Carnitas literally translates to “little meats”– and these chunks of pork, meltingly tender on the inside, crispy on the outside, are my FAVORITE little meats in the world. You can use them in salads, enchiladas, tamales, or, of course, tacos.
My go-to recipe for carnitas is this simple preparation— but it requires 3-4 hours of stovetop cooking, and it is extremely rare for me to have 4 hours to monitor the food in my kitchen. This recipe cuts your active time down to a mere 20 minutes– 5 of which is putting things in a crockpot. VICTORY!!
You will need:
One 3-4 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into large chunks (or boneless country-style ribs)
One orange, halved
One bay leaf
I’m serious, that’s all you need. And technically, you could probably cut out the orange and the bay leaf, if it was necessary.
Put everything into the slow cooker (squeeze the orange over the pork first, then sprinkle it all with salt) and turn it to high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours. I started with semi-frozen pork, and 6 hours on high was about right for me.
After that time, your pork should be fall-apart tender. That doesn’t mean a knife goes through it– that means the butt end of a spatula should go through it.
Once your meat is melting, turn on your broiler and get out a large rimmed baking sheet. Take your meat out of the slow-cooker and put it onto the sheet. Don’t worry if it falls apart a little at this stage, but don’t actively try to chop it or shred it yet.
You CAN, if you would like, boil the liquid down to a sauce for your pork– but I didn’t, and you don’t need to do so. If you can’t stand to waste the porky juice, though, knock yourself out.
Throw the sheet in the oven for 3-5 minutes– this depends on the distance from your little meats to your broiler. They should get nice and brown but NOT nice and black.
When they’re pretty uniformly sizzling and starting to brown, take the pan out, flip the meats with a spatula (they’ll break up a bit, this is fine) and repeat the broiling and flipping process 2-3 more times, until your little meats are pretty uniformly crisped up.
By the end, you should have little meats that are pretty crispy all the way around but still very tender in the middle (you won’t get tender little chunks if you cut them up before broiling them). Taste a piece and maybe sprinkle the pan with a bit of salt. Refrain from devouring the entire pan as you stand over the oven. REFRAIN! Unless that is your dinner plan, in which case, enjoy.
For tacos, I roughly chop the meat, and then tuck it into warmed tortillas with onion, cilantro, lime, guac or avocados, and green salsa. It’s a dream come true. A salty, crispy, juicy, porky dream come true– and that’s the best kind of dream, in my book.