How to Make Confit Style Mexican Pork Carnitas. An Easy Carnitas Recipe, Tips and Tricks.

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Fatty pork fried for hours in pork fat…Mexican pork carnitas are the best food in the world – ever.

While perhaps not on your cardiologist's heart-smart menu plan, an occasional supper of Mexican pork carnitas will always hit the spot and will never fail to please even the most particular of eaters.

And they're dead easy to make. As long as you don’t let the heat creep too high, you cannot go wrong and you will create a top-chef quality meal.

Mexican cooking is a pretty regionalized thing, and so I wouldn’t say that this technique is the definitive methodology to pork carnitas. I would say that it is the method I have had the best results with and it is a method that is pretty close to effortless.

Try your very best to procure good quality rendered lard (Or better yet, make your own lard…it has half the cholesterol of butter!). Supermarket lard tends to be hydrogenated and flavorless nonsense. You want the real creamy white stuff, and you'll find it in most any Latin grocery store.

This is nowhere near a fusion dish, but interestingly enough, the techniques towards Mexican pork carnitas and French pork or duck confit, are very similar.

Pork Carnitas

There are no quantities listed here – things are not that complicated in carnita land…

  • Pork butt, pork shoulder or pork neck, cut into 2 inch cubes
  • Lard
  • Salt and pepper
  • A hint oregano, salt and pepper

Easy steps to Pork Carnitas...

  1. Cube the pork into cubes and rub generously with salt, freshly ground black pepper and dried oregano. If you have time (and forethought) put the seasoned meat into the fridge overnight to rest – or just proceed immediately.
  2. Put the pork into a pot, and add enough melted lard to cover the pork cubes completely.
  3. Raise the heat to a low-medium-low and let it simmer. Don’t get too worried about the temperature, but what you want is a gentle and occasional bubbling, not even as high as a simmer.
  4. Let the pork cook for 2-4 hours. It is done when it is almost falling apart, but still retains its shape.
  5. Take the pork out of the lard, and cut it into ½ inch cubes (you can just use a fork to "cut" it, as it will be very tender)
  6. In a skillet, heat a few Tbls of lard over medium, and add the smaller pork cubs in batches, cooking them just long enough to brown all the outsides well.
  7. At best, a carnita has a browned and crusty exterior and a meltingly tender interior – this technique delivers.
  8. Drain the carnita chunks well and serve with warm corn tortillas with all the usual garnishes, salsas and condiments, or in any other Mexican dish.

That's all there is to it – you're very own south of the border carnita confit. Beware though, make these for friends and family juts once and know you'll face regular begging and pleading for another round!

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Comments 14 comments

billdd 7 years ago

I love your recipes!


Sherri S 7 years ago

Is this jessica in castaic calif recipe?

Mom is Teri?

: )


John D Lee profile image

John D Lee 7 years ago Author

Sorry - Mom's name isn't Teri - sounds like she makes a mean pork carnitas though!


Patricia 7 years ago

I agree that braising in lard is the best way to make carnitas. But given the fat content and my neverending need to eat carnitas... Do you have any suggestions for another braising liquid that won't take too bad?


John D Lee profile image

John D Lee 7 years ago Author

Hi Patricia,

A very common method involves braising the pork in water and the letting the water evaporate. By the time the water has evaporated, a lot of the fat has rendered from the pork, and this fat in the bottom of your pot is used to finish and crisp up the pork.

Interesting fact #1 for you - butter has twice the cholesterol of lard - so maybe you can justify it?!? (haha)


Doris Rush-Lopez 6 years ago

The way I make carnitas is I just season the low-fat pork cubes, brown at med-high heat (with a touch of olive oil) in my fave black cast iron frying pan, then lower the heat to med-low and simmer covered for at least 1 hour. When the meat is tender (pulls apart easily and the liquid is gone, but the rendered fat remains), I shred the meat with a fork, then turn the heat up again, and let it get crispy! Voila!


