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Pork carnitas tacos with chopped cilantro
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Crispy, Boozy Pork Carnitas

A really solid carnitas recipe that brines the pork in salt water for extra tenderness.
Prep Time1 hr 45 mins
Cook Time3 hrs 25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: pork carnitas
Servings: 6 servings
Author: sara a.

Equipment

  • Dutch Oven

Ingredients

For Pork & Brine:

  • 2 - 3 lbs. Pork Shoulder (Boston Butt) (Heritage Pork if available)
  • 3 cups Water
  • 3 tbsp. Kosher Salt

For Spice Blend:

  • 1 tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Mexican Oregano
  • 2 tsp. Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Kosher Salt

For Cooking Carnitas:

  • 1 dried Ancho Chile stem and seeds removed
  • 2 tbsp. Vegetable Oil
  • 1/4 cup Pineapple Juice
  • 1 small Yellow Onion finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 5 cloves Garlic smashed
  • 2 tbsp. Bourbon your favorite
  • 12 ounces Beer wheat / amber / IPA
  • 1/2 cup Whole Milk
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 medium Orange
  • Water

Instructions

  • Make the salt water brine by combining kosher salt and water in a large bowl. Stir well to mix, until salt is dissolved.
  • Pat the pork dry. Cut the pork into 3 inch cubes, then place into the salt water brine.* Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours.
  • Remove the stem and seeds from the ancho chile, and place it in a bowl. Cover it with boiling water, and set a small plate on top of the chile to keep it submerged. Let it rehydrate for 30 minutes. Once it is rehydrated, roughly chop it and set aside.
  • Combine the brown sugar, Mexican oregano, smoked paprika, cumin, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk to combine, and set aside.
  • Once the pork is done brining, remove it from the brine and pat it dry.
  • Heat a wide, deep pot (preferably a dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil, and once the oil is hot, carefully brown the pork on all sides. If necessary, work in batches so the pork isn't overcrowded.
  • Preheat the oven to 300 F.
  • Sprinkle the seasoning blend all over the browned pork. Use tongs to toss the pork around until it is coated in the seasoning.
  • Pour pineapple juice into the dutch oven, stirring it to loosen up any browned bits on the bottom.  Stir in onions, chopped ancho chile, and smashed garlic, and cook for 5 minutes until onions are very soft and starting to brown.
  • Stir in bourbon, beer, milk, and bay leaf.  Squeeze in orange pieces, then tuck the orange pieces in with the pork.  Pour in enough water to cover the pork (about 2-3 cups).
  • Cover the top of the pot with foil, then place the lid on.  Cook for 3 hours at 300 F, checking a couple of times during the cooking process to be sure the pork stays covered with liquid. Add a cup of water if necessary during the cooking process.
  • Once the pork is fall-apart tender, shred it directly into the liquids in the dutch oven. Transfer most of the shredded pork to small a rimmed baking sheet, and pour about a cup of the liquid on top of it.
  • Broil pork and liquids until crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Serve on warmed tortillas with chopped onion, cilantro, or your favorite toppings!

Notes

*I use a 3 quart casserole dish to brine my pork.  Use a smaller, deep casserole dish so the pork is submerged in salt water brine.  You could also use a large zip top bags (very carefully!)