Monday, June 25, 2012

Pressure Cooker Carnitas

I love Carnitas.  For those that have never been exposed to this wonderful dish, it is sort of the Mexican equivilent to pulled pork, except not smoked.  Pork shoulder ('butt') that is braised until it is falling apart, then fried or roasted to get a little bit of crispy added into the fall apart tender texture.  Properly done carnitas are just plain wonderful.

But the problem is how long it takes to do it right.  Braising a pork butt until it falls apart can take up to ten HOURS, depending on which recipe you believe.  Being a hardware nerd, I started the search to find a way to make it faster with technology.

Enter the Digital Pressure Cooker
Pressure.... pushing down on me...
This little box of magic can get awesome carnitas on the table in under 2 hours.  If I add the extra flavor step of smoking the pork fist, it's 3 hours from raw ingredients to awesome food.

If you do a search for carnitas recipes online, you will find a bunch that use pressure cookers to make it.  I found several of those, and blended them to make a recipe that works for me.  Most of the recipes also say to buy a pork butt and cube it.  Living this close to Mexico, the local markets have pork shoulder trimmed and packaged to make carnitas, and labeled as such.

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or pork butt, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice (from about 2 to 3 limes)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste

Optional step: Before I cubed up the pork, I put it in the smoker and gave it 1 hour of low temp Apple wood smoke just to add some smoke to the final product. That worked really well, and I suggest it, but it is not necessary.
That reflection of me is probably the best picture I have of myself.
 Cube the pork.
Throw all the ingredients into the pressure cooker (mine is an electric version), bring up to a boil.

Lock on the lid, and cook at high pressure (15 psi) for 1 hr.
Release pressure, remove lid. The pork should be very tender, tasty, and just falling apart. (If you taste it at this point, it will seem bland.  DON'T ADD SALT YET!  Let it reduce down)

Bring the heat back up to a boil, and reduce the liquid down to just the pork fat, and basically fry the pork in it's fat to crisp up the edges. Be careful that you don't completely shred the meat.
(Now you can adjust salt to taste.  If you do it earlier, the final product will be VERY salty. )

Serve on a Tortilla with a squeeze of lime.
Serve with Beer.  Garnish with cilantro and or fresh salsa.


  1. My mouth is watering.....

  2. Oh yum!!! I'll be there for dinner!

  3. What is "smoking the pork fist"? Sounds painful. Is that another one of those Urban Dictionary things?

  4. Tried this recipe last night and it really is terrific! Wonderful alternative to the traditional (and delicious) methods. Thank you so much for posting this!!