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Video:Pork Carnitas

with John Mitzewich

Carnitas are an easy to make and very delicious Mexican specialty. The crispy exterior and moist, succulent meat makes this one of the world's great pork dishes. See how to make carnitas at home.See Transcript

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Transcript:Pork Carnitas

Hi, I'm Chef John Mitzewich for About.com. Get your tortillas ready because I'm going to show you how to make pork carnitas.

Choose a Carnitas Pork Shoulder

Alright, this delicious Mexican specialty begins with a pork shoulder roast. That's about 3 1/2 pounds. It's also know as a pork butt - and don't ask, its a long story. Add that to a Dutch oven, something with a lid.

Carnitas Ingredients

We're going to start with:
  • 3 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 chopped yellow onion, cut in 1-2 inch pieces
  • 1 quart chicken or beef stock
  • water to just cover

Adjust the Carnitas Flavors

One thing to keep in mind here; this is a very basic recipe for this braising liquid. Every Mexican family has their own secret recipe. Some are very spicy, some have milk, some different combinations of herbs and spices. You can do whatever you feel will be delicious.

Braise the Pork

Bring that up to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover it and we're going to braise it for about 3 hours, until it's fork tender. And, you can tell because the fork will go in with no problem and you'll actually see that bone falling out of the meat.

Pull the Pork

We're going to bring that out of the stock, be careful, and put it in a bowl. What we're going to do is break this apart into smaller pieces. Carnitas is actually Spanish for "small meats." Alright, so there is your little bit of bone that comes in the pork shoulder, that's the shoulder blade. So take that out and using two forks we're going to pull that pork shoulder apart. It will break into 3-4 inch pieces. It may look kind of fatty but don't worry, that's what's going to help caramelize the meat.

Season and Cook the Carnitas Pork

I like to season it at this point here. If you want to add spices like cayenne, things like that you can. I'm going to just put salt for now. I'm going to put that in a very hot oven, 450 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes, until the outside is beautifully golden and kind of crispy.

You can see how all that fat has rendered out, so not that much stays in the pork. It gets beautifully crispy on the outside and stays moist and succulent on the inside. This is just an amazing pork technique. I say technique because it's more of a technique than a recipe since you can really add anything you want to the braising liquid.

Serve the Carnitas

Traditionally this is served by chopping it up with a clever. Now what you serve this with is up to you. I did it on a taco, really simple, less is more with this stuff, it's so delicious. I served it with some salsa, avocado, a little onion, some lime, and cilantro. You can throw this in a can of beans, you can pull it like you do pulled pork and add some barbecue sauce to it. It's incredible delicious. It's so easy and you should really give this a try, and I hope you do. Enjoy.
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