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Carnitas - Mexican Pulled Pork


Carnitas are essentially Mexican pulled pork. Yum! This is a variation of a recipe I found on the Food Network website. It is not authentic, but it tastes good. It is an easy recipe, but it takes awhile, so it is a good recipe if you are sitting around your place watching TV or whatever. It is also a good recipe if you're ballin' on a budget as my friend says. :)


https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/carnitas-recipe2-2012275





What I used:

- Pork shoulder butt roast ($5 for 1 lb.)

- 5 cloves of garlic (I like garlic)

- Onion powder

- Salsa verde

- Salt and pepper

- Vegetable oil

- Water


- Cast iron pan

- Roasting grate from my toaster oven :)


I will write the following in Instructions format at the end of the post, but this is a narrative version. :)


As I mentioned, it's a budget friendly recipe -- pork shoulder butt roast was $5 for 1 lb. and garlic is really cheap. Garlic was sold by the 5-pack (a whole garlic is apparently called a "head" or a "knob"); it only costs $1.50. Five cloves of garlic is about 1/3 of a knob, so the garlic only cost $0.10. In total, the recipe costs only $5.10. I had the other things on hand. It will also last me a few meals, so super cheap.


I used pork shoulder butt roast; it has a relatively high fat content. I am not an expert in butchering, but for this type of recipe you want to use a cut of meat that is not too lean. You want it to be soft. Pork shoulder butt roast is also a really inexpensive cut of meat.

Usually recipes call for 4 pounds or 6 pounds of meat. I only bought 1 pound. I think buying a larger amount does help keep the meat moist.


The recipe on the Food Network called for 1 medium onion chopped. Onions are cheap too, but I don't like cutting them, so I used onion powder. There is also usually the option in grocery stores for pre-cut onions, but I just decided to try it with onion powder.


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. (Actually the recipe above calls for 350 degrees. I found before when I cooked 2 lbs. of pork, cut into two 1 lb. pieces, that it took 4 or 5 hours to cook. Ain't nobody got time for that. Haha. So I turned up the heat. Cooking low and slower will make the meat more moist if you have the time for that.)


Tip: Peeling garlic - Crush It!

I think I've seen this on multiple shows on the Food Network -- well, the version of the tip using the side of a knife. After you pull a clove of garlic from the "knob", to peel it easily, just crush with it something and the skin will fall off easily. Crushing it also helps to release the oils giving your food more flavor. I used a water bottle, but you can use a cup. If you are fancy or want to look like you know what you are doing, you can use the side of a knife. :) (Put the side of a large knife on the clove of garlic and apply pressure. It's different than with a water bottle or cup where you just keep hitting it to crush it. :) )





I like to have a little crust on the meat, so I seared it in a cast iron pan before I put it in the oven. This is another variation from the Food Network recipe above.


A cast iron pan is a good option if you are cooking any meat (e.g. chicken or steak) or seafood and trying to get a crust on it, but are not sure if the middle is cooked just from cooking it in the pan.


It is safe to put the cast iron pan into the oven because the handle is metal. So you can get the crust on the meat and finish it off in the oven.


Compared to nonstick pans, cast iron pans take longer to heat up. I read somewhere that you should heat up the cast iron pan at least 5 minutes, maybe 10 minutes before using it to cook.


To get a good sear on the meat, the pan and oil must be hot -- medium-high to high. So wait at least 5 minutes before you put the meat in.


I put a generous amount of salt and pepper on both sides of the meat before putting it in the pan.


When you are trying to get a good sear on meat, you have to let it be and not check it so often. It's hard. I do it too. :) Every time you pick up and check the meat, it cools off preventing a good sear or crust. You have to leave it for at least 2-3 minutes, maybe a little longer. You may want to set a timer up on your phone, so you don't check it too early.


I didn't get the best sear here; it has a little good color. I may not have waited long enough to let the pan heat up before cooking.



I didn't get the best sear here; it has a little good color. I may not have waited long enough to let the pan heat up before cooking.



After searing both sides, I picked up the pork and put the roasting grate on top of the pan.


On the pork, I put the garlic cloves, onion powder and some salsa on top. I like this Herdez salsa verde, but use whatever you have or don't put salsa. The original recipes don't put salsa on top.




Important: Pour water into the cast iron pan. I poured 1-2 pints of water into the pan. This helps keep the meat moist when it is in the oven. One time I forgot to do this and the meat got really dry. It still tasted okay and could be rehydrated sort of with water, but better just to remember to put the water in the beginning.


In total, I cooked the pork for about 2 hours covered with foil. I took it out and check it twice: after 1 hour and after 90 minutes. It was not tender enough to shred each time, so I left it in. Each time, I checked the pork, I poured more water into the pan.


After 2 hours, I shredded the pork using 2 forks. I turned off the oven.


The moistness was not to my liking, so I put the pork back in its drippings to rehydrate it. This also gives it more flavor. I put the pan back in the oven (which was off) until it cooled down. Then I stored it in the fridge for later. (I did have a snack to taste it also. :) )


This is what it looked like after I took it out of the oven and after shredding it and putting it back in the oven.




I just warmed some up in the microwave up for lunch and had it with some rice and a quesadilla (made with string cheese). Yum! We are good at this!


See my post about how to quickly make a quesadilla and the wonders of string cheese in my post: String Cheese - Please! Quesadillas and More.


Recipe and Instructions are below this pic.


==


Carnitas


Ingredients:

- Pork shoulder butt roast ($5 for 1 lb.)

- 5 cloves of garlic (I like garlic)

- Onion powder

- Salsa verde (optional)

- Salt and pepper

- Vegetable oil

- Water


- Cast iron pan

- Roasting grate from my toaster oven :)


1.) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.


2.) Warm up cast iron pan with oil on a stove that is on to medium-high to high for at least 5 minutes before cooking.


3.) Peel garlic.


4.) Apply a generous amount of salt and pepper to both sides of the pork.


5.) Sear meat on both sides -- probably at least 3 minutes each side.

-- Don't check it too much. Leave it alone. :)


6.) Once meat is seared on both sides, pick up the meat and place the roasting grate on top of the cast iron pan.


7.) Put the pork on the roasting grate.


8.) Apply a generous amount of onion powder and salsa (optional) and put the garlic on top.


9.) Cover with foil.


10.) Before placing in the oven, pour 1-2 pints of water into the cast iron pan to keep the meat moist.


11.) Put the cast iron pan / roasting grate in the oven and cook in the oven for about 2 hours.

-- If you check it, pour more water into the cast iron pan.


12.) After you take the meat out, shred it with 2 forks.

-- If the pork is not tender enough for your liking, then rehydrate it by placing it in the drippings and leave in there for 30 minutes or as long as you want.


13.) Eat!



























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