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Crispy crunchy little bits of spicy pork. Life doesn’t get much better than that. Now traditionally pork carnitas is made by cooking pieces of pork butt or ham in copious amounts of it’s own fat for hours until the meat is perfectly tender. Then, the meat is removed and the temperature of the oil is turned up so it gets smoking hot and the meat is returned. This gives the meat a luscious inside and a crispy exterior that is nothing short of magical.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a kitchen in my house capable of handling the heating of numerous pounds of lard. Nor do I want to deal with the hassle of messing with gallons of hot lard. You have to pick your battles people! Using this recipe can get you pretty close to traditional carnitas with minimal effort and trouble.

Carnitas Recipe

5 lbs. Pork Shoulder – cut into pieces
1 Medium Onion – cut into chunks
2 Limes – quartered
1 Jalepino – sliced
4 Ancho chilies – sliced, seeds and tops removed
3/4 T salt
2 T cumin

carnitas_meat1. Preheat your oven to 300°. Place all of the meat into a large dutch oven. If you don’t have a dutch oven, use your heaviest oven-proof pad with a lid.

carnitas_ingredients 2. Get all of your other ingredients chopped, sliced and so forth.

carnitas_meat 3. Add your vegetables and spices to the meat and give it all a good stir to mix things. Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly mixed, it will all work itself out during it’s time in the oven.

4. Put the lid on and cook in the 300° oven for 4 hours. Stir everything about every hour or so. Yeah, that’s right, 4 hours. After about an hour in the oven the fat will begin to melt out of the pork and all of the vegetables will give up their water, essentially creating a braising liquid for the meat. I told you this was easy, that meat is just about cooking itself.

5. Take the meat out of the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes with the lid on. That dutch oven is blazing hot and you don’t want anything to do with it right now.

6. Using a slotted spoon, remove all of the meat to a bowl. You can discard any of the miscellaneous peppers or limes you may find along the way. You should now be left with quite a bit of liquid in your pot. Carefully, pour that off into a bowl. Cover each bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight.

DSC_0076 7. The next day, preheat your oven to 425°. Take all of our meat and lay it out on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Now, lets take a look at that liquid we saved. It should have separated and congealed. We don’t need all the grease in there, so scrape that all of the top and discard it. (Or you can use it make the best eggs you’ve ever had!)

oven_carnitas 8. With that rather unappetizing pork jello you have remaining, spread it over the pork on the cookie sheet. During cooking, this will melt down and provide a lip-smacking glaze for the meat. Put the meat in the oven for 15 – 20. Just keep an eye on it, so that it doesn’t burn.

DSC_0089 There you have it, easy oven pork carnitas. The exterior of the meat is nice and crispy; the inside is moist and succulent.  Those perfect little bits of pork are perfect for nachos or tacos, and they make an excellent filling for a Mexican omelet.

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14 Responses to “Carnitas Recipe – Easy Oven Method”

  1. John McGovern Says:

    I really really like carnitas. Having lived in Chicago for a few years, delectable carnitas were available at every single corner taqueria for like $1.50; for a small corn tortilla w/ nothing but onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime – yum! I will give your recipe a try, but I have had a lot of luck with the carnitas recipe @ alaskacooks.com/2006/06/14/carnitas/


  2. JD Says:

    This recipe looks great. I’ve been waiting to find the time to make it. I’m hoping for this weekend. But I don’t need 5 lb of pork. 2.5 lb would be more than enough. Do I decrease the cooking time to 2 hours, or just keep a closer eye on it?

  3. Babycakes Says:

    Tried your recipe. The kids liked it. I would ditch the cumin, though. It gives it an Indian-type flavor not found in true Mexican carnitas. I added 6-8 crushed garlic cloves, which added a more authentic flavor. Thanks for the recipe

  4. Bryan Leon Says:

    i wouldnt trust the recipe at alaskacooks.com because the first step they tell you is to trim the fat! that is the whole point of carnitas and where you get all the flavor! the fat!

  5. Bill Says:

    You do not need to decrease the cooking time. It still takes 4 hours. I used this recipe with 1.5 pounds and reduced the spices and it still worked great.

  6. beatrice Says:

    I didn’t have the cumin or the ancho,but I had everything else. It’s currently cooking…3 hrs to go. I’m worried my pan isn’t big enough, and it’ll get too juciy in there :+(

  7. Vicki Says:

    This recipe is very good, but on the 2nd try I increased salt to 1 tablespoon, added 4-6 cloves of garlic, 1 jalepeno pepper seeded & cut in half versus sliced and substituted 5-6 dried Guajillo chile peppers for Ancho chiles again seeded & cut in half. It was so much better.

  8. Clevelander Says:

    Great receipe…..Best ever!!! As it is

  9. smidls Says:

    Sorry, Mark, but I made these and the Ancho chilies just gave it a weird taste. I had to turn the batch into pulled pork by adding BBQ sauce. :(

  10. Duke Says:

    Mark: Thanks for the recipe! I’ve tried this twice now, and I’m getting closer, but something’s still not quite right. Admittedly, I used a cheap BJ’s tenderloin, which is probably leaner than it should be, but it still had plenty of fat and enough connective tissue to gel the juices overnight. Taste was OK, but it seems to me that the first cooking at 300 is too high, and the second cooking at 425 is too low. The chunks come out a little dry for me and they don’t glaze like your pictures. I’m going to try 275 for the first step, and broiling at 500 for the second step, and only maybe 10 minutes. Thanks again!

  11. Mark Says:

    It’s not right because you’re not using the proper cut of meat for this application. A tenderloin is the absolute worst cut of pork you can use for this. There is no fat in it, nor is there any connective tissue. Use the proper cut of meat and it will taste great.

  12. Terry Says:

    It’s in the oven. Smells fab. Added some garlic and cinnamon and a few slices of orange. Went w combo of ancho and guajillo, plus some fresh jalapeno. Will letcha know how it works out.

  13. Charmaine Says:

    How many people will the 5 lbs. of pork feed?? I want to use this for a class of 30 and they will have other foods to try as well.

  14. gina Says:

    Is it necessary to put the meat in the fridge overnight? If not, what do you recommend?

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