Carnitas is where it's at, folks! I always order carnitas tacos at the taco truck … those crispy bits of pork are amazing! I've got a few different recipes for carnitas, but my daughter ... hence the name: Emily's Crispy Carnitas ... made this one recently and it is definitely good enough to keep on rotation in the menu planning.
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Emily found the original recipe quite a while ago on a popular blog. You might have heard of the Pioneer Woman? Yeah, well, if you haven't, you need to get your head out from under that rock! She's been around awhile and not only has a presence with her blog, but you've probably seen her on TV ... if you watch food shows. And as good of a cook as she is, Emily and I agreed on a few changes that make this dish a bit more according to our tastes.
What we changed
To start with, she called her recipe "spicy shredded pork", but we didn't find it spicy at all. We weren't really after spice, but if you're going to advertise it …. well, it should be spicy. It's rather similar to carnitas and as such, that's how we usually refer to it!
We usually use a 4-pound-ish pork shoulder roast and we cut the strings off of it. I'll tell why in just a moment.
Then we increased some of the spices a little bit, changed them up a little bit, added lime zest and juice, and used apple cider vinegar. Just whir all of that up in the bowl of your food processor or blender along with garlic, onion, and a little olive oil until you get a pasty kind of mixture.
And THIS step is why we cut the strings off. You pour that pasty mixture all over the meat and get in there with your hands and rub it all over the meat, in between all the pieces and be sure that no surface goes untouched. If the meat stays tied up, then the parts that are in the middle never see the spice mixture until it is shredded apart. And we can't have that. And yes, you have to use your hands. There's no way around it.
We also don't add any water, or any liquid for that matter. Except for maybe a squeeze of the lime that I zest. Why water down the absolutely gorgeous flavor of pork and amazing seasonings when as it cooks, it will generate its own juices and be so concentrated that it will knock your socks off?!
Ways to cook the carnitas
We make Emily's Crispy Carnitas in the oven because those flavors really have a chance to meld together over the long period of time that it takes to cook low and slow. You'll go out of your mind with hunger cravings while it cooks because IT.SMELLS.SO.GOOD!!! But it's so worth it! You could also cook it in a slow cooker (I don't recommend it, but if you insist, I can't stop you), or in a pressure cooker.
When it's fork tender, you shred it apart, turn the oven up and let it get a wee bit crispy in its own fat. You guys … I mean, I hardly have words for that texture. It's amazing … and also the reason you shouldn't use a slow cooker.
How to serve
Of course, you can pile Emily's Crispy Carnitas into a tortilla, or make a bowl with rice. Top it with sour cream, guacamole, radishes, jalapenos, cilantro … anything your heart desires!
Other recipes you might enjoy with your carnitas!
- 4 pounds pork shoulder roast
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 Tablespooons salt
- pepper to taste
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 lime zested
- 3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup brown sugar or coconut palm sugar
- 1 medium onion roughly chopped
- 1-2 Tablespoon olive oil
- lime, cilantro, chopped onion, sour cream for serving
- Heat oven to 300°F.
- Pat the pork dry, cut off the strings, and place in a large Dutch oven.
- Combine all the other ingredients, except the ones for serving, in the bowl of a food processor or the jar of a blender. Process or blend until well mixed.
- Pour the mixture over the pork and using your hands, be sure that all the surfaces are covered with the spice mixture. Cover the Dutch oven.
- Put the Dutch oven in the preheated oven and let cook for 4-6 hours until fork tender.
- When fork tender, remove the Dutch oven to a heat-proof surface and increase the oven heat to 450°F. Shred the meat apart using two forks and return the Dutch oven, uncovered, to the oven for 15-20 minutes to crisp.
- Serve in tortillas or over rice with limes, cilantro, chopped onion, sour cream, and any other topping your heart desires!
- Bon Appétit!