Carnitas

I finally got a chance to try out the lovely 4.2 qt Dutch oven that Emile Henry sent me on the Big Green Egg. For its maiden voyage, I decided to try a batch of carnitas. To make these tender, yet crispy bites of porky wonderfulness, you need to provide a nice, even heat while the fat is rendering from the meat. Then after the fat has rendered, you need to reduce the liquid and crisp up the meat.

4 pounds pork shoulder roast (aka Boston Butt)
Juice of 3 oranges (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

Set your grill up for a 5 hour cook over indirect heat at 350°F. On the Big Green Egg I used an inverted plate setter with a trivet on it to diffuse the heat and keep the bottom from burning.

While the grill is heating up, cut the pork into big (4 to 6-inch) chunks, discarding any nasty pieces of connective tissue, but keeping all of the fat.

Combine all of the ingredients in a Dutch oven, and stir to combine. Cover the oven with a lid and set it on the grill. Let it simmer for an hour. The hot juice should have started to break down the fat in the meat.

Remove the lid and let it simmer for another hour. Keep checking and stirring once an hour until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pork has started to fry in its own fat (about another 2 hours).  Then check it every 15 minutes to make sure the meat is getting crispy, but not becoming dry or burned. Total cook time for this batch was just over 4 hours.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I dearly love carnitas, and this batch was one of the better ones I’ve made. Making a smaller batch (just 4 pounds) and cutting the meat into larger pieces gave me a better crisp/tender ratio. There was lots of nice crunchiness, but the meat didn’t break down too much or dry out. Perfect.

The Emile Henry Dutch oven performed flawlessly. The lid sealed nice and tight to keep the heat and juices in for the braising part of the recipe, yet the pot is wide enough to let the liquid evaporate when I wanted to crisp the meat. This is part of their Flame-Top line, so even when the fire got a little too hot at one point, the pot handled being “flame-licked” just fine and provided nice, even heat.

I really like the design of the lugged handles and the knob on the lid. They really fit the hand and it’s easy to get a good grip on them, even while wearing grilling gloves. I’m sure looking forward to more cooks with this great Dutch oven.

4 thoughts on “Carnitas

  1. J Q

    How bad is the soot build-up on the outside? Whenever my husband has “borrowed” one of my nice pans, they come back black and near impossible to get them to their previous condition. So, my rule of thumb is if he uses the pan on the Big Green Egg, it is now delegated for that use alone. These Emile pots look fabulous so I don’t know if I would want to loose one to the BGE…

    1. Dave Post author

      I was a little worried about that too. The flames got around the plate setter at one point and smoked the pot pretty good. I washed the inside by hand just to get all the crunchies out, and then put both pieces in the dishwasher. That took care of most of the soot, and I scrubbed the rest off with a dobie pad and some Barkeepers Friend. It all came off except for a mark on part of the un-glazed section on the bottom.

  2. Lea Ann

    I love carnitas and have never tried to make them. These look absolutely delicious and I’m still jealous over that Henry Dutch oven.

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