- 4 lb. boneless pork shoulder (or 6 lb. bone-in)
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 valencia orange
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 cups pork or chicken stock
- 1 Tbsp oregano
- 2 Tbsp oil
- Salt and pepper
If your pork includes a fat cap, you may trim it down to about ⅛” thick. Trimming and discarding the extra fat is optional depending on your preference. Cut the pork shoulder into large 3” chunks of roughly the same size. If the pork shoulder has a bone, carefully de-bone the meat first, save the bone and include it in your braise if there is room, and then cut the meat into chunks.
Season the meat liberally with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add ½ the oil, reserving the rest. Brown the meat in batches, searing each side for two to three minutes until crisp and deep brown on the surface. Tip: start with the fat side down first to render down the pork fat. If your pork did not render much fat, you can add more oil to the pan. Set the browned meat aside as you work through the remaining meat pieces.
Deglaze the skillet by adding ½ cup of your stock to the hot pan and scrape the bottom to bring up all the browned bits. Remove from the heat and reserve the liquid for your braise.
Cut the onion in half and then slice thick. Cut the orange into thick slices. Crush and peel the garlic, but leave the cloves whole.
Prepare your braising/slow cooking vessel. A crockpot, large heavy stock pot or a dutch oven will work. Choose the slow cooking method below that works best for you. I have tried all of these and they all produce the same result.
Crockpot: set crockpot to low and add meat and all ingredients, including the deglazing liquid and rest of the stock. Season with a bit more salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 6 to 7 hours until the meat is tender.
Oven: Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Place all ingredients including deglazing liquid and rest of the stock in a large dutch oven, season with a bit more salt and pepper, and cover with a lid. Cook for 3 to 3 ½ hours, turning the meat each hour, until tender.
Stovetop: Place all ingredients in a large stock pot, including the deglazing liquid and remaining stock. Season with a bit more salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and then reduce to low heat and cover. Simmer for 3 to 4 hours, checking frequently. Remove from the heat when the meat is tender and shreddable.
Whatever slow cooking method you choose, the next steps are the same. Remove the meat from your cooking vessel and place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Discard the orange slices, and strain the cooking liquid through a fine mesh sieve. There should be a good amount of fat in the liquid, which will help the meat brown. If you feel there is too much fat in your liquid, let it sit for a minute to allow the fat to rise to the top, and then skim off and discard some of the fat. Shred the meat on the baking sheet and drizzle a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid over the top.
Set your oven to broil and roast the meat under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, turning, and then returning to the broiler for another 2 to 3 minutes. You should see browning, crisping, and a little bit of charring. Remove from the oven and serve on warm tortillas with minced cilantro and onion, topped with salsa.
This is a recipe that seems difficult to execute, but you’ll find it’s very simple once you try it. Find the method that works for you and then adapt it to your tastes and preferences. You can add cumin, jalapeño, chili powder, roasted anchos… whatever you like. I sometimes add a few spoonfuls of Mexican Red Chile sauce to my shredded meat and mix it in just before broiling.
Leftover carnitas can be frozen and reheated on the stovetop in a skillet. If you have extra cooking liquid left over, save it and use it to moisten leftover meat or freeze it for your next batch of carnitas. Or, even better, make rice with your leftover stock - it will be the best rice you’ve ever had.