by Chef Karl Marsh0
How to Make Authentic Carnitas
When I was in my late 20’s, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live in Cabo San Lucas and be the Executive Chef at a luxury resort. As you might imagine, it was a huge learning experience for me. If you have ever lived and worked abroad, especially in the 3rd world, then you will know what I am talking about. Getting used to the culture, the language, the laws and so on was a challenge, and at times, could be very frustrating. The upside was getting to see firsthand how wonderful the people of Southern Baja California are and also get to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
I was hired to bring California-style cuisine to the restaurants at the resort. That was nothing new to me because I had been immersed in it for the past 10 years. I really wanted to increase my knowledge of Mexican cuisine while I was there, and I quickly found an avenue for doing so. As you might imagine, the resort had a lot of employees because down there, labor is relatively inexpensive. Therefore, we had a very large employee cafeteria that was also under my charge. While working there, I had 3 extremely talented middle age Mexican ladies. These ladies made traditional Mexican meals that had been passed down in their families for generations for the staff every day. This place became my playground and anytime I had free time I would go there in the mornings to learn from these talented cooks.
One of the many things that I learned from the ladies in the employee kitchen was how to make real authentic Carnitas. I remember the first time I had them I was blown away that such an inexpensive part of the animal could be so tender, moist and flavorful. I was surprised to learn that the secret to the dish was using Coca-Cola in the marinade. When you think about it, it makes sense because the carbonation will tenderize the tough pork, and sugar will help it to caramelize.
I have used this dish pretty much everywhere I have worked since learning it. Even at Omaha Steaks, the Carnitas we sell is based on the recipe that I learned when I was in Mexico. Below, you will find the complete version of that recipe. You will see that I am using two of our Omaha Steaks seasoning blends in the recipe. If for some reason you don’t have access to them you can substitute 2 Tbsp. of any store bought Cajun or Blackening seasoning. I hope you give this recipe a try and enjoy it as much as I do.
Cheers! Chef Karl
Prep Time: 30 minutes + 24 hours marinade time
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 27.5 hours
(Makes about 3.3 lbs)
4 lbs Pork Butt (Shoulder) (3” Chunks)
1 Tbsp Omaha Steaks Southwest Chipotle Seasoning
1 Tbsp Omaha Steaks Blackening Seasoning
2 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Black Pepper
2 each Large Oranges Whole (Juiced and Quartered)
1 each Lime Juice (Juiced and Quartered)
1 Tbsp Chopped Garlic
2 cups Coca Cola
¼ cup Soy Sauce
¼ cup Canola Oil
1. Clean most of the outer fat and connecting tissue off of the pork and cut into large 3” cubes. You should end up with about 3 lbs once cleaned.
2. Place the pork in a bowl and combine with the dry spices and mix well until the pork is evenly coated with the dry spices.
3. Cut the oranges and limes into quarters, and squeeze the juice on top of the pork and add the spent fruit to the bowl.
4. Add the garlic, Coca Cola and soy sauce. Mix well.
5. Marinate 24-48 hours.
6. Drain the marinate from the pork and reserve.
7. In a large braising pan, heat the canola oil on high until very hot then carefully add the pork.
8. Brown the pork in the canola oil until all sides are caramel brown color.
9. Add the marinade to the hot pan and turn down to low.
10. Cook covered for 2 hours.
11. Then uncover and cook for the last hour so that the juice thickens up. Be sure to keep one eye on it towards the end to avoid burning.
12. You can serve right away or you can cool then reheat as needed.
Serving Suggestion: The pork can be served shredded up or sliced. It is great in burritos, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, tamales, nachos,or salads. My favorite way to enjoy Carnitas is in warm corn tortillas with guacamole, sour cream and Pico de Gallo.