Discover the Best Way to Cook Carnitas

Looking to satisfy your cravings with a delicious and flavorful Mexican dish? Look no further! In this article, you will discover the best way to cook carnitas, a traditional Mexican dish that will take your taste buds on a mouthwatering journey. Carnitas, which translates to “little meats”, is a succulent and tender dish made with slow-cooked pork that is juicy and packed with flavor. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner in the kitchen, this step-by-step guide will ensure that you master the art of cooking carnitas to perfection. So grab your apron, sharpen your knives, and get ready to learn the secrets to creating irresistible carnitas.

Discover the Best Way to Cook Carnitas | Bistro Le Crillon
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Preparing the Pork

Discover the first steps in making delicious carnitas, starting with the selection and preparation of the pork.

Choosing the Right Cut of Pork

When it comes to cooking carnitas, selecting the right cut of pork is crucial. The ideal choice is pork shoulder, also known as pork butt or Boston butt. This cut has the perfect balance of fat and meat, which results in tender and juicy carnitas. Avoid lean cuts of pork, such as tenderloin, as they can become dry when cooked for a long time.

Important Point: Remember to choose a boneless pork shoulder for easier preparation and cooking.

Trimming and Seasoning the Pork

Before preparing the pork for carnitas, it’s important to trim any excess fat on the surface. While fat adds flavor, too much can make the dish greasy. Remove the skin if it is still attached.

Next, season the pork generously with salt and pepper. You can also add additional spices like cumin, oregano, and chili powder for extra flavor. Rub the seasoning all over the pork, ensuring it coats the meat evenly.

Important Point: Don’t be afraid to season the pork generously as some of the seasoning will be washed away during the cooking process.

Marinating the Pork

Marinating the pork is an optional but highly recommended step. It helps enhance the flavor and tenderizes the meat even further. You can create a simple marinade using ingredients like citrus juices (orange, lime), garlic, onion, and spices.

To marinate the pork, place it in a large resealable plastic bag or a covered container. Pour the marinade over the pork, making sure it’s well-coated. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight for the best results.

Important Point: Marinating the pork overnight will infuse the meat with maximum flavor and tenderness.

By following these steps for preparing the pork, you’ll be well on your way to creating mouthwatering carnitas. Remember to choose the right cut of pork, trim and season it properly, and consider marinating it for even more flavor.

Cooking Methods

When it comes to preparing carnitas, there are several cooking methods you can choose from. Each method offers its own unique benefits and results in flavorful and tender meat. Whether you prefer stovetop cooking, oven roasting, or the slow cooker method, you can’t go wrong with any of these options.

Stovetop Cooking

Stovetop cooking is a popular method for making carnitas. This method involves cooking the pork in a pot on the stovetop over medium heat. It allows for precise control over the cooking process and results in deliciously tender meat.

To cook carnitas on the stovetop, start by cutting the pork into bite-sized pieces. Next, season the meat with your preferred blend of spices, such as cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and salt. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pot and add the seasoned pork. Cook the meat for about 5 minutes, until it begins to brown.

Once browned, add a cup of chicken or vegetable broth to the pot. This will help keep the meat moist and add extra flavor. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid, and let the carnitas simmer for about 1 to 2 hours. Stir occasionally to ensure even cooking.

After the cooking time is up, remove the lid and increase the heat to medium-high. This will allow any excess liquid to evaporate and the meat to crisp up. Use a spatula to gently break apart the meat into smaller pieces. Continue cooking for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the carnitas are crispy and golden brown.

Stovetop cooking is a great option if you’re looking for quick and flavorful carnitas. The direct heat helps the meat develop a delicious sear, while the low simmering time ensures that it remains tender and juicy.

Oven Roasting

Oven roasting is another fantastic way to cook carnitas. This method involves slow-cooking the pork in the oven, resulting in melt-in-your-mouth tender meat with a crispy exterior.

To prepare oven-roasted carnitas, preheat your oven to 325°F (163°C). Cut the pork into chunks and season it with your favorite spices. You can use a combination of chili powder, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, and salt for a traditional Mexican flavor profile.

