If you like tender, smoke kissed pulled pork with Mexican inspired flavors and gorgeously crispy-crunchy bits, then this smoked pork carnitas is for you.
Instead of messing with the traditional method of braising the pork butt on the stove top or in the oven with plenty of lard, I took inspiration from the smoker and let the pork cook slowly in one piece instead of breaking it down first.
So there’s not much traditional about my take, but it does keep your kitchen much cooler!
The result is a super silky pork that comes apart into deliciously tender pieces almost on its own. It’s fragrant with cumin, coriander and Mexican oregano and if you like a little heat, a smattering of ancho chili brings that, too.
Once the smoked pork carnitas is pulled, you’ll use the reserved cooking juices to toss through the pork. It takes on and re-absorbs all that deliciousness in a way that makes every bite full of flavor.
When you’re ready to really take this up a notch, the tender pork gets a sizzle on a griddle or cast iron skillet until it crisps and caramelizes to your heart’s desire.
What I really love about this recipe is not just how easy it is, but how it reheats perfectly, even straight from the fridge. This means you can smoke the pork shoulder at the weekend and enjoy crispy-delicious carnitas throughout the week in a few minutes!
Lastly, you may be tempted to skip the resting period I give the pork. But I highly recommend you don’t. It really makes all the difference for a consistently tender, juicy result every time.
I’ve tested this Crispy Smoked Pork Carnitas recipe with and without the resting period and also with and without the wrapping stage, too. This way really is the best. Pinky promise.
Things that would go well with this Crispy Smoked Pork Carnitas:
- Foolproof Grain Free Tortillas
- No Nightshade Roasted Green Onion Salsa Verde
- Strawberry Guacamole
- Lime Pickled Red Onions
- Dairy Free Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)
- Pomegranate Pico De Gallo
- Jicama Radish Slaw with Lime Cilantro Dressing
Crispy Smoked Pork Carnitas
If you want the most tender, juicy taco meat with blistered, crispy edges, this smoked pork carnitas recipe delivers! It freezes & reheats beautifully, too.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 hours 40 minutes
- Total Time: 6 hours, plus 1 - 2 hours resting time
- Yield: Serves 16 - 20 people with fixings 1x
- Category: meats, make ahead
- Method: smoker, grill
- Cuisine: gluten free, paleo, dairy free
- 6 lb / 2.75 kg boneless pork butt roast
- 3 tbsp / 38 g coconut sugar
- 2 tbsp / 45 g coarse sea salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp / 4 g Mexican oregano
- 1 tbsp / 7 g ground cumin
- 1 tbsp / 10 g garlic powder
- 1 tbsp / 10 g onion powder
- 1 tbsp / 10 g ancho chili powder
- 1/2 tbsp / 3 g ground coriander
- 2 tsp / 8 g ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup / 120 ml chicken or pork broth
- 1/2 cup / 120 ml fresh orange juice
PREHEAT: Follow the setup instructions for your grill or smoker, I used our Traeger Pellet Grill. Set the temperature to 225 F / 107 C with the probes on the outside of the grill.
RUB: Mix all of the dry rub ingredients, from coconut sugar to black pepper, together in a bowl. Set about 1/4 of the mixture (about 2 tablespoons / 33 g or so) aside for later. Rub the pork on all sides with the seasoning blend, including any incisions into the middle of the meat where the bone was removed.
SMOKE: Place the rubbed pork shoulder into a large roasting pan and pour the broth and orange juice around but not over the top of the meat. (If you’re using a foil disposable roasting pan, make sure to place it on a rimmed baking sheet, too, for much needed support.) Place the uncovered pork onto the grill, place the two meat probes (if you have them built into your pellet grill) at even intervals so that they’re equidistant from both each other and each end of the roast. Close the lid and smoke until the probes record an internal temperature of 160 F / 71 C, about 4 hours. Start checking the internal temperature of the pork after the first 2 hours.
WRAP: Lay out two pieces of foil large enough to wrap around the pork. Carefully transfer the pork from the roasting pan to the foil, then wrap snugly with the first layer of foil. Repeat with the second layer of foil so that the seam of the foil faces upwards on the top of the pork roast. Reserve the pan juices for later by pouring them into a fat separator and popping that in the fridge. (If you have room in the fridge, throw the roasting pan in there, too.)
ROAST: Place the foil wrapped pork back into the pellet grill, replacing the temperature probes. Roast until the internal temperature reaches 201 F / 94 C, about 90 minutes or so. Start to check on the temperature after the first hour, as the size and thickness of the pork will make the final cook time vary a little.
REST: Carefully wrap the still foil wrapped pork in a double layer of old towels, then place the towel wrapped pork into an insulated cooler bag. Rest the pork like this for 60 – 120 minutes.
PULL: Unwrap the pork and discard the foil. Transfer the pork to a large chopping board and pull it into chunks, using a couple of forks because the pork will still be plenty hot! Transfer the pulled pork back to the roasting pan you stashed in the fridge. Add back the strained, de-fatted juices you reserved earlier to the pork a little at a time. Use as much of the roasting juices as you need, tossing the meat to coat, until the pork is juicy without being swimming in liquid. You likely won’t need to use all of it! Taste the pork and, if you think it needs additional seasoning, add a little of the reserved seasoning blend, to taste.
CRISP: Preheat a cast iron skillet or large cast iron griddle pan over medium high heat, depending on how much of the pork you want to crisp at a time. Oil generously and then pack the pork into a single layer and cook until a deeply caramelized crust develops, about 2 minutes or so. Flip the pork over so that the softer meat mixes in with the crispy pieces and repeat until the smoked pork carnitas is as crispy as you like. Serve immediately with your favorite fixings, like my Foolproof Grain Free Tortillas, No Nightshade Roasted Green Onion Salsa Verde, Strawberry Guacamole or Lime Pickled Red Onions.
- Keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days, I like to refrigerate the smoked pork carnitas before the crisping step, then follow the crisping instructions to reheat it straight from the fridge. Keeps in the freezer well for up to 6 months, I like to keep it in vacuum sealed pouches.
- Cumin, coriander and black pepper are Stage 1 AIP reintroductions. Ancho chili is a Stage 4 AIP reintroduction.