Pan frying to get the golden brown crunchy bits after the pork is cooked and shredded is not optional! Broiling/grilling will not produce the same results as it dries it out and defeats the purpose of wonderfully moist slow cooked pork. My other “must do” step is to pour the juices in the slow cooker over the pulled pork – this adds so much flavour and makes it even juicier! This makes a lot of pulled pork – enough for 10 to 12 servings. Use the pork for tacos, nachos, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas – the possibilities are endless!
- 5 lb / 2.5 kg pork shoulder (pork butt), skinless, bone-in (4lb/2kg without bone) (Note 3)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, deseeded, chopped
- 2½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 oranges, juice only (or sub with ¾ cup fresh orange juice)
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Rinse and dry the pork shoulder, rub in salt and pepper.
- Combine the rub ingredients then rub all over the pork.
- Place the pork in a slow cooker (fat cap up), top with the onion, jalapeño, minced garlic (don’t worry about spreading it) and squeeze over the juice of the orange.
- Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 6 hours (or 1h 30 m in a pressure cooker on high).
- The meat should be tender and falling off the bone. Remove from the slow cooker and let cool slightly. Then shred the pork using two forks.
- Skim off the fat from the juices remaining in the slow cooker and discard the fat. Then if you are left with a lot more than 1½ to 2 cups of juice, then reduce it (either in the slow cooker on the sauté setting with the lid off, or in a saucepan). The liquid will be SALTY, it is the seasoning for the pork. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large non stick pan over high heat. Place shredded pork into the pan and press down and cook until the bottom side is golden brown and crusty.
- Drizzle over the juices and serve immediately (if you are using defrosted carnitas, this is not applicable as the juices are already on the meat – see Note 4c).
- If you are reheating the carnitas (Note 4), then flip and cook the other side briefly just to warm through. I really recommend only making one side crusty and leaving the other side juicy and moist.
1. If you are using a piece of pork that is not the size I use, you MUST reduce the salt accordingly. If your pork is more than 1 lb / 0.5 kg larger or smaller than the prescribed size, ensure you adjust the other ingredients accordingly as well, not just the salt.
2. To make this in the oven, add 1 cup of water to the braising liquid. Place in 325F/160C oven for 2 hours, covered, then roast for a further 1 to 1.5 hours uncovered. Add more water if the liquid dries out too much. You should end up with 1½ to 2 cups of liquid when it finishes cooking.
If you make this recipe in the oven, you could skip the pan frying step because you will get a nice brown crust on your pork.
3. Use pork with the skin removed but leaving some of the fat cap on. The fat adds juiciness to the carnitas!
4. Taco Fixing suggestions: Diced avocado or make a real proper Guacamole, Pico de Gallo or Restaurant Style Salsa or even just sliced tomato, grated cheese, sour cream. Sliced lettuce or pickled cabbage / red onions would also be great, but unlike other tacos, you don’t need it for the texture because the carnitas have the crispy bits!
5. MAKE AHEAD:
a) For overnight or up to 3 days, the best option is to shred the meat without pan frying, keep the juices separate, refrigerate, then pan fry to make it golden and reheat the meat, pouring juices over while it is browning per recipe.
b) To brown the meat ahead, the meat actually holds up pretty well in terms of staying crispy. It’s even pretty good refrigerated overnight – but a) is definitely better. Keep the juices separate and pour it over just before reheating the pork. You can reheat in the microwave, quickly reheat in the pan or if you have loads, in a foil covered roasting pan in the oven at 180C/350F for around 8 – 10 minutes.
c) To FREEZE: This holds up great in the freezer. Pour the juices over the pulled pork (pre browning) and store in ziplock bags or airtight containers. Freeze in small batches for convenience. To use, defrost completely before following the recipe to brown the pork.