Monday 19 June 2017

Crispy Slow Cooker Carnitas

Carnitas or "little meats" are a popular Mexican pork dish commonly eaten in tortillas or sandwiches but also enjoyed with rice or salad. Pork shoulder is seasoned and spiced before cooking low-and-slow with onion, garlic and peppers until it's tender enough to be shredded with a fork. Then it's broiled or fried to crisp up the edges. The result is juicy, tender, flavourful meat with gnarly, crispy edges. Summer is finally here and it's hot. I live in an apartment. When it gets hot I don't usually like my oven on or even to spend much time over a hot stove. That's why I love my slow cooker. Not only is it great for warm comfort food in the winter but I can also use it in summer without turning my kitchen into a furnace. I recommend a slow cooker for this. If you don't have one you can use a dutch pot with a tight fitting lid. Just let it simmer on medium-low for about 3-4 hours. It'll get the job done. 

The spice rub calls for chili powder. I actually used half ground ancho and half ground chipotle because I had them at my disposal. They add a smokiness that works so incredibly well in this application. You can use either if you can't find both. Otherwise regular chili powder is good enough; but doesn't have quite the same level of smokiness. I love, love, love spicy food. I eat it every day. Feel free to adjust the use of chili peppers to your taste. I used 2 jalapeño peppers with all the seeds and membrane included and this wasn't that spicy. Someone who is not a fan of spicy food tried this and agreed it wasn't that spicy. Next time I make this I'll probably make it spicier, but be your own judge for how much heat you like.


5-6 lb pork shoulder (also known as "pork butt")
1 onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, sliced
2 jalapeño peppers, sliced
2 oranges
2 limes
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp olive oil

Spice rub:

4 tsp coarse sea salt
4 tsp ground cumin
3 tsp of chili powder
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp of cayenne pepper

Wash the pork shoulder in cold water and then thoroughly dry with paper towel. 

Lightly coat with olive oil. Combine all of the ingredients for the spice rub together and evenly massage into the meat.

Ideally you want to let the spices marinate overnight. When you're ready to start cooking, sear the pork shoulder all over in a hot pan. This is not an optional step. Get as nice of a good, brown crust as you can. Then chop up an onion, the garlic and the jalapeño peppers. Add half of them to your slow cooker. Place the pork shoulder on top. Sprinkle over the remaining onion, garlic and jalapeño. Wash the oranges and limes in cold water. Roll them a couple of times against a hard, flat surface to release the juices. Using a speed peeler, peel several ribbons of the zest and add them to the slow cooker along with 2 bay leaves. Slice the oranges and limes in half and squeeze in all the juices. 

Cook on low for 8-10 hours (preferred) or on high for 4-5 hours. The meat should be fork-tender.

Remove the pork shoulder from the slow cooker. Shred into bite-sized pieces with a pair of forks. 

Strain the liquid from the slow cooker and set aside. Place the shredded pork into an even layer on a roasting tray and place about six inches beneath the broiler of your oven. Keep an eye on it, but let it broil for about 5 minutes. Remove the roasting tray from the oven. For this amount of pork, use about 1/2 a cup of the reserved liquid and toss the carnitas with it. This will add flavour, moisture and the fat will help to crisp up the meat even further. Return the carnitas under the broiler again for an additional 5 minutes or until it looks right to you. Toss with fresh lime and chopped cilantro and serve right away.

That's all there is to it! It's a pretty forgiving recipe. It does require some patience but not a terrible amount of skill. This is great to please a crowd. This week I've been enjoying it with corn tortillas, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, queso fresco and hot sauce for lunches at work. I froze half of it for use another time. It's so good I can't even tell you. You need to try it for yourself. It's smoky, spicy, citrusy, crispy on the outside, melt-in-your-mouth on the inside goodness. Who doesn't love that?

I hope I've inspired you to give this a try. If you have any questions or comments please let me know below. Enjoy!


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