Holy Smoked Carnitas

2,412

46

8

Intro: Holy Smoked Carnitas

All I can say about these Mexican-style smoked carnitas are "holy smokes!" These are SO good, especially with the must-have fixings. A $10 pork shoulder is marinated overnight, smoked, and braised in juices, turning it into delicious and slightly spicy pulled-pork-esque BBQ tacos, topped with homemade chipotle sour cream, pico de gallo, sliced avocado, and a squeeze of lime. WOWZA!

Step 1: Ingredients

Day 1:

  • 7-9 lb pork shoulder (or Boston butt)
  • 32 oz orange juice
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (save the rest of the can of peppers for the 2nd day)
  • 2 limes, halved*
  • 1 onion large, chopped
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic powder

Day 2:

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Ground cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Chipotle powder
  • Paprika
  • Cinnamon
  • 32 oz - 48 oz tomato juice
  • 16 oz orange juice
  • 1 onion large chopped
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 TBLS red pepper flakes
  • 2 limes, quartered

Chipotle Sour Cream Sauce:

  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 4 oz mayo
  • 2 - 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced
  • ½ fresh lime, juiced"
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pico de Gallo:

  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 diced onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1/4- 1/2 bundle cilantro
  • Cumin and garlic salt to taste
  • Mini tortillas!

Tools:

  • Smoker (or grill with indirect heat)
  • Plastic bag for marinating
  • Aluminum foil
  • Meat thermometer
  • Roasting pan
  • Cutting board and knife

*Pro tip: when juicing limes by hand, roll the whole lime on the counter first, pressing firmly with your hand. This will loosen the lime up so it's easier to squeeze!

Step 2: Day 1 - Marinate

Day 1:

  • 7-9 lb pork shoulder (or Boston butt)
  • 32 oz orange juice
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (save the rest of the can of peppers for the 2nd day)
  • 2 limes halved*
  • 1 onion large chopped
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic powder

When making carnitas, I use roughly a 7-9 lb pork shoulder. This 9 lb shoulder was on sale for $.98/lb. Score!

I start by cutting fairly deep cross slits into the fat cap of the shoulder, like pictured; you will know the fat cap side because of the thick layer of fat! Now there is more surface area for the seasonings to penetrate and crisp up to form a nice bark. Bacon, anyone?

I begin seasoning with 1 pt. salt, 1/4 pt. pepper, and 1/2 pt. garlic powder. Because all pork shoulders are different sizes, it's less helpful to give you exact measurements and more helpful to give ratios. I seasoned all sides as pictured and ended with fat cap side up (side with the score marks). I dice the chipotle peppers and spread over the top and into the scored slits.

Now that the pork has its seasonings, it needs to marinate. Find a bag or container big enough to marinate in, like a glass tub or the BIG gallon zipper bags. I personally use a vacuum-sealed bag. It is TOUGH to get the pork shoulder in the bag. I mean two people squeezing and pushing and pulling this large pig into a small tube. But, I want the liquids and seasonings to be sucked into the meat, so it is worth the effort. After getting the pork in the bag, add the chopped onions, orange juice, and lime juice.

Remove as much air as possible, make sure the pork is covered, and place in the fridge overnight. Marinate for 12 - 24 hours!

Step 3: Day 2, Part 1 - Smoke

Day 2, Part 1:

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Ground cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Chipotle powder
  • Paprika
  • Cinnamon

It's morning time! I wake up about 6am to get the meat on the smoker for about a 3pm lunch/dinner.

I start off by removing the pork shoulder from the marinade (which gets thrown away). I let the pork rest in a big pan for about 10-20 minutes while I get my seasonings ready.

Before I season, I blot the pork with a paper towel to get rid of the excess liquid.

I start my seasonings with the same three spices as yesterday - salt, pepper, and garlic - using the same ratio. I then cover the pork on both sides and into the crevasses with the rest of the spices listed - cumin, chili powder, chipotle powder, paprika, and cinnamon. This will give it the Mexican flavors that we love. Depending on your desired spiciness levels, put more or less of each spice. I was very liberal with all the spices, except cinnamon, and the heat was still perfect. Not too spicy at all. (Side note: if later the meat IS too spicy, the chipotle sour cream is great at cooling the taco down.) I place the pork shoulder fat side up in a grated carrier, so it's easier to lift in and out of the smoker; this is optional.

Now it’s time to start the smoker! If using a Traegar like I am, you will need to run the smoker with the lid open for 5 minutes so the pellets can start smoking in the auger. I first set the setting to straight smoke, which is what the pork will cook on for 2 hours. After the 5 minute smoke out, I place the pork centered on the grill and close the hood. After two hours, I change setting to 275 degrees and smoke for 2 more hours. We aren't checking the temperature at all during this 4-hour period; we just want the crisp bark to form.