Place the seasoned pork in a large baking dish and cover it tightly with foil. This will help trap the moisture and ensure even cooking. Roast the carnitas in the oven for approximately 2 to 2.5 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and easily shreds.

Once the carnitas are cooked, remove the foil and increase the oven temperature to 450°F (232°C). Return the dish to the oven and let the meat roast for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until it becomes crispy and caramelized.

Oven roasting is a hands-off cooking method that yields fantastic results. The slow cooking process allows the flavors to develop and intensify, resulting in juicy and flavorful carnitas that are perfect for tacos, burritos, or bowls.

Slow Cooker Method

If you prefer a set-it-and-forget-it approach, the slow cooker method is an excellent choice. This method requires minimal effort and results in incredibly tender and flavorful carnitas.

To make slow cooker carnitas, start by seasoning the pork with a mixture of spices. You can use a combination of oregano, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. Place the seasoned meat in the slow cooker and add a chopped onion and a few cloves of garlic for extra flavor.

Cover the slow cooker and cook the carnitas on low heat for 6 to 8 hours or on high heat for 3 to 4 hours. The long cooking time allows the pork to become incredibly tender and absorb all the delicious flavors.

Once the carnitas are done cooking, remove the meat from the slow cooker and shred it using two forks. If desired, you can transfer the shredded meat to a baking sheet and broil it in the oven for a few minutes to achieve a crispy texture.

The slow cooker method is perfect for busy individuals or those who prefer a hands-off cooking approach. It produces flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth carnitas that will impress your family and friends.

In conclusion, there are several cooking methods that you can use to prepare delicious carnitas. Whether you opt for stovetop cooking, oven roasting, or the slow cooker method, each technique offers its own unique benefits and results in tender and flavorful meat. Choose the method that best suits your preferences and get ready to enjoy a mouthwatering carnitas feast!

Creating Flavorful Seasonings

When it comes to cooking carnitas, one of the keys to success lies in the seasonings you use. By infusing your carnitas with a burst of flavor, you can elevate this traditional Mexican dish to new heights. Whether you prefer sticking to traditional Mexican seasonings or experimenting with creative flavor combinations, there are plenty of options to explore. Additionally, using citrus fruits can add a tangy twist that takes your carnitas to another level of deliciousness.

Traditional Mexican Seasonings

To achieve a truly authentic taste, it’s worth exploring traditional Mexican seasonings for your carnitas. These seasonings have been used for generations and are renowned for their rich flavors. Some popular options include:

  • Cumin: This spice adds earthiness and warmth to your carnitas, complementing the pork perfectly.
  • Chili Powder: Give your carnitas a spicy kick with chili powder. Adjust the amount according to your preference for heat.
  • Oregano: This herb adds a delicate and aromatic note to your carnitas, enhancing the overall flavor.
  • Garlic: The classic seasoning that enhances almost any dish, garlic brings a savory depth to your carnitas.
  • Onion: Add onion powder or sautéed onions to infuse your carnitas with a hint of sweetness and extra flavor.

️ Pro Tip: Experiment with the quantities of each seasoning to find the perfect balance of flavors that suits your taste buds.

Creative Flavor Combinations

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to put your unique spin on carnitas, try experimenting with creative flavor combinations. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Pineapple and Jalapeño: The sweetness of pineapple pairs well with the spicy kick of jalapeño, creating a tantalizing symphony of flavors.
  • Maple Syrup and Chipotle: Combine the sweetness of maple syrup with the smoky spiciness of chipotle for a twist on traditional carnitas.
  • Ginger and Soy Sauce: Infuse your carnitas with an Asian flair by adding ginger and soy sauce, creating a fusion of flavors that will delight your taste buds.
  • Coffee and Cocoa: For a rich and complex flavor profile, add a sprinkle of ground coffee and a touch of cocoa powder to your carnitas.
  • Apple Cider and Sage: The tanginess of apple cider combines beautifully with the earthy aroma of sage, giving your carnitas a unique twist.

Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun with different flavor combinations. You might discover a new favorite!

