Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Ingredients:  Serves 8-10 

  • 4 pound pork shoulder 
    • may be called pork butt, trimmed of excess fat
    • I buy the bone-in pork shoulder because it's less expensive and I think more flavorful 
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
    • ~ 1 large lime 
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion rough chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper 
    • cut large so you can pull it out later for mild heat
    • or
    • chopped fine for more heat

Wet Spice Rub

  • 3 Tbsp EVOO
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp Soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder for more smoky heat
    • or  sub 1 tsp mild chili powder for milder heat
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked or spanish paprika 
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Written Method -

The disadvantage of the slow cooker is that you don't get that good sear on a piece of meat, so let's do that real quick first on the stovetop.   Heat 1 Tbsp EVOO over high heat in a large, heavy bottom skillet.  Sear the pork on all sides until beautifully browned.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board until it is cool enough to handle.

While the pork is searing (it does take a few minutes), let's throw together the "wet rub."  Just throw all the seasoning together and mix.  When the pork is cool enough to handle, you can put it in the slow cooker and rub the wet rub all over the surface of the pork.  

Add the orange juice, lime juice, liquid smoke, bay leaves, onions and jalapeños to the slow cooker.  And we are ready, set, GO!  Set your cooker on LOW for 8-10 hours, or HIGH for 5-6 hours.  Personally, I like my pork to be literally falling apart, so I'm going for 6 every time, I can't lie.  At this point, the pork should be falling off of the bone and should shred easily with two forks.  

At this point you can either put the pork in the fridge to finish later (or freeze it), or continue.  If you are continuing with the shredded pork, preheat your oven to 450F.  Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.  Remove the shredded pork from the slow cooker and spread onto the lined baking sheets with as much of the juice as you'd like.  Bake at 450F until meat is desired amount of crispiness with "burnt" edges.  They really aren't burnt, but my family really does love that crispy, caramelized edge that resembles what you might have on an open pit.  You may need to move them around with a spatula.  This may take anywhere from 15minutes (straight from the hot slow cooker) to 30 minutes (if you put the carnitas in the refrigerator).  

Serve your "burnt edge" carnitas as taco filling with tortillas,  as a Mexican salad, on nachos for game day, in burritos, on brown or cauliflower rice for a low carb  meal prep... the possibilities are only limited by your imagination!