1st Carnitas of the Year

It’s been waaaaay too long since I’ve made up a batch of carnitas. I do love those melty bits of tender pigginess, and they really don’t take that long to make, so I have no excuse for this being the 1st batch of 2012.

I usually make a double batch of carnitas using two pork shoulder roasts (Boston Butt), but I had some really good results last year by switching to a single batch made in my Emile Henry Dutch oven. It just seemed to cook more evenly and had a better ratio of crispy bits to tender chunks.

8 pounds pork shoulder roast
Juice of 3 oranges (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon achiote oil

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 getting up to temp, cut the roast into 3 to 4-inch chunks, discarding any stringy 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 orange juice should be bubbly and the fat in the meat should have started to break down.

After the fat has started to render, you need to reduce the liquid and crisp up 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 3 hours total).

Start checking the meat 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.

Of course, you need a proper beverage to go with carnitas. My dear wife’s Sangria fit the bill nicely – cool and refreshing and it really complimented the richness of the carnitas.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Oh my, these were gooooooood – crispy and tender and juicy. I’m finding that the more I pare back the ingredient list, the better this dish becomes. Not that this dish needs any more added fat, but the achiote oil added a nice, round earthiness. I might go with lime and orange juice next time to add a little more citrus bite.

The Nutrition:
Carnitas will never be diet food. Four ounces is 5 Weight Watchers Points and 190 calories, so use it sparingly.

ONE YEAR AGO – Belizean Grilled Shrimp



5 thoughts on “1st Carnitas of the Year”

    1. Thanks! The nice thing is that these work just about as well in the oven. You don’t get the smokiness, but you do get that browning on the top as the water cooks off.

  1. Sounds wonderful. When you say the place setter inverted, do you mean legs up or down? I’ve never seen achoite oil before. Guess I need to start looking for it. Might be the reason I need to go to the Mexican market.

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