1 November, 2012  |   3 Comments

Helen Jane’s Slow Cooked Carnitas Recipe

I’ve told you about working on that movie, back in 2002. Where I chased actors trying to convince Hollywood that the digital age was coming for it.

Filming late one night, I had my mind blown by carnitas.

The cast and crew were filming in a dilapidated apartment building in downtown LA. Two women sat outside the apartment building on lawn chairs. Between them, a wobbly TV tray table hosted a slow cooker with a scrap paper sign, Carnitas tacos $2.

This seemed shady, but Josh, convinced me it was worth the risk. And boy howdy, he was right.

The melty, lardy pork topped with onions and cilantro on a corn tortilla was like nothing I’d ever tasted before. When I got back to James at 4 in the morning, I couldn’t stop talking about how my attachment to the ground beef and pre-made taco shell taco of my youth had been destroyed.

“Hush now, Yeager,” he told me, “It’s time for sleeping, not tacos.”

Until lately, carnitas seemed like something that I couldn’t possibly make on my own.
But now it is!

Great for big family buffets, and a welcome change from normal holiday flavors (tis almost the season), we love to serve this alongside rice, beans, guacamole and chips. It was a hit at bocce when we had a Fiesta theme. ¡Salud!


Helen Jane’s Slow Cooked Carnitas Recipe

Recipe adapted from the good people at Cook’s Illustrated.

1 boneless pork butt (3 or 4 pounds), cut into 2 inch pieces
2 cups water
1 small onion, peeled and halved
1/2 lime’s worth of lime juice
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 mandarin oranges, halved and squeezed and all the parts saved
3 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed

Fixin’ ingredients
12-20 warm corn tortillas
Minced white onion stirred with chopped cilantro leaves and a squirt of lime
Thinly sliced radishes
Sour cream
Lime wedges

Cut the pork into 2 inch sized chunks. Put them into a large pot. Add the water, lime juice, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, orange juice and orange halves.
Stir it up, put the pot on high/medium-high heat.

Preheat the oven to 300°

Wait until the pot boils and bubbles and then take it off the stove and tuck it in the oven for 3 hours
Would you rather use a slow cooker? You could also put all the ingredients in there as well. Since the temperature is variable, I’d recommend low for 8 hours, my standard.

After the slow and low cooking part is done, take the pot out of the oven.
Heat the oven to 500° and put the pork in a bowl. Remove and discard all the other solids (orange peel, onion, bay leaves). Put the pot back on the stove and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Or you could tip the contents of the slow cooker into a sauce pan and boil it that way!


Cover a pan with aluminum foil, spread out the pork chunks, pulling them carefully into smaller pieces with a fork. Pour the reduced pork fat juice back over the pork. Put the pan back in the oven and let cook for 10 minutes or until brown and crispy.


Take back out of the oven, stir, and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes (or until top of pork is crispy).

Serve on warmed corn torillas with onions, hot sauce and cilantro.
(James loves this with radishes, but radishes are not my thing.)

3 thoughts on “Helen Jane’s Slow Cooked Carnitas Recipe

  1. 1

    Holy shit, how could I have forgotten about that movie? AND YOUR MAIDEN NAME! Yay.

  2. 2
    sarafoley says:

    omg YUM. I love mexican food. So giving this a go 🙂

  3. 3
    whitneybee says:

    I LOVE that carnitas recipe! Definitely great for a crowd. I was actually thinking about making them again soon…thanks for the reminder!

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