining chunks in its own remaining fat to crisp. Incredible stuff....I've only made it once but I need to find the recipe again!

                          1. re: FlyerFan

                            This is for 4# of pork country style ribs or shoulder cut into 2 or 3 inch chunks:

                            add 2 cups water, 1 1/2 cups OJ, zest from an orange, 1 tsp sea salt and 6 cloves of garlic to the meat in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 2 hours. Remove the cover and boil another 15 minutes or so. Add 1/4 cup of brandy and cook till the liquid has evaporated. The pork will start to crisp up as it frys in its own fat.

                            I usually do this in a 12" stainless steel chicken fryer and finish it in a non stick saute pan where the pork won't stick and burn.

                            BTW, I was mistaken - this was in the May 2003 issue and not the March issue.

                            1. re: JockY

                              Here's a link, it turns out great every time! I add cumin, a splash of oj, and some jalapeños or chiles to the simmering liquid. If it doesn't reduce as fast as I want it to, I pour off some of the liquid. Also, I often use Boston Butt, pork shoulder, or other similar cuts if they are on sale. The time that it takes for the meat to become tender is usually longer than the recipe states.


                              1. re: Candice

                                That's the one Candice. It never showed up when I did a recipe search???

                                1. re: JockY

                                  I have it book marked now because it's listed under "Crispy Pork" and in my mind I'm always thinking carnitas. Great recipe though!

                                  1. re: Candice

                                    No kidding. It's one of my all time favorites.

                                2. re: Candice

                                  Just wanted to add that this recipe is indeed fabulous. I have made it several times with excellent results.
                                  I was just looking for it a few minutes ago on Epicurious and couldn't find it either!
                                  Bookmarking so I don't lose it again.

                              2. re: FlyerFan

                                Your recipe may be in this thread from last summer. Let me know if it is.

                                1. re: FlyerFan

                                  ....sounds like you've got it to me. Not rocket science, go for it!

                                  1. re: FlyerFan

                                    This month's CoTM, Gourmet Today, has what looks liked a great recipe for Carnitas on page 469. It calls for marinading the pork in fresh orange zest and juice and other spices and cooking the pork in lard, water and milk. It is one of the recipes I am going to try this month.

                                    1. re: crafteeidea

                                      Please report back. Sounds delicious!

                                  2. re: foxy fairy

                                    This is really more a matter of technique than ingredients. In fact you don't want many non-meat solids and flavorings left in the pot at the end when you are crisping the meat. They will just burn.

                                    1. re: foxy fairy

                                      I typed in "authentic cartinas recipe" and epicuriouses recipe came up.

                                    2. re: JockY

                                      Epicurious calls it "Little Meats" maybe that's why you couldn't find it.

                                  3. Thanks Jocky Candice and Flyer Fan
                                    for doing my follow up! It sucks when you cant find "that" recipe. In that same issue the salsa and Guacamole go perfect with Carnitas and the snapper vera cruz is great (also healthy) best part is make extra sauce and freeze so you are good to go the next time!



                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: don515

                                      I'm so glad you asked and the links were found (thanks to all of you!). I tried the recipe tonight and it definitely is a keeper.

                                      I read through all the comments and the only changes I made to it tonight were to add a bit of cumin, and I cooked proportionally with two pounds of boneless pork shoulder ribs rather than four. Next time, I'll add even more cumin, cut the amount of orange juice in order to add some lime juice to the liquid, and perhaps add some medium intensity chilis.

                                      Overall, it was super simple with great flavor!