Smoked Pork Carnitas

There is nothing like this smoked carnitas recipe! The meat is beautifully smoky and then immersed in a bath of citrus and spice to braise! 

It’s finished on the grill, to get those caramelized pieces of pork we LOVE! You can use any cut of pork for this recipe, such as pork butts, or shoulder. In this recipe I am using pork shoulder because they had a good looking one at my local butcher.

There’s no better way to enjoy carnitas than in sandwiches or tacos! So make sure you also pick up some corn tortilla or sliders!

What You Need for Smoked Carnitas

  • 3 lbs Pork Shoulder, boneless
  • 2 Tablespoon Bacon Fat or Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
  • Corn Tortillas
  • Broth

Can You Make Carnitas from Smoked Pork?

Yes you can make carnitas from smoked pork. Carnitas are traditionally braised until the pork is fall-apart tender. This is similar to the smoked pulled pork technique, however that uses a BBQ sauce base. For this dish, we get the same results by smoking low and slow and then braising in citrus. 

Last but not least, crisping the pork in fat is an absolutely essential final step. It provides those irresistible crispy edges and that delectable caramelized flavor that makes carnitas incredibly irresistible. Don’t skip this step!

How to Make Pork Carnitas at Home

Below are the steps for making pork carnitas

Step 1: Marinade The Pork

The marinade is what makes this carnitas stand out. What I love about this marinade it only has four ingredients! 

The Marinade requires the following ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2 limes, sliced in half, and juice
  • 1 orange, sliced in half, and juice

Place everything in a large zip-top bag. Give it a good shake and let the pork marinate in the refrigerator for the night (for about 12 hours).

Step 2: Smoke Your Pork for 4 Hours

Take the pork out of the marinade and gently dry it. Drizzle the pork shoulder with 2 tablespoons of oil, ensuring even coverage, and then generously coat all sides of the pork with the dry rub.

Preheat your pellet smoker to 225°F for a few minutes. Place the pork on the smoker and let smoke for 4-6 hours or until the internal temperature of the shoulder reads about 165°F.

Step 3: Chop The Smoked Pork

Once the pork reaches 165°F increase the temperature of the pellet grill to 350°F and take the pork out of the smoker and transfer to a cutting board. Slice the meat into 2-3 inch pieces and ensure they are uniform.

Step 4: Create Your Braising Liquid 

Place the pork in the dutch oven and add the ingredient for the braising liquid. Ensure you leave at least 2 inches at the top, then place the lid on top and cook for 3-4 hours or until the pork reaches 203°F

Braising Liquid

  • 3 minced Jalapeno Pepper 
  • 3 oranges
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups water

Step 5: Heat The Cast Iron Skillet

Then remove the dutch oven from the grill and increase it to its highest temperature. Then put your cast iron skillet on the grill and let it heat for 15-20 minutes. 

Step 5: Crisp The Pork on a Cast Iron Skillet

Heat 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the skillet. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork to the skillet. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, tossing it regularly and breaking it all up. Cook until it’s browned and crispy. Then remove from heat. Allow it cool for a few minutes on a paper towel.

Step 6: Serve The Pork Carnitas

Serve as you like, but we like to assemble our pork carnitas in freshly made corn tortillas. Then top them with fresh lime, avocado, chopped tomatoes, chopped cilantro, and red onion. 

What Is the Best Cut for a Pit Boss Carnitas?

The best cut of pork for carnitas is pork shoulder or butt. Both have a good amount of fat and connective tissue. So when cooked low and slow, that tissue and fat melt into juicy delicious gelatine!

What Is the Best Wood to Use for Smoking Pit Boss Carnitas?

Cherry wood or apple wood is the best wood to use for smoking carnitas, the light flavor doesn’t overwhelm the pork. 

You can also try pecan wood as it imparts a more delicate taste. But try to avoid heavy flavors like mesquite and hickory. They are more suited to red meat. 

What Are The Topping Do You Need For Carnitas Tacos?

