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Shredded, sauced and crisped—the tender, juicy pork you need for your tacos
Milk Street Bowtie Carnitas

Carnitas

Appears in May-June 2020

4 hours 45 minutes active

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Carnitas

Free

Authentic Mexican carnitas involve slow-cooking pork in lard until fall-apart tender, then increasing the heat so the meat fries and crisps. The fried pork then is broken into smaller pieces for eating. In the U.S., however, carnitas usually is made by simmering pork in liquid, then shredding the meat. The result is moist and tender, but lacks intense porkiness as well as the crisping traditional to carnitas. Our method melds the two techniques. We cook cubes of pork shoulder in 1 cup each of neutral oil and water, along with spices and aromatics, until the meat is fork-tender. We then break the pork into smaller pieces, moisten it with its own juices, and fry it in a hot skillet. The pork gets to keep its flavor and develop crisp bits. If you have a fat separator, it makes quick work of removing the fat from the cooking liquid: pour the liquid into it after removing the pork from the pot, then return the defatted cooking liquid to the pot, but remember to reserve the fat. You can cook, shred and moisten the pork with the reduced cooking liquid up to three days in advance; fry the pork just before serving so it's hot and crisp. And if you like your carnitas extra-crisp, after browning the first side, use the spatula to flip the pork and cook until the second side is well-browned and crisp, another 5 to 7 minutes. You can serve carnitas simply with rice and beans or make tacos with warmed corn tortillas. Either way, pickled red onions are a must—their sharp acidity perfectly balances the richness of the pork. Also offer sliced radishes and salsa, such as our tomatillo-avocado salsa.

4-6

Servings

Tip

Don't trim the fat from the pork shoulder. The pork should render its fat in the oven and so the meat cooks slowly in it and the juices. And after cooking, don't discard the fat you skim off the cooking liquid—you'll need some of it to crisp the shredded pork in a hot skillet.

4 hours

45 minutes active

5-6 pounds boneless pork butt, not trimmed, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
10 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
Ingredients
  • 5-6

    pounds boneless pork butt, not trimmed, cut into 2-inch cubes

  • 1

    large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

  • 10

    medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

  • 2

    tablespoons ground cumin

  • 2

    tablespoons ground coriander

  • 2

    teaspoons dried oregano

  • ½

    teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 1

    cup grapeseed or other neutral oil

Directions
  1. 01
    Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. In a large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven, stir together the pork, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, oregano, thyme, pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in the oil and 1 cup water. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook for 3 hours.
  2. 02
    Remove the pot from the oven. Stir the pork and return the pot, uncovered, to the oven. Cook until a skewer inserted into the meat meets no resistance, another 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer to cool. Tilt the pot to pool the cooking liquid to one side, then use a wide spoon to skim off as much fat as possible; reserve the fat. Bring the defatted cooking liquid to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about ⅓ cup, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  3. 03
    When the meat is cool enough to handle, break the chunks into ¾- to 1-inch pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. Add the pork back to the pot and stir until evenly moistened with the reduced cooking liquid.
  4. 04
    In a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 1 teaspoon of the reserved fat until barely smoking. Add the pork in an even layer and cook without stirring, pressing the meat against the skillet with a spatula, until the bottom begins to brown and the pork is heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Tip: Don't trim the fat from the pork shoulder. The pork should render its fat in the oven and so the meat cooks slowly in it and the juices. And after cooking, don't discard the fat you skim off the cooking liquid—you'll need some of it to crisp the shredded pork in a hot skillet.
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Reviews
Matt M.
June 13, 2022
Amazing Carnitas
I have made this recipe about 5 times now. It is simply amazing! I have learned that it is really important to follow every step precisely and you will have amazing tacos! Don't forget to use NON-STICK when getting that last sear. Unbeknownst to me, the crispy edges work WAY better in a non-stick pan. I didn't even own one but it was well worth the $12 purchase just for these tacos!
Sandra S.

