Tender pieces of incredibly flavourful pork with crispy edges. This Mexican style pulled pork is the swiss army knife of meat, you can use it in so many different meals and ways! (tacos, wraps, fajitas, pizza, enchiladas, with bbq sauce for sliders, etc)
I had been wanting to learn how to make pork carnitas for so long. Ever since I had them in an enchilada at a chain restaurant. I loved it… and this was at a Texas style cain restaurant in Canada… so we’re not exactly talking about quality Mexican food. I figured if it was that good there, it was going to be INCREDIBLE at home!
I found a recipe to use as a jumping off point from a blogger that I love and trust, Nagi from Recipe Tin Eats. Then, after a few tries, I nailed down a rub that I really loved, one that added just a bit more flavour and spice. Don’t worry, it’s not super spicy, my two year old goes crazy eating it.
Here’s your ingredients, super simple, most of which you probably already have in the house. I used a boneless pork shoulder this time.
Rub the meat all over with salt and pepper. Make a giant mess while doing this, it’s part of the process.
Then rub in the spice mix. Make slightly less of a mess this time.
Then put the meat in the slow cooker. Congratulations! You’re done the hard part.
Now, just dump everything else into the cooker. Doesn’t have to be pretty, doesn’t have to be perfectly even, it just has to be in there for flavour. Put the lid on, and let it cook.
It’ll come out hours later like this – falling apart because it’s SO TENDER!!!
Let it cool a little bit, then shred it up with some forks, some tongs, or your hands. It is way faster if you just use your hands. At this point, the meat is ready for you to play “what will I cook with it”. It freezes SUPER well. You can use it in tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas, throw it on a pizza, or pour on some bbq sauce for pulled pork sandwiches. Really, your options are pretty endless. My favourite is just by itself, but first I’ve got to crisp up the edges.
To get one side of the meat perfectly crispy, you just melt some lard in a pan – it has to be lard, not vegetable shortening, and not oil. Lard gives it the flavour that you want, without detracting from the meat. It also doesn’t leave the meat greasy after frying. Just leave it for a couple of minutes on medium hight heat in the pan and it’s done. You can flip it around a bit if you want more crispy areas.
Pork Carnitas in the slow cooker
- Pork shoulder, 4ish pounds - whatever will fit in your crock pot. See notes for meat options.
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped into chunks
- 2 jalapeños, seeded, ribs removed, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced (I just use my garlic press)
- 2 large navel oranges, juiced
- Depending on the type of pork you're using you may need to trim it. You want to remove any skin, as well as any fat that's more that 1/8" thick around the outside.
- Mix together the salt and pepper, then rub it all over the pork. Really get this in all of the crevices and flaps.
- Now make your spice rub by mixing together the oregano, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, and olive oil. It will be like a paste. Now rub this all over the pork as well, then put the meat into the slow cooker.
- Add the onion, jalapeños, garlic, and orange juice to the slow cooker, dumping each ingredient over the meat. Put the lid on, and cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours, or on high heat for 6 hours.
- Remove the cooked meat to a large bowl and let cool slightly before shredding (at least 10 minutes). Use two forks, some tongs, or your hands to shred the meat into bite size pieces.
- IF FREEZING - If you are freezing some of the meat, or putting it into the fridge to have the next day, add some of the liquid that's left in the slow cooker. Skim off the fat, and drain the liquid through a fine mesh to catch all of the chunks. Then, add some of the remaining liquid (1 to 1 1/2 cups) to the shredded meat to help keep it extra moist.
- IF CRISPING - Melt 3 tbsp lard (must be lard) in a large frying pan (I found that my non-stick one worked better than my stainless). Add just enough shredded pork to almost cover the bottom. You don't want to crowd the pan or the meat won't crisp for you. Cook on medium-high head for a few minutes, without touching the meat. Check a piece to see if it's a dark golden brown on the bottom - that's when it's done. If you want more of the meat crispy, you can give it a little toss now, or you can take it out and serve.
Types of pork that I've used and had success with:
Boneless pork shoulder (this is the easiest to work with)
Bone-in pork shoulder
Lightly smoked bone-in pork shoulder
Pork cottage roll ( if you can't find shoulder, this is a great alternative)
REMEMBER: If you're using a bone-in option, don't forget to remove the skin and any fat that's thicker than 1/8".