Sous-vide Carnitas

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Carnitas are the pulled pork of Mexico. This version combines sous-vide cooking and a broiler to produce carnitas which are crispy on the outside and moist on the inside – the best of both worlds. This is an adaptation of an article in Serious Eats. That article started with a 4 lb. pork butt, but all the pork butts I could find were 7-8 lbs., so I made a big batch and filled my sous-vide cooker to the limit. I started this on a Saturday afternoon, and had an excellent Sunday dinner.


7-8 lbs. pork butt, deboned and cut into thick slices

2 oranges, quartered

2 onions, coarsely chopped

6 cloves garlic, peeled

2 cinnamon sticks

4 bay leaves

2 Tbs. kosher salt*

2 vacuum sealer bags

  • Original batch was made with 3 Tbs. of kosher salt.  The meat tasted great, but the broth, which we made into soup was too salty.  Need to monitor the salt to optimize.

Divide the pork slices evenly between two metal bowls. Add one half of the aromatics and spices to each of the bowls.

Use your hands to mix the ingredients together and then put them into vacuum sealer bags, and vacuum seal. The sealing process may be difficult because of the moisture in the ingredients. Since these bags will be in the sous-vide cooker for a long time, be careful to make sure you have a good seal.

Heat the sous-vide cooker to 165 degrees, add the sealed bags, and ensure that the water is covering the bags. Cover the top of the cooker to retain heat and to minimize evaporation loss. Cook for as few as 12 hours and as many as 24 hours. If the cooking is done before you are ready to use the carnitas, remove them from the sous-vide cooker, and cool them.

When the carnitas are fully cooked, set a large strainer in a metal bowl, open the bags, and pour the contents into the strainer. Discard the spent aromatics and spices. Save the pork liquid as a soup or sauce base. Discard any big chunks of fat.   Hand shred the cooked pork meat.

Heat up a broiler and line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Broil the shredded pork until nicely browned, stirring a couple of times so that they will brown evenly. The broiling will take 5-10 minutes.

The finished carnitas are good served many ways. Our first version was in tacos.  ( Carnitas Tacos )


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