Really delicious and recipe spot-on--only real challenge was separating out the fat from the cooking liquid

Michael G.

I used a fat separator that I have for Thanksgiving... took the hassle out of using the ladle, but it was one more thing I had to wash

Michael G.

So this recipe was great! I was super excited, I made tomatillo and chili salsa to go with it. Family loved it!

Julie P.

delicious. The tacos were great; we used left overs folded with scrambled eggs served with hashbrowns. Yum.

David C.

What I do is spread the meat out on a sheet pan and broil it in the oven until the meat edges start to crisp up. A skillet works well too, but may require more oil.

Pam D.

Good gracious! These were fabulous. Can’t comment further. In desperate need of a contented nap.

Gregg C.

Great recipe and delicious carnitas... after draining the fat I didn't have any cooking liquid left, but they were still moist and very flavorful. Used part to make enchiladas, part for tacos and part to serve at breakfast with eggs.

Mary S.

I'm planning to feed a crowd and debating between by dutch oven and the instant pot. I see both recipes are very similar, except one recipe calls for 3 lbs of pork butt and one calls for 5-6 l bs - yet they both feed 4-6. 5-6 Lbs of boneless meat seems like it would feed a lot more than 4-6 people.

Lynn C.

Hi Mary -

I would definitely go with the traditional recipe. I agree that the 5-6 lbs. of meat should feed more like 6 to 8 people. The traditional recipe is relatively hands-off so I don't think you will find much difference in terms of the work involved between it and the Instant Pot version.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

John J C.

This was one of the more surprising Milkstreet recipes. It seemed like chaos while preparing so I completely doubted it would turn out but was very good.
I added two whole guajillo peppers broken in half to add some smokiness (I'll add 3-4 next time).
In my case the oven time was a little long so the pork was ever so slightly dry but still very good.

Kimberly H.

I live in San Diego and this recipe is spot on for carnitas! It takes time, but is super simple. Yum!


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Carnitas

Get Ready to Cook

4-6

Servings

4 hours

45 minutes active

Tip

Don't trim the fat from the pork shoulder. The pork should render its fat in the oven and so the meat cooks slowly in it and the juices. And after cooking, don't discard the fat you skim off the cooking liquid—you'll need some of it to crisp the shredded pork in a hot skillet.

Ingredients
  • 5-6

    pounds boneless pork butt, not trimmed, cut into 2-inch cubes

  • 1

    large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

  • 10

    medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

  • 2

    tablespoons ground cumin

  • 2

    tablespoons ground coriander

  • 2

    teaspoons dried oregano

  • ½

    teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 1

    cup grapeseed or other neutral oil

Step 1 of 4

Cook Pork

5-6
pounds boneless pork butt, not trimmed, cut into 2-inch cubes
1
large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
10
medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2
tablespoons ground coriander
2
teaspoons dried oregano
½
teaspoon dried thyme
1
teaspoon red pepper flakes
1
teaspoon Kosher salt
1
cup grapeseed or other neutral oil

Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. In a large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven, stir together the pork, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, oregano, thyme, pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in the oil and 1 cup water. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook for 3 hours.

Step 2 of 4

Reduce Defatted Cooking Liquid

Remove the pot from the oven. Stir the pork and return the pot, uncovered, to the oven. Cook until a skewer inserted into the meat meets no resistance, another 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer to cool.


Tilt the pot to pool the cooking liquid to one side, then use a wide spoon to skim off as much fat as possible; reserve the fat. Bring the defatted cooking liquid to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about ⅓ cup, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Step 3 of 4

Continue to Cook Pork

When the meat is cool enough to handle, break the chunks into ¾- to 1-inch pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. Add the pork back to the pot and stir until evenly moistened with the reduced cooking liquid.

Step 4 of 4

Fry Pork

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

In a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 1 teaspoon of the reserved fat until barely smoking. Add the pork in an even layer and cook without stirring, pressing the meat against the skillet with a spatula, until the bottom begins to brown and the pork is heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

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