Learn to make these easy oven carnitas ever so you can have this classic restaurant dish at home with minimal work. You can do this today.
One of our standard restaurant meals is carnitas. If you are unaware of this Mexican classic, they are basically chunks of pork butt cooked with seasoning. Also known as “little meats,” they can be found on the street in Mexico cooking in large vats of lard. Not a good option for us home cooking Yankees.
I have done carnitas multiple ways (never in lard). The most common method that I see recommended is braising chuck of pork butt in a spiced up fluid of some type and then cooking off the liquid either on the stovetop or in an oven. It works nicely but is a fair amount of work and makes a heck of a mess. I have done this a number of times (not published), and it was very tasting. But the work to food ratio was high for me.
Low 5 or high 4 range. Much of the fat drains due to the rack, so the “greasy factor” is markedly decreased.
Notes on Oven Pork Carnitas
I needed a really simple technique. And finding a recipe to model was a major problem. The simplest was at instructables.com but I had a few issues. It required flipping, I felt it would probably overcook, and it was not on a rack so the pork would cook in the drained out fat and juice which I wanted to avoid.
My result is simple enough for the average home cook to make. So here, we cut boneless pork butt into chunks, season, spread on a rack, cover and bake for a while in a low oven then uncover for a while, almost everybody can do this. I do suggest a boneless pork butt to simplify by letting the butcher cut the bone out which can be more work than you appreciate.
So the rack will lift the meat out of the rendered fat and improve cooking on all sides without flipping. Here is an example of the top and bottom of the carnitas without any flipping.
Other Carnitas Options
You can see nice browning on the bottom of the carnitas without flipping.
Lastly, the seasoning of carnitas is highly variable. It can just be salt. There may or may not be citruses like lime or orange. So season to your taste.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees convection or 275 conventional oven.
Prepare a sheet pan with foil and a rack. Give the rack a heavy spray of PAM.
Cut a 3-4 pound boneless pork butt into about 2-inch chunks. Trim big chunks of fat only. You could do bone-in butt but you will just be making your life harder.
Place pork in a large mixing bowl. Add the juice of one lime. Mix well. Add 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix well. Change the seasoning if you wish.
Transfer meat to the prepared pan. Distribute evenly but largest chunks in the corners.
Cover with foil.
Roast in preheated oven for 2 1/2 hours. Remove foil and continue to roast about 2 more hours until internal temperature is 195 to 200 on biggest pieces.
Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
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