In the US, carnitas are usually made by simmering pork in liquid, then shredding the meat. However, authentic Mexican carnitas involves slow-cooking pork in lard until fall-apart tender, increasing the heat so the meat fries, and then breaking the pork into smaller pieces for eating. This recipe from Milk Streetmixes the two techniques, and the result is a tender and mouthwatering meat with a crispy texture.
You can serve the carnitas with rice and beans or make tacos with warmed corn tortillas. Either way, pickled red onions are a must—their sharp acidity perfectly balances the richness of the pork. Sliced radishes and salsa are also great additions.
Slow-Cooked Crispy Carnitas
5 to 6 pounds boneless pork butt, not trimmed, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
10 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. In a large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven, stir together the pork, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, oregano, thyme, pepper flakes, and two teaspoons salt. Stir in the oil and 1 cup water. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook for 3 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven. Stir the pork and return the pot, uncovered, to the oven. Cook until a skewer inserted into the meat meets no resistance, another 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer to cool. Tilt the pot to pool the cooking liquid to one side, then use a wide spoon to skim off as much fat as possible; reserve the fat. Bring the defatted cooking liquid to a simmer over medium-high and cook, occasionally stirring until it is reduced to about ⅓ cup, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, break the chunks into 3/4 - to 1-inch pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. Add the pork back to the pot and stir until evenly moistened with the reduced cooking liquid.
In a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat one teaspoon of the reserved fat until barely smoking. Add the pork in an even layer and cook without stirring, pressing the meat against the skillet with a spatula, until the bottom begins to brown and the pork is heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.