Using Citrus for Tanginess

To add a tangy and refreshing element to your carnitas, consider using citrus fruits. Citrus not only imparts a bright flavor but also helps to tenderize the meat. Here are some citrus options to consider:

  • Lime: Squeeze fresh lime juice over your carnitas for a zesty and tangy twist that is reminiscent of traditional Mexican cuisine.
  • Orange: The sweetness of orange juice can balance out the savory flavors in your carnitas, creating a delicious contrast.
  • Grapefruit: For a more unique twist, try adding a splash of grapefruit juice to your carnitas for a tangy and slightly bitter flavor.
  • Combination: Feel free to experiment by combining different citrus fruits to create your own unique blend of flavors.

Pro Tip: Marinate your pork in the citrus juice for a few hours before cooking to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat.

By harnessing the power of flavorful seasonings, you can take your carnitas to new heights. Whether you opt for traditional Mexican seasonings or get creative with flavor combinations, don’t forget to add a citrus twist for that extra tanginess. With these tips and techniques, you’ll be able to cook up a batch of delicious carnitas that will impress family and friends.

Perfecting the Crispy Texture

When it comes to cooking carnitas, achieving the perfect crispy texture is key. This mouthwatering dish is known for its crispy and tender pork, and there are a few tips and techniques that can help you achieve that desired texture. Whether you’re broiling, shredding and sauteing, or frying, each method brings its own unique touch to your carnitas.

Broiling for Crispiness

Broiling is a great technique to achieve that crispy exterior on your carnitas. Start by cooking your pork until it’s tender and fully cooked. Then, transfer the cooked pork to a baking sheet lined with foil and place it under the broiler. Make sure the pork is spread out in a single layer to allow for even crisping.

Tip: To enhance the flavor, sprinkle some salt, pepper, and your favorite spices over the pork before broiling. This will give your carnitas an extra kick.

Keep a watchful eye while broiling, as the pork can quickly go from crispy to burnt. Use tongs to flip the pieces of meat halfway through cooking to ensure even browning. Once your carnitas reach the desired level of crispiness, remove them from the broiler and let them rest for a few minutes before serving.

Shredding and Sauteing

Another method to achieve a crispy texture in your carnitas is by shredding and sauteing the cooked pork. Once your pork is tender, remove it from the cooking liquid and shred it using two forks. The smaller the shreds, the crispier the carnitas will be.

In a large skillet, heat some oil over medium-high heat. Add the shredded pork and let it cook undisturbed for a few minutes to allow the bottom layer to crisp up. Use a spatula or tongs to flip and toss the pork, ensuring that all sides get a chance to brown and become crispy.

Tip: For an extra burst of flavor, add some diced onions, garlic, and spices to the skillet while sauteing the shredded pork.

Frying for Extra Crispy Bits

Frying the cooked carnitas is another excellent way to achieve extra crispy bits. After your pork is fully cooked, allow it to cool slightly before proceeding with frying.

In a deep skillet or frying pan, add enough oil to submerge the pork pieces partially. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches around 350°F (175°C). Carefully add the pork to the hot oil, making sure not to overcrowd the pan.

Tip: For an added flavor boost, you can season the oil with spices like cumin, paprika, or chili powder before frying the carnitas.

Fry the pork until it reaches a golden brown color and the edges become crispy. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to carefully remove the carnitas from the hot oil and transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.

Note: Remember to exercise caution when frying to prevent any oil splattering accidents. Make sure to use a deep skillet or frying pan to allow for the proper amount of oil and avoid overflow.

By utilizing these techniques – broiling, shredding and sauteing, or frying – you can achieve that coveted crispy texture in your carnitas. Experiment with different methods and find the one that suits your taste buds and culinary preferences. Whether you prefer a deep, intense crisp or a lighter crunch, there’s a way to perfect your carnitas to your liking.

Serving and Pairings

When it comes to serving and enjoying your homemade carnitas, the possibilities are endless. The rich and flavorful meat can be paired with a variety of accompaniments to create a delicious and satisfying meal. Whether you prefer tortilla tacos and burritos, a carnitas bowl with fresh ingredients, or a selection of salsas and guacamole, there’s a perfect pairing for everyone.

