Smoked Carnitas With Tacos (5 Simple Steps)

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 the recipe here I am using pork shoulder. 

There’s no better way to enjoy carnitas than in sandwiches or tacos!

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 gelatin!

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.

Some of my other favorite condiments and toppings include:

  • Slices of radishes
  • Pickled onion
  • smoked zucchini
  • Grilled jalapeno peppers for those who prefer a little more spice. 
  • Cotija or Feta

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!

What Sides Are Best For Carnitas?

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

Smoked Carnitas Marinade

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).

How To 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 saucebase.

For this dish, we get the same results by smoking low and slow and then braising in citrus. 

The next step is to fry the pork in a mixture of olive oil and bacon grease. 

Carnitas are irresistible because of their crispy edges and caramelized flavor.

Don’t forget to complete this step!

It’s well worth the extra effort to cook the pork to perfection.

What You Need for Smoked Carnitas

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

Toppings for Carnitas

  • Cilantro, Chopped
  • 1 Lime wedges
  • Queso Fresco crumbled 
  • Pickled red onions

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

Equipment You Need For Carnitas

  • Cast Iron Skillet 
  • Pellet grill. 
  •  Dutch Oven
  • Meat thermometer or thermometer probe

Steps for Making EPIC Pork Carnitas!

Below are the steps for making pork carnitas

Smoke Your Pork for 4 Hours

Preheat your pellet smoker to 225°F for a few minutes.

Place the pork on the smoker and let smoke for 4 hours.

Cube the Pork Butt

Remove pork butt from grill and increase temp to 350 F.

Then cut the meat into 2-inch cubes.

Create Your Braising Liquid 

Place the cubed 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 2-3 hours. 

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. 

Crispy 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.

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. 

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 pork either on rice, on a taco, or even in sushi! 
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time4 hrs
Smoking Time4 hrs
Total Time8 hrs 10 mins
Course: lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Author: Charlie

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

Instructions

Smoke Your Pork for 4 Hours

  • Preheat your pellet smoker to 225°F for a few minutes. Place the pork on the smoker and let smoke for 4 hours.

Cube the Pork Butt

  • Remove pork butt from grill and increase temp to 350 F. Then cut the meat into 2-inch cubes.

Create Your Braising Liquid 

  • Place the cubed 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 2-3 hours. 

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 

Crispy 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.

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?

christmas-ham-on-bbq

Smoke On!

Charlie

Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

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 adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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