How to Marinate Carnitas

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In Spanish, "carnitas" translates to "little meats." Traditional carnitas use fattier cuts of pork like the shoulder, which are slow cooked, then fried in lard with seasonings. Marinating carnitas in tasty Mexican spices prior to cooking helps to season and tenderize the meat. Carnitas is a Mexican dish that can be served on it's own, or as a filling in tacos, tamales and other dishes.

Things You'll Need

  • Vegetable,canola or other mild tasting oil
  • Citrus juice
  • Herbs and spices
  • Medium-sized mixing bowl
  • Wire whisk
  • Gallon-sized freezer bag
  • Pork shoulder, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • Combine the oil, citrus juice, and your choice of seasonings in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add ingredients a little bit at a time, using a wire whisk to mix the marinade together. Taste the marinade as you go, making sure that it is flavorful and well-balanced. In general, add oil and citrus juice in equal parts, about 1/2 cup per pound of meat.

  • Pour the marinade carefully into a gallon-sized freezer bag. Add the pork pieces to the bag. Seal the bag tightly, removing as much air as possible.

  • Squish the meat and marinade around, turning the bag a few times to ensure the meat is thoroughly covered. Place the bag in the refrigerator and allow the pork to marinate at least 4 hours, or overnight.

  • Remove the bag from the refrigerator. Take the meat out of the marinade and discard the remaining marinade. Cook the marinated meat in your favorite carnitas recipe.

Tips & Warnings

  • Herbs and spices that work well or are traditional in Mexican cooking such as a minced garlic, sea salt, ground black pepper, onion powder, chili powder, cumin powder, dried oregano, white granulated sugar and jalapeno pepper.
  • To prepare carnitas in a slow cooker, place the marinated meat in a large slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
  • Try serving carnitas with taco fixings including warm corn tortillas, guacamole, salsa, cilantro, and sliced onion, with refried beans and Spanish rice as sides.
  • The entire bag of meat and marinade can be placed in the freezer and kept for 4 to 6 months frozen. When you are ready to use it, thaw in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
  • The marinade can also be used with skirt steak for carne asada, or chicken for chicken tacos.

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References

  • Tacos; Benjamin Hargett and Mark Miller
  • The Border Cookbook: Authentic Home Cooking of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico; Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison
  • Bold & Healthy Flavors: 450 Recipes from Around the World; Steven Raichlen
  • Rick Bayless: Michoacan-Style Pork Carnitas
  • Williams-Sonoma Collection: Mexican; Marilyn Tausend
  • Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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