Don't have a Traegar?: You can use another smoker or grill as long as it can use indirect heat. This BBQ pork needs to cook a long time; we don't want to quick scorch it on the grill, making it tough and burnt on the outside but uncooked in the center. Our goal is to keep the smoker or grill 275-300 F degrees. Make sure you check and refill your wood/pellets/fuel as necessary.

After 4 hours has lapsed, take that bad boy out of the smoker and bring inside! It should be crusty and dark; that's a good sign! No, it's not done yet; we are now going to braise the pork shoulder to make it melt in your mouth!

Step 4: Day 2, Part 2 - Braise

Day 2, Part 2:

  • 32 oz - 48 oz tomato juice
  • 16 oz orange juice
  • 1 onion large chopped
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 TBLS red pepper flakes
  • 2 limes, quartered

Now that the pork shoulder is inside, place it in some sort of roasting pan that will hold all the juices. Pour all of the orange juice and about 32 oz of tomato juice into the pan (if you are using a small pan, then reduce juice amount). Add the rest of the ingredients. If the juice doesn't reach to about 2 inches high on the pork, add more tomato juice. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place back on the smoker at 275 degrees. I have a wireless meat thermometer that I place in the pork at this time as well. Wireless thermometers are so great because you don't have to open the smoker lid to check the temp, which can cause drastic heat fluctuations in the smoker.

Note: your meat will not taste like orange juice! OJ is a great tenderizer.

Our goal is for the meat to get to 200 degrees. This will take about 3-4 more hours.* I watch the thermometer for about 196-198 degrees and pull it out when I get to the smoker, as it should continue to cook after it's removed. You will know it's done because the thermometer will slide in and out with little resistance.

*Start on the next step (Taco Toppings) while this is cooking.*

Bring the pork inside to rest for 15 minutes while you finish making your toppings!

Step 5: Day 2 - Taco Toppings

Both of these toppings are SO necessary and bring out the delicious Mexican flavors of the carnitas.

Chipotle Sour Cream Sauce

  • 8oz sour cream
  • 4oz mayo
  • 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (chopped)
  • ½ fresh Lime (juice only)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients, adding more or less of the sauce from chipotles for taste, while the meat is braising. Let rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Pico de Gallo

  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 diced onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1/4- 1/2 bundle cilantro (I use more because I love cilantro; some people think cilantro tastes like soap!)
  • Cumin and garlic salt to taste

Dice tomatoes, add in some garlic salt, and let strain in a colander. The salt will help pull juice from the tomatoes, making your pico not wet and mushy. While straining, diced your onions, pepper, and cilantro. After 10 minutes, add all ingredients to small mixing bowl. Let rest.

Step 6: Day 2 - Chunk

After the pork has rested, remove it from the braising liquid and place on a cutting board. You will extra know that the pork is done because the bone will easily pull right out!

I then just chop the pork. I like to leave bigger chunks, rather than chopping the meat, because the tacos stay together better.

Side note: You can save the liquid for reheating later. Once the liquid is cool, scoop the fat off the top, and add the rest of the liquid to your meat.

Step 7: Assemble Carnitas Tacos

Now the best part! Fill up a corn or flour tortilla (my preference) and top with chipotle sour cream, pico, avocado, and squeezed lime juice!

Tortilla tips: you can heat up your tortillas on a skillet if you want them warm, and cover with a warm towel while you're waiting to eat. Also, if you do use corn tortillas, you might double wrap each taco since they aren't as strong and are more likely to break on you.

Holy moly these carnitas are good!

BBQ Showdown Challenge

First Prize in the
BBQ Showdown Challenge

Share

    Recommendations

    • Halloween Contest 2018

      Halloween Contest 2018
    • Optics Contest

      Optics Contest
    • Plastics Contest

      Plastics Contest

    8 Discussions

    0
    None
    offseid

    3 months ago

    Yummmmmmmm nice job! :D

    0
    None
    soccernavymom

    3 months ago

    Wow this looks delicious! Will have to give it a try!

    0
    None
    clange60jessyratfink

    Reply 3 months ago

    I think carnitas are so underrated in the barbeque world. The mix of smoky and spicy is just perfect.

    0
    None
    ameliawildstar

    3 months ago

    This looks delicious!! I just voted for it to win the contest! Yum!

    1 reply
    0
    None
    clange60ameliawildstar

    Reply 3 months ago

    This is one of those things that taste as good as they look. Thank you!!