There are so many different ways people prepare carnitas, or pulled pork, and I can honestly say I've never had any bad carnitas. When you are slow-roasting this delicious, marbled meat for the adequate amount of time, it's truly hard to go wrong. I know people that just let salt and pepper do all the work and the meat is still fabulous.
My favorite carnitas of all time come from this great spot in Irvine called Taleo. Their version has a lovely sweet, crunch to the exterior and are bursting with flavor on the inside. I sure wish I could get my hands on their recipe, but have heard it's TOP SECRET. This is my recreation of Taleo's fabulous carnitas and they are amazing! When preparing this dish, pork shoulder or pork butt will both work well. I usually like to get double the size we would would normally eat for dinner so that we can have leftovers the next day...for BBQ pulled pork sandwiches.
This is also a great dish for company because the meat cooks most of the day and there is very little advance prep work to be done. Just heat up some tortillas and serve with your favorite salsa, guacamole cheese. So easy, so delicious.
6 lb pork shoulder or pork butt roast
Zest and juice of 1 orange
10-12 peeled garlic cloves, half left whole, the other half minced
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
1/4 cup brown sugar
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to Convection Roast at 225 degrees, or Bake at 250 if your oven does not have that feature. Place roast into large roasting pan and generously coat with salt and pepper. Using a sharp knife, make about 5-7 slits around the roast (by making an "X") and add one whole garlic clove into each, being sure to push it as deep into the roast as possible.
In a small bowl, combine orange juice, zest, the minced garlic cloves, paprika, cumin and brown sugar. Cover the roast with the juice mixture, using your fingers to massage it into any cracks and crevices. Add one cup of water to the bottom of the roasting pan. Place meat probe into the deepest portion of the meat (NOT on the bone side if your roast has a bone). Place roast into oven and plug the meat probe into the oven wall. Press the downward arrow (V) to select the ideal temperature for the roast. I set mine to 200 degrees--you want the meat to fall apart, and although it will be safely finished cooking when it reaches 165 degrees, it needs to cook longer to get the tenderness you want when cooking carnitas. Cover the pork with foil--you will have to work around the meat probe a bit--press Start and let the cooking begin. My roast cooked for almost 8 hours--your oven will shut off when the desired internal temperature is reached, so this is a great meal to put in the oven early in the morning. Depending on the size of your roast, it'll be ready by late afternoon...JUST in time for dinner! If your oven does not have a meat probe feature, you will have to watch it more carefully toward the end of cooking to be sure it doesn't get too crisp. An instant read thermometer works great for this--simply test the temperature of the meat at the thickest part--when it reaches 200 degrees, turn off the heat and let the pork rest for about 30 minutes or so before you start shredding it.
The chunks of meat should separate and pull off the bone (if any) easily. Remove and discard the bone and any large pieces of fat. Either use a fork to shred or a knife to chop the meat into bite size pieces. Yum!
Save your leftovers for a completely different meal--simply re-heat the meat and douse in your favorite BBQ sauce, serve alongside some creamed corn and baked beans and you've got two totally different meals and your oven did ALL the work!