I usually make my carnitas in my beloved dutch oven–searing and braising in one pot. But it’s been too long since I used my crock pot and I want to do this the easy way. And truth be told, I think it would be a more convenient prep method for many of you who are juggling families, 9 to 5′s and gym time! I know I was wearing that hat last week and sure appreciated a nearly done dinner at the end of a busy day. Crock Pot Carnitas helped me eat well when it was really tempting for me not to.
Carnitas has to be hands-down my favorite meat dish. I love everything about it, but particularly the different ways it can be used. There’s so much more to this flavorful shredded pork than tacos. Last week, I used mine in two ways: my ode to Chipotle’s Burrito Bowl and served with sautéed peppers and onions over Spicy Lime Sweet Potato Mash! I was hoping to have a little bit more leftover so I could sneak in a frittata, but I guess I’ll have to do that next time.
- 4-5 lb pork loin roast
- 1 tsp of each: garlic powder, chili powder, ground cumin, kosher salt
- 2 oranges
- 1 lime
- 2 cups organic or homemade chicken stock
- 2 TBSP tomato paste
- 1 TBSP Adobo
- 3-4 crushed garlic cloves
- Paleo-friendly fat of choice
Slice the roast into 2″ steaks, going across the grain. Leave all of the fat in place on the roast.
Prepare the spice blend in a large bowl–large enough to easily toss the pork steaks. In fact, let’s do that now. Once the spices are brought together, add the steaks a couple at a time and coat evenly in the spices. At first sight, it doesn’t look like it’ll be enough seasoning to coat, but it will. Let rest while a skillet comes to temp.
Heat a skillet or large thick-bottomed pan to medium-high. Add your fat of choice.
Work in batches to ensure a quick and quality sear. Add 2-3 steaks, depending on the size of your pan and sear both sides.
Move the browned pork to the slow cooker to rest. Repeat until the pork is done.
When the last batch of meat is searing, bring together the stock, tomato paste, adobo and crushed garlic cloves. Use this to deglaze the pan once the final round of pork is removed.
Let this seasoned broth simmer for a few minutes in the skillet, bringing up all the leftover bits from the pan, but also warming up the spices and garlic before it joins the pork.
While the broth simmers, juice two navel oranges and one lime and set aside.
After a couple minutes of simmering, pour the broth over the seared pork in the slow cooker. Add the citrus juices as well. I like to repurpose my cocktail strainer and pint glass for the citrus juice.
Cover and set the timer for 5 hours on low.
If your slow cooker turns off after the timer dings, this is fine to hang out and keep warm for a little bit. If your cooker goes to a “keep warm” setting like mine does, the meat will not hold long. Ironically though the pork is full of fat and sitting in broth, it is possible to dry out if it stays at that “keep warm” temperature after it’s been cooking for 5 hours.
Here’s my advice for handling the pork at this stage. I like to make enough to cover a couple of meals. When it comes to the portions I need for later meals, I find that storing the meat whole at this stage is better than storing fully prepared carnitas. So for right now, let’s figure out what we need for tonight’s dinner and set the rest aside for another meal. Also, don’t toss the juice! We need the broth for rehydrating the meat. That stuff is flavor gold!
Onto making the carnitas…
Shred the meat using forks or even the handy trick of using a pastry cutter (we don’t need those anymore, right?). That’s step one. Step two is caramelizing the newly shredded meat in order to get those perfect browned edges we have come to love about carnitas. This can happen two ways. Either put the shredded meat back into that skillet with some fat and brown or put the meat under a broiler for a few minutes… whatever works for you.
It’s ready to go–Crock Pot Carnitas! Check out my Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice and make a Paleo Burrito Bowl. It’s allllmost like the kind you’d find at Chipotle’s Mexican Grill.
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The key tools to make this recipe are a crock pot, of course, but a good skillet and the tools for fast and easy citrus juicing are also handy: