Friday, May 7, 2010

Pork Carnitas

Cooking is simple and laid back at Hearth Cricket these days, and one of the easiest dishes is pork carnitas, or slow roasted pork that is then shredded, or pulled. K is inordinately fond of shredded meat.

"Can you shred the chicken for the soup instead of chopping it?" he asks.

"Um, sure," I say.

"Can you shred the ham for the quiche?" he asks.

"What? No. Go play golf."

Last week spring turned chilly on us again, the perfect time to fill the house with the heady aroma of something braising in the oven all day.

Yep. Eight hours.

First, there's the spice rub. It's easy to make a bunch of this at once and keep it in a jar in the freezer. It's good for pork chops on the grill, baby back ribs braised in orange juice, or even mixed into a hamburger.

Spice Rub
  • 3 parts chili powder
  • 2 parts ground cumin
  • 2 parts brown sugar
  • 1 part garlic powder
  • 1/2 part ground thyme
  • 1/4 part cayenne
  • 1/4 part allspice
Pork Carnitas
  • 1 - 3 to 5 pound pork shoulder roast (also known as pork butt or pork shoulder butt-- I know, it doesn't make any sense, but there you go)
  • Spice rub
  • 1 or 2 limes

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Thoroughly cover the roast with the spice rub. Place meat, fat side up, directly on the bottom (no rack) in a roasting pan not much larger than the pork. Squeeze the juice from half of a lime over it so that it soaks into the spice rub. Make sure the pan has high enough sides to contain the drippings -- there will be a lot, and the lower part of the roast will braise in them during the later part of cooking. I line the pan with heavy duty aluminum.

Roast at 450 degrees for half an hour, uncovered. Then cover tightly with aluminum foil and reduce heat to 250 degrees for 8 hours. Every two hours or so, remove the meat from the oven and squeeze a little lime juice over it, recover, rotate the pan, and return to the oven.

When it's done, it'll be falling apart, and most of the considerable amount of fat will have cooked out. Remove from the drippings and allow to cool enough to handle, then slice or shred.

The pork is good as is, makes a great addition to chili, goes great with beans and rice, and it's a hit with kids of all ages mixed with barbecue sauce and served on a bun. Our favorite way to eat carnitas, though, is as a filling for tacos. And for that, I go one step further.

After the pork is shredded, mix some of the drippings back in. Then some more, so that it's nice and moist. Then spread on a cookie sheet (I just used the heavy duty foil I originally used to cover the roast) and put back into a 350 degree oven. If you have a convection feature, this is a good time to use it, but it's not necessary. Check after fifteen minutes, stir, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. The shredded pork browns in the spicy drippings, and the edges get just a bit crispy.

So good wrapped in a corn or flour tortilla with a little shredded cabbage or lettuce, salsa, sour cream and guacamole!


  1. One of my husband's favorite food is Carnitas. He picks up a bag of it every so often from the corner Carne store. But, down here in Mexico it's much easier to find.


  2. I think I'll try that spice rub on chicken...yum

  3. I have a favorite spice rub for spareribs. I'll have to try this one. My juices are flowing and I'm hungry!

  4. Clarissa, we do have una tienda carne here, but I haven't stopped in yet. I hear their tortillas are awesome.

    Patricia, the spice rub is good on salmon, too, especially if you add a little more brown sugar.

    Linda, I'd love to know what's in your favorite spice rub.