07 July 2011

Double Take: Mexican Pulled Pork (Carnitas)

We were too busy eating our burritos to take pictures of them...
so you get pictures of my leftovers! 

I have been salivating over several recipes for carnitas for quite some time now. For some reason, I tend to frequent blogs that have recipes for carnitas. Maybe my love for Mexican food draws me to the blogs? When I was making my list of blog recipes I wanted to try, I came up with no less than three carnitas recipes. I decided we couldn’t make all three, so I added two to the list. But you see, apparently Tabitha had been mesmerized by the carnitas as well. She had also seen an episode of America’s Test Kitchen and had gotten the recipe. We settled on America’s Test Kitchen and were off!

I had the perfect idea of how to serve this recipe. Frequent testers Scuba Guy and California Girl were about to move back to California and in desperate need of a burrito/taco fix. I decided carnitas might squelch their cravings until they got back to San Diego and could eat California Burritos. I was also in the midst of the Daring Cooks Edible Containers Challenge, so I made my cheddar cheese cups for the doctored up refried beans that I served. I decided that this event would be a wonderful reason to try out the flour tortilla recipe that I chickened out on almost a year before. I did a batch of the vegetable oil tortillas (with baking powder) and a batch of the lard tortillas (unleavened). The lard tortilla dough was SOO much easier to roll out, and everyone loved them! I’m going to have to devote a whole post to them at some point in time…

(So you don’t think I’m Wonder Woman (though that was my nickname back during my marching band daysor something, The Dude came over to be my sous chef while I made the tortillas. Bender was also out of town, and I like to keep busy when that happens!)

Meat ready for the oven.
I had to add extra liquid to cover the meat.

Mexican Pulled Pork (Carnitas)
minimally adapted from America's Test Kitchen episode: Supper From South of the Border, serves 6
ATK's Note: We like serving carnitas spooned into tacos, but you can also use it as a filling for tamales, enchiladas, and burritos.

1 (3 1/2-to 4-pound) boneless pork butt, fat cap trimmed to 1/8 inch thick, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small onion, peeled and halved
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons juice from 1 lime
2 cups water
1 medium orange, halved
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper

18 (8-inch) flour tortillas, warmed (feeling adventurous? use this recipe!)
Lime wedges
Minced white or red onion
Fresh cilantro leaves
Thinly sliced avocado
Thinly sliced lettuce or cabbage
Sour cream
Doctored-up refried beans

Many thanks to Scuba Guy for pulling the meat and
California Girl for taking the pictures! 

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine pork, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, cumin, onion, bay leaves, oregano, lime juice, and water in large Dutch oven (liquid should just barely cover meat). Juice orange into medium bowl and remove any seeds (you should have about 1/3 cup juice). Add juice and spent orange halves to pot. Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover pot and transfer to oven; cook until meat is soft and falls apart when prodded with fork, about 2 hours, flipping pieces of meat once during cooking.

2. Remove pot from oven and turn oven to broil. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to bowl; remove orange halves, onion, and bay leaves from cooking liquid and discard (do not skim fat from liquid). Place pot over high heat (use caution, as handles will be very hot) and simmer liquid, stirring frequently, until thick and syrupy (heatsafe spatula should leave wide trail when dragged through glaze), 8 to 12 minutes. You should have about 1 cup reduced liquid. 
MY NOTE: If, after 20 minutes you still have lots of liquid, your pot is too big for your burner. I should have poured off some of the liquid, transferred it to a smaller pot, and then boiled. As is, mine never reached the syrupy-goodness stage.

3. Using 2 forks, pull each piece of pork in half. Fold in reduced liquid; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread pork in even layer on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet or on broiler pan (meat should cover almost entire surface of rack or broiler pan). Place baking sheet on lower-middle rack and broil until top of meat is well browned (but not charred) and edges are slightly crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, flip pieces of meat and continue to broil until top is well browned and edges are slightly crisp, 5 to 8 minutes longer. Serve immediately with warm tortillas and garnishes.

California Girl enjoyed playing with my camera :)

Everyone turned their carnitas into burritos, and we all enjoyed the meal. Had I been patient enough to turn the glaze into an actual glaze (or smart enough to turn the burner to high… that might have been part of the problem), I’m sure the meat would have been great. But really, it was just okay. I’m going to have to try this one again before I’m willing to give a final verdict. And yeah, I’m totally chalking up my issues with it to user error. So if you make it, pretty please let me know if I should try it again! Even though it's marked as make again...

And so you know that it wasn’t a total failure: The Dude has specifically requested that I make this one again. Normally he doesn’t request specific dishes.

Real-burritos-in-Germany-yield-happy-bellies: 2 votes!
Make-again-please: 2 votes!
Waiting-patiently-for-someone-else-to-make-them-before-I-try-again: 1 vote

To see Tabitha's vote on Carnitas, head on over to Double the Garlic!

Why make a burrito when you can have a taco bowl?!


  1. I'm always intrigued by how different the results can be. I'm really glad you all got a taste of Mexican when so far from the U.S. Any ideas on why mine is so orange?

  2. Hrm, I have no clue why yours is so orange. Unless your glaze was orange in color? Mine never actually reached the glaze stage so it didn't coat the meat at all.

  3. I love carnitas! SO delicious! I can't believe I've never attempted making it myself. Love your recipe!

  4. Im so keen to make pulled pork - this looks tremendous!

  5. Those look delicious.
    My family, who are meat eaters, would probably appreciate it if I made them this once in a while :)


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