Carnitas can be spooned into tacos, but you can also use it as a filling for tamales, enchiladas and burritos. Photo by: Carl Tremblay/America's Test Kitchen via AP
June 20, 2018 10:51:20 AM
Traditional carnitas, Mexico's version of pulled pork, is fried in gallons of lard or oil. The results are tasty, but who wants to deal with all that hot fat? We wanted restaurant-style carnitas -- tender chunks of lightly crisped, caramelized pork, subtly accented with oregano and citrus -- without the hassle of frying.
Our initial recipe for carnitas started by simmering the meat (taste tests proved boneless pork butt had the best flavor) in a seasoned broth in the oven and then sauteing it in some of the rendered fat. The flavor was OK, but too much of the pork flavor was lost when we discarded the cooking liquid.
So we reduced the liquid on the stovetop (after the meat had been removed) to the consistency of a thick, syrupy glaze that was perfect for coating the meat. Broiled on a rack set over a baking sheet, the glazed meat developed a wonderfully rich flavor, and the rack allowed the excess fat to drip off.
We emulated the flavor of the Mexican sour oranges used in authentic carnitas with a mixture of fresh lime and orange juices. Bay leaves and oregano provided aromatic notes, and cumin brought an earthiness that complemented the other flavors.
MEXICAN PULLED PORK
Start to finish: 2 hours, 30 minutes
1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) boneless pork butt, fat cap trimmed to 4/5-inch thick, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 small onion, peeled and halved
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Table salt and ground black pepper
2 cups water
2 tablespoons juice from 1 lime
1 medium orange, halved
Tortillas and garnishes:
18 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
Minced white or red onion
Fresh cilantro leaves
Thinly sliced radishes
Nutrition information per serving: 339 calories; 127 calories from fat; 14 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 147 mg cholesterol; 549 mg sodium; 3 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 46 g protein.