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John D Lee 6 years ago Author

Thank you for sharing your healthy version of pork carnitas Doris.


Le 6 years ago

I find it interesting how people just parrot to each other how bad saturated fats are and therefore cooking fats that are high in saturated fats must be evil heart attack causing ninjas? Have you actually looked at the fat break down of different cooking fats? Educate yourself as to what these fats do. I love seeing these people who think they are being so heart healthy by avoiding all saturated fats, then they make a stir-fry using EVOO, heating it way beyond its smoking point releasing tonnes of free radicals. Yeah, healthy all right. Try cooking with some stable *healthy* animal fats instead!

I did try this carnitas recipe once last week. I used the heaviest crockpot I had, and even on the lowest setting on my smallest gas burner, it was still bubbling furiously. The results were delicious though. I'm trying it right now again, but with a heat diffuser, and the temperature is holding steady at 93 degrees celsius. My GF and I found last week's batch very delicious; I'm sure this week will be even better. It might also be interesting to note for the fat obsessed crowd that I started with a fresh tub of lard last week, and after straining it back into the tub at the end, only about 2 tablespoons were missing. This is with overheating. I'm sure it will use even less this week. Go go go heart healthy saturated fats!!! Men's Health did a great write up of the "Saturated Fat myth".

Thanks for sharing the recipe.


jessie from sd 5 years ago

i love traditional hardy mexican cooking....if ya can't take the "fat" or what i call love....then don't eat our food!!!


David Mitchell 5 years ago

This is a great recipe. When I lived in a small town in Mexico, guys on the street corner cooked carnitas (always pork) in great caldrons of slowing simmering lard. Mmm! Mmm! Good.

The lipid hypothesis about saturated fat and cholesterol is nonsense. In 1900 only 8% of recorded deaths were heart related. In 1960 (after most Americans had switched to margarine and polyunsaturated vegetable oils) the recorded heart related deaths was 30%. Americans have been following a low-fat, high fiber diet for decades and our health has been getting worse, not better.

Cholesterol is in every cell of your body and there's a lot of it in your brain. It's necessary for properly growing children. Studies have shown that people with cholesterol levels below 180 die at a higher rate--and for all causes--the people whose cholesterol is above 200.

Natural saturated fats and cholesterol rich foods are heart healthy.

Go the following sites for more information: http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/, http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/skinny-...

http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/cholest...

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive...


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

Interestingly the Peruvian dish "chicharrones", also made with pork, uses a similar method as well.


Daniela 4 years ago

Can I use an electric slow cooker/ crock pot for this recipe??


Ms Maggie Maye 4 years ago

Daniela, I'm currently doing something very similar as I type! I actually stumbled across this method of cooking pork about a month ago when I decided to render pork fat from nice big thick strips of pork belly and straight up pork fat (very reasonably priced and found at Asian and Latin markets) to make some lard. I found that the pork that was left over was totally tender, flavorful and with a nice crisp to it.

The only thing I did differently tonight (and may do a follow up as I have a few hours to go) is I added a splash of cola to mimic Mexican rock brown sugar, and a few more spices (small dashes of cumin, all spice, ground coriander) and chopped onions and garlic. I'm doing it on high since I'd like to eat this tonight, but when I did the fat rendering, I did it on low for about 10 hours.

So yes, you can do this in a slow cooker as I've also made plenty of pulled pork recipes as well, though using stock instead of lard.

I also agree with what many are saying about lard having a bad rep. Before I rendered the lard I looked many methods of rendering on the internet and found that yes, pork fat is definitely more healthier than processed fats. Imagine a natural food being better than processed! (snicker)


Ms Maggie Maye 4 years ago

This is the follow up I hoped to provide as it is late night....slow cooker was successful. After about 4 hours on high setting on the slow cooker, I transferred the meat, shredded (with ease!) on a cookie sheet and put in the oven which was pre-heated at 400 Degrees and had perfect caramelized crispy, juicy pork and constructed my beloved burritos!

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