Try Pork Carnitas in Your Pizza Oven
Pork Carnitas is an original of Mexico, introduced by the Spaniards during their conquests. Carnitas means ‘little meats’ in Mexican. Different regions of Mexico have variations of the dish, allowing you to play with the ingredients to create your version.
In the standard version of this dish, a cut of pork with fats is cooked slowly in a spiced braising liquid and then rapidly seared just before serving. The result is a tenderly crispy delicacy. How tender or how crispy is a matter of personal preference.
You can cook this dish in any oven, but do try it in your wood-fired pizza oven. The wood-fired oven cooks quicker and will preserve the flavorful inner juiciness of the pork you have worked so hard to cultivate.
The smoke from the wood will also give your pork carnitas a distinct flavour that is difficult to get any other way. Just remember the wood-fired pizza oven cooks faster. You may want to watch your cooking to avoid your food drying out.
Here is a recipe explicitly prepared to be cooked in a wood-fired oven.
- 2.5kg pork shoulder, or pork butt. Some recipes call for whole pig, including the less desirable parts like the liver and kidneys. Remove the skin. skin removed
- 3 teaspoons salt. Ordinary salt will do, but use kosher salt if you can get it.
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp dried oregano (or 2 tbsp of fresh oregano)
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp mild chilli powder
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper, remove the seeds and chop
- 5 garlic cloves that are minced
- 1 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice; this should be 3 to 4
- 2 juiced limes
- 1 cup chicken stock, and a little more for extra braising liquid (about 3 cups total) Vegetable oil for pan-frying
- Light your wood-burning pizza oven and have it heat to approximately 340 degrees Celsius as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Rinse the pork shoulder and ensure to pat it dry. Make a wet rub of the salt, oregano, pepper, chilli powder, cumin, and olive oil in a small bowl. Cover the meat well by working the wet spice mix all over the pork. Then place the pork in a small roasting pan. Ensure the fatty side is up so that it does not toughen before the pork is cooked through.
- Mix the chopped onion, garlic, jalapeno pepper, orange and lime juices and 1 cup of chicken stock. Blend to make a puree and pour it over the pork. Cover the tightened pan with foil and place it in the wood pizza oven.
- Rotate the pan every half an hour to make sure all sides cook evenly. You need about 4 hours to cook through. Always check to make sure the temperature doesn’t fall below 340 degrees Celsius. Check how much braising liquid is left 2 or 3 hours into the cooking. Add a cup to two cups if you estimate that the amount of liquid left is too little and cook for the remaining time.
- The pork is done when the time is up, and the internal temperature is about 65 degrees Celsius. Slowly remove it from the pan and let it cool. Keep any braising liquid leftover.
- Once cooled, pull the pork apart with your fingers or use forks to shred the meat more finely.
- Make sure you have 1-2 cups of braising liquid from the cooking. Reduce any excess liquid on the stove as soon as the pork has finished cooking. Skim off any fat when the braising liquid has cooled.
- Add 1tablespoon of vegetable oil to a cast-iron skillet you have preheated over high heat.
Sear the pulled pork in two-minute batches. Do not crowd the skillet. Just place it in a layer and have as many batches as necessary. Add a bit of the braising liquid to prevent the pork from drying out.
The aim is to enhance the flavour and texture of the meat by searing on one side only, so don’t stir the pork. If you mix it, you will lose the all-important tender- crunchy effect.
Some people like to add a bit of coke at this point to help it caramelize. It is entirely up to you.
Wood oven-cooked pork carnitas on corn tortillas is a match made in heaven. But that is not the only way you can eat the dish. You can use it as filling for tacos, quesadilla and burritos.
Porn carnitas won’t let you down when you use them as topping for your Nachos, burgers or sandwiches. You can even use it in a variety of salads.
Enjoy it more by elevating its taste with salsa, sour cream, cheese, avocado or chopped coriander. That is how versatile it is.