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May 25, 2009 08:06 AM

Beef carnitas?

Although I grew up eating carnitas (not regularly, but I lived in SoCal), I don't eat pork any longer, but have been wondering . . . would it be possible to make beef or chicken carnitas? Is there some cut or preparation that would work? How are carnitas made, anyway -- is this possible with non-pork?

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  1. Carnitas, literally translated, means little meats. In the literal sense, yes, you can chop up anything, and label it carnitas.

    In the culinary sense, carnitas is pork fried in lard. Usually shoulder, or butt, or ribs with among other things, orange rind for flavoring.

    I'm seeing a lot of non carnitas things being called carnitas these days. If you are looking for a beef prep that's similar, maybe fry up a heavy collagen cut, and see what happens? Chicken would be the same. you're simply talking fried chicken with no breading.

    Beef and chicken are not carnitas though.
    "Cesina" might be an equivalent to carnitas. It's usually either decribed as dried beef, or fried beef. Just a thought

    1. Most traditional forms of carnitas are not usually fried but braised then roasted. I see no problem using beef or chicken as long as you use fatty or well marbled cuts. I use a braising liquid of cilantro root, cumin, onion, garlic, sea salt and jalepenos with just enough liquid to cover the chunks of meat. Some people like to have chunks while others prefer loosely pulled pieces of meat. Braise it to your satisfaction, just make sure that you use a low to moderate temp and slow cook the meat. Be brave with your braising liquid as well. I have Panamanian friends who use Coca Cola to braise in.

      Good luck and good eats!