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Carnitas

One of the simplest things you'll ever make.  And also one of the best.  How is that possible?

Carnitas taco, topped with avocado slices and pico de gallo. Made in the Adventure Kitchen in June, 2015.

Carnitas taco, topped with avocado slices and pico de gallo. Made in the Adventure Kitchen in June, 2015.

Ingredients

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (often labeled "pork butt")

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Cut the pork shoulder into strips about 2 inches wide.

2. Lay the strips in a large pot and sprinkle the salt all over them.  Add enough cold water to barely cover the meat.

3. Set the pot over high heat with the lid askew, just until it begins to boil. (Stick close during this step so your Carnitas doesn't boil over!)  As soon as it begins to boil, remove the lid.

4. Let the Carnitas boil on high heat for about 1 - 1 1/2 hours, using tongs every once in awhile to turn and redistribute the meat in the pot.  As the time passes, the water level will gradually go down as it evaporates as steam.

Carnitas beginning to boil

Carnitas beginning to boil

Carnitas finished browning

Carnitas finished browning

5. After about 1 - 1 1/2 hours, listen for a change in the sound of the Carnitas as it cooks.  Instead of boiling water, you will hear frying and sizzling.  This means that all the water has evaporated.  The "liquid" that remains in the bottom of the pan at this stage is actually the fat that has melted off of the meat.

6. Turn the heat down to medium, set a timer for 15 minutes and begin turning the meat regularly with the tongs to brown it in the fat.  Brown bits will begin to form on the bottom of the pot as the Carnitas continues to fry.  If the brown bits begin to burn, or the fat begins to smoke, your heat is too high.  After about 8 minutes, turn the heat to medium-low and continue turning and browning the meat until it is golden brown on all sides (about 15 minutes). It will likely begin to fall apart and shred a bit at this stage, which is fine.

7. Turn off the heat and use tongs to transfer the Carnitas into a bowl.  If there is still liquid fat standing in the bottom of the pot, pour it into a separate bowl to cool and then discard. 

Carnitas, ready to serve.  Partially shredded, partially chunky, perfect for a taco.  Note the browned bits at the bottom of the pan.

Carnitas, ready to serve.  Partially shredded, partially chunky, perfect for a taco.  Note the browned bits at the bottom of the pan.

8. When the meat has cooled a bit, begin breaking the larger chunks of meat apart.  (We think it's easiest to use our clean fingers to do this, but you could use a fork if you prefer.)  A partially shredded, partially chunky mixture is perfect for tacos (chunks that are too large will be difficult to eat).  If you find any large pieces of fat remaining in the meat, you may want to discard them (although in Mexico they may leave them in, most Americans would consider them unpleasant).

9. Put the Carnitas back into the pot over low heat, along with the juices that will have accumulated in the bowl.  Toss the meat around with your tongs as it warms, breaking it up a bit more if needed. When hot, put the lid on and turn off the heat.  (If the browned bits have not been allowed to burn, they will gradually release as they sit with the lid on, making it easier to clean.)

10. Your Carnitas is ready! Serve on warm, soft corn tortillas (click here to learn the best way to warm tortillas) with pico de gallo and avocado slices or guacamole.

 

Have fun!