Last updated on March 26th, 2020 at 04:38 pm
Authentic pork carnitas are easy to make and are juicy and crispy at the same time! Roasting in the oven makes the meat super tender and a quick trip under the broiler gives you those extra crispy bits.
It’s no secret that my husband, Brooks, is a better cook than me, especially when he makes these pork carnitas. Brooks doesn’t cook that often, but when he does, WATCH OUT!
What is carnitas?
Carnitas are a Mexican pork dish which translates to “little meats” in Spanish. Typically made with a high fat cut of pork like a Boston butt or pork shoulder, the meat is braised for a long time until the meat shreds easily.
What is the difference between carnitas and al pastor?
Carnitas are braised in the oven or slow cooker and Al Pastor is cooked on a rotisserie usually after soaking in a marinade.
The pork shoulder or pork butt (we use the bone-in one) for the carnitas is braised in fat or lard and then shredded. The pork is seared in fat and then braised with citrus, jalapeños, onions, and lots of spices.
Brooks’s version has the necessary fat but he adds water for braising instead to keep the calories down.
If you’d rather skip my (very helpful, I think) tips and tricks, essential cooking info, and similar recipe ideas – and get straight to this delicious easy pork carnitas oven recipe – simply scroll to the bottom of the page where you can find the printable recipe card.
Carnitas recipe for the oven
Cooking pork carnitas is an easy two step process. Braising and then broiling. Let’s start with the braising.
Step one: Cube the pork into medium-sized squares, keeping the bone too if you have it. Brown the cubes in a dutch oven or heavy bottom pan over high heat with a little oil.
Step two: Add water, the bone, onions, jalapeños, and all spices. Juice the oranges and lime into the pot and toss in the rinds. The orange juice makes them super tasty!
Step three: Preheat oven to 250F. Bring the meat and liquid to a boil. Cover, place in oven and cook for 2 hours and 15 minutes or until meat is nice and tender.
Step four: When done braising, remove the pot from the oven, check temperature of the meat, and then cover and let cool for about 20 minutes.
Step five: Remove meat, onions, and jalapeños onto a baking sheet. Throw away citrus rinds, chunks of fat, and the bone. Using forks, shred the meat.
Step six: Cook the pot juices on the stovetop over medium heat until reduced by 2/3. Toss the shredded meat, onions, and jalapeños back into the juice. Stir to coat the meat. Place all back on the baking sheet and put under the broiler on high until crispy.
If we are not in the mood to do it all at one time because it does take a few hours, I skip the broiling step and store the carnitas in the fridge.
When I am ready to eat I just toss some in my cast iron skillet and get them hot and crispy! You can even do the braising in your crockpot or slow cooker and finish them by reducing the liquid on the stovetop and crisping the pork with either the broiler or a skillet.
This pork carnitas recipe will blow your mind and provide you with dinner for an entire week, provided you don’t get tired of pork.
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I eat them for breakfast with some sautéed spinach, avocado, and an over-easy egg. You can even throw it on some greens for a great salad. There are so many options.
The carnitas meat is super juicy, tender, and has a great citrus flavor, and I especially like the crispy edges the pork gets from a trip under the broiler!
A great recipe that takes a few hours but most of the time is the braising time. Perfect for making on a Sunday afternoon. The pork carnitas freeze beautifully and make a great meal for someone who doesn’t feel like cooking!
Top these oven braised carnitas with
What temperature do I cook pork carnitas?
Cook the pork by braising it in the oven at 250F for 3-4 hours. Every hour stir and check the temperature of the meat.
How do you know when carnitas are done?
Once the braising is done, remove the pan from the oven. Using a meat thermometer, check the internal temperature of a few of the largest pieces of meat. If they register 200F or more, they are done. Return them to the pan and let sit for 20 minutes to cool a little.
How do you reheat carnitas in the oven?
Wrap the meat in foil and seal tightly. Heat in the oven at 250F for 10 minutes or until the temperature reaches 165F. Open the foil and and broil the shredded pork for a few minutes to crisp up the edges.
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What can I make with pork carnitas?
There are so many ways you can eat carnitas and will quickly become your favorite Mexican food!
- Breakfast Hash
- Cilantro Rice Bowl
- Salad Topping
- Mexican-Style Pizzas
- Empanadas or Hand Pies
Easy carnitas in the oven
- 7.5-pound pork shoulder (with the bone-you can go up to 9 lbs)
- 2 cups water
- 2 oranges (halved)
- 1 lime (halved)
- 4 jalapeños (tops removed, peppers sliced in half)
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1.5 teaspoons chipotle powder
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 2 onions (peeled, quartered)
- Cube up the pork shoulder and place in dutch oven with the bone.
- Put on the stove top on high heat.
- Add water and all spices.
- Add onions, lime, jalapenos, and oranges (squeeze the citrus into the pot and toss in the rinds.)
- Bring to a boil and preheat oven to 275.
- Cover, place in oven and cook for 2 hours and 15 minutes until meat is nice and tender.
- When done braising, remove the pot from the oven.
- Remove meat, onions, and jalapenos onto cookie sheet.
- Throw away fruit, fat, and bone.
- Shred meat.
- Reduce the pot juices on the stovetop until reduced by 2/3.
- Toss shredded meat, onions, and jalapenos back into the juice.
- Place all onto a cookie sheet and put under the broiler on high until crispy!
- Serve with your favorite toppings!
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 25 Serving Size: 3 oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 410Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 122mgSodium: 351mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 32g
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This recipe inspired from this great blog.