Tortilla Tacos and Burritos

One of the most popular ways to serve carnitas is in tortilla tacos and burritos. The tender and juicy meat pairs perfectly with the soft and warm tortillas, creating a mouthwatering combination. You can customize your tacos and burritos with your favorite toppings, such as salsa, sour cream, cheese, and avocado. For an extra kick, add some pickled jalapeños or a squeeze of lime juice. These handheld delights are perfect for a quick and satisfying meal on the go.

Carnitas Bowl with Fresh Ingredients

If you’re looking for a lighter option, a carnitas bowl with fresh ingredients is the way to go. Start with a base of fluffy white or brown rice, and top it with a generous serving of carnitas. Add a variety of fresh vegetables, such as crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, crunchy bell peppers, and creamy avocado slices. For added flavor, drizzle some tangy lime crema or a zesty cilantro-lime dressing over the top. This vibrant and nutritious bowl is not only delicious but also visually appealing.

Pairings: Salsas, Guacamole, and More

No matter how you choose to enjoy your carnitas, it’s the accompaniments that truly elevate the dish. Salsas, guacamole, and other flavorful additions can take your meal to the next level. For a mild and refreshing option, try a classic pico de gallo salsa with diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and a splash of lime juice. If you prefer something spicier, opt for a smoky chipotle salsa or a tangy tomatillo salsa. Guacamole, with its creamy texture and rich flavor, is also a fantastic choice. Don’t forget to include some warm and soft corn tortillas on the side for dipping or wrapping.

In conclusion, the best way to cook carnitas is to slow-cook the meat until it is tender and juicy. Once cooked, you can explore various serving and pairing options to create a truly delicious and satisfying meal. Whether you prefer tortilla tacos and burritos, a carnitas bowl with fresh ingredients, or a selection of salsas and guacamole, there’s no wrong way to enjoy this flavorful Mexican dish. So go ahead, get creative, and discover your favorite way to serve carnitas!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about cooking carnitas:

No. Questions Answers
1. What is the best cut of meat for carnitas? The best cut of meat for carnitas is pork shoulder or pork butt. This cut is well-marbled and becomes tender and flavorful when cooked slowly.
2. What seasoning should I use for carnitas? For authentic carnitas flavor, use a combination of garlic, cumin, oregano, and citrus juice. You can also add additional spices like chili powder or paprika for a kick.
3. How long should I cook carnitas? Carnitas should be cooked low and slow for several hours to allow the meat to become tender and develop its rich flavor. Plan for at least 3-4 hours of cooking time.
4. Can I make carnitas in a slow cooker? Yes, you can make carnitas in a slow cooker. Simply sear the meat first and then transfer it to the slow cooker with your seasonings and liquids. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours.
5. How do I get crispy carnitas? To get crispy carnitas, you can broil or pan-fry the cooked meat after it has been braised. This will give it a delicious caramelized crust.
6. What are some serving suggestions for carnitas? Carnitas are traditionally served with warm tortillas, salsa, chopped onions, and cilantro. You can also serve them with rice, beans, guacamole, and fresh lime wedges.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for reading our guide on how to cook carnitas. We hope you found the information helpful and feel inspired to try making this delicious Mexican dish in your own kitchen. Cooking carnitas requires time and patience, but the end result is truly worth it. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different seasonings and serving options to make it your own. We can’t wait for you to visit us again for more cooking tips and recipes. Happy cooking!

Discover the Best Way to Cook Carnitas | Bistro Le Crillon

How to Cook Carnitas

Learn how to cook carnitas, a flavorful Mexican dish made with slow-cooked pork.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 6 servings
Calories 350 kcal


  • 3 lbs pork shoulder or pork butt cut into chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • Juice of 2 oranges
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large pot, heat some oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork chunks and season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned on all sides.
  • Add the minced garlic, ground cumin, and dried oregano to the pot. Stir well to coat the meat with the spices.
  • Pour in the orange and lime juice, along with enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 3-4 hours, or until the meat is tender and easily shreds.
  • Once the meat is cooked, remove it from the pot and shred it using two forks. Discard any excess fat.
  • To get crispy carnitas, you can broil or pan-fry the cooked meat in a separate skillet until it develops a caramelized crust.
  • Serve the carnitas with warm tortillas, salsa, chopped onions, and fresh cilantro. Enjoy!
Keyword carnitas, Mexican, pork, recipe, cooking

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