 You don’t need much more than chopped onions, cilantro, and a squirt of lime. Make sure you don’t forget the hot sauce too! Tapatio and Cholula are two of the best Mexican hot sauces to have on hand for tacos! Both have a smoky flavor to them.

Make sure you try cotija. This hard, crumbly cheese from Cotija, Mexico, resembles Feta in texture. You’ll find it in the cheese section of the supermarket.

Feta, on the other hand, is an alternative if you can’t find cotija. Both are deliciously salty and work perfectly with carnitas!

Some of my other favorite condiments and toppings include:

  • Slices of Radishes
  • Cilantro, Chopped
  • 1 Lime Wedges
  • Queso Fresco Crumbled 
  • Pickled Red Onions
  • Pickled Onion
  • Smoked Zucchini
  • Grilled Jalapeno Peppers for Those Who Prefer a Little More Spice. 
  • Cotija or Feta

What Sides Are Best For Carnitas?

Below are some of the side dishes that go well with grilled carnitas. 

Looking for Cinco De Mayo Recipes For Grill Or Smoker?

Here are more recipes you can cook for Cinco De Mayo

Cinco De Mayo Recipes For Grill Or Smoker

Smoked Carnitas

Smoking your pork for carnitas is super simple! Follow this recipe then serve up the the crsipy shreeded pork either on rice, salads on a taco, or even in sushi! 
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time4 hours
Smoking Time4 hours
Total Time8 hours 10 minutes
Course: lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 serves
Calories: 290kcal
Author: Charlie
Cost: 13

Equipment

  • Cast Iron Skillet
  • pellet grill
  • Dutch Oven
  • Meat thermometer or thermometer probe

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs Pork Shoulder boneless
  • 2 Tablespoon Bacon Fat or Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
  • Corn Tortillas

Toppings

  • Cilantro chopped
  • 1 Lime wedges
  • Queso Fresco crumbled 

Braising Liquid

  • 3 Jalapeno Pepper  minced
  • 3 Oranges
  • 1 Onion chopped
  • 6 cloves Garlic chopped
  • 1 tbsp Ground cumin
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 2 cups Water

Marinade

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 whole limes
  • 2 whole oranges
  • 1 tbsp salt

Instructions

Marinade The Pork

  • Place all the marinade ingredients in a large zip-top bag. Give it a good shake and let the pork marinate in the refrigerator for the night (for about 12 hours).

Smoke Your Pork for 4 Hours

  • Take the pork out of the marinade and gently dry it. Drizzle the pork shoulder with 2 tablespoons of oil, ensuring even coverage, and then generously coat all sides of the pork with the dry rub.
    Preheat your pellet smoker to 225°F for a few minutes. Place the pork on the smoker and let smoke for 4-6 hours or until the internal temperature of the shoulder reads about 165°F.

Chop The Smoked Pork

  • Once the pork reaches 165°F increase the temperature of the pellet grill to 350°F and take the pork out of the smoker and transfer to a cutting board. Slice the meat into 2-3 inch pieces and ensure they are uniform.

Place Pork in a Dutch Oven/ Pan with Braising Liquid

  • Place the pork in the dutch oven or pan and add the ingredient for the braising liquid. Ensure you leave at least 2 inches at the top, then place the lid on top and cook for 3-4 hours or until the pork reaches 203°F

Heat The Cast Iron Skillet

  • Then remove the dutch oven from the grill and increase it to its highest temperature. Then put your cast iron skillet on the grill or stove top and let it heat for 15-20 minutes. 

Crisp The Pork in the Cast Iron Skillet

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the skillet. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork to the skillet. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, tossing it regularly and breaking it all up. Cook until it's browned and crispy. Then remove from heat. Allow it cool for a few minutes on a paper towel.

Serve The Pork Carnitas

  • Serve as you like. But we like to assemble our pork carnitas in freshly made corn tortillas and top them with fresh lime, chopped cilantro, and red onion. 

Carnitas can be enjoyed in a variety of delicious ways. You can serve them on rice, on a taco, or even in sushi! 

How do you serve your carnitas?

Smoke On!

Charlie

Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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