Diana Kennedy's Carnitas

By • July 6, 2011 34 Comments

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Author Notes: The magic of pork + water + salt -- a genius recipe from The Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy.Genius Recipes

Serves 4 to 6

  • 3 pounds pork shoulder, butt, or country-style spare ribs, skin and bone removed
  • Cold water to barely cover
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  1. Cut the meat, with the fat, into strips about 2 x 3/4 inches. Barely cover the meat with water in a flameproof dish, add the salt, and bring it to a boil, uncovered.
  2. Lower the flame enough to bring down to a simmer. Let the meat continue simmering until all the liquid has evaporated -- about 1 hour and a half, depending on the shape of your pot. By this time the meat should be cooked through but not falling apart.
  3. Lower the flame a little more and continue cooking the meat until all the fat has rendered out of it. Keep turning the meat until it is lightly browned all over -- about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  4. Notes: The meat will get more evenly cooked if the dish is rather large and shallow. Do not add too much water at the beginning or the meat will fall apart at the frying stage. If the meat is still fairly hard when the water has evaporated, then add a little more water and continue cooking. Choose pork that has a fair amount of fat or you will have to add some lard for it to brown properly.

More Great Recipes: Tacos|Pork|Entrees|Ribs

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Comments (34) Questions (8)


30 days ago george hamilton

Well in this area I'm lucky to live in California. In the greater Bay Area there is a chain of Mexican groceries named Mi Pueblo. There you can buy prepared carnitas for $7-8 a pound. One big difference between theirs and these here is the cut up size of the raw pork. They cut the pork shoulder into very large very large(grapefruit sized) pieces and then cook as described in a large cauldron. You end up buying very large chunks which are very browned on the out side and pink and tender on the inside. When I get home I cut a chunk into 1"-1-1/2" cubes which I re-brown in their own rendered lard until crispy on the outside. My main advantage is being able to skip the main preparation entirely but cooking in large chunks for later browning I'm sure retains more of the pork juices rather than loosing them during boiling. Can also buy Queso fresco(mexican cheese) many fresh salsas, mexican specific produce and the very most excellent fresh made tortilla chips(a little greasy as opposed to those baked things you find in regular stores) at Mi pueblo.


29 days ago Sharon

Yes, I live across the Bay Bridge in Oakland, CA. We are truly blessed around here, aren't we? It just doesn't get any better for Mexican goodness than the S.F. Bay Area. So lucky to live in paradise.


about 1 month ago Karl Rosaen

Karl is Food52's VP of Product.

Making this today with https://food52.com/recipes...


about 1 month ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Sweet combo -- hope you love it!


about 1 month ago Karl Rosaen

Karl is Food52's VP of Product.

Wow, turned out great, getting crispy in its own rendered fat is seriously genius.

I started with too much water, but recovered by pulling out the pork and cooking down the water alone after 90 minutes, then added the pork back to continue cooking as it rendered the fat. Will start with less water next time (maybe letting some pieces poke above the surface).


8 months ago Melisa S-j

Made this last night, Yum! We raised our own heritage breed pigs, and this is a perfect way to use shoulder roast. Thanks you!


8 months ago Rey Compañeros

I've now made this twice in a week! I love it and so refreshingly simple!


over 1 year ago Sharon

This is IT! Sometimes perfection is so simple. Thank you, Diana


over 1 year ago I_Fortuna

I pressure cook my pork and spread it out on a baking sheet, and stick it under the broiler to brown. Fast and easy. Or dry roast it in a dry frying pan. The fat in and on the meat browns well this way. (Ours is a Mexican family too) : )


almost 2 years ago likeinmexico

As a Mexican I am :) I must say that the carnitas are very, very typical.
The state of Michoacan, is the famous place to enjoy some delicious and authentic carnitas, but Diana Kennedy's recipe is quite simple to prepare, but above all, the taste is quite comparable with the famous carnitas Michoacan! This recipe goes straight to my cookbook ;)


about 2 years ago kgindermaur

SO GOOD. The only downside is that you need a lot of time at home to make, so this is a great weekend dish. I love to serve with julienned jalapeno peppers and red onions in a white vinegar and lime juice dressing, plus lots of cilantro and some mild salsa. Corn tortillas are a must!


about 2 years ago thebro730

Absolutely fabulous. I take corn tortillas, steamed or lightly browned with some oil in an iron skillet; cilantro, sliced green onion, jalapeno slices and of course lots of cold beer and man I'm telling you, they're even good cold the next morining. Make sure you toast the pieces in the rendered fat. UNBELIEVABLE!


about 2 years ago Rhonda35

Love this recipe so much that I crave it at times. Best carnitas I've ever had!


about 2 years ago Wendy Lopez

Just finished eating this AMAZING dish with my mother, (hubby will soon indulged) OMG what a great easy to make recipe. I have to say by far the best Carnitas recipe I've done ever! I paired it with a homemade guacamole and salsa, and warm tortillas. A perfect match


over 3 years ago JessieV

made this last night - SOOOO good! i had to drain the fat off before i squirted in some lime juice - it was amazing. thank you!!


over 3 years ago davegorf

D- What can I say, it was easy, beautiful and delicious. I just wanted to tell you I have three boys in my house and they all could not stop consuming the porky salty goodness of your carnitas recipe. Myself had a porkolicious day! I skinned and boned the shoulder. Made a half gallon of pork stock - I'm thinking for short rib chili on Superbowl Sunday! - and then set the skin in salt to cure; confit; and then bake to the original salty snack. Nose to tail baby! Use it all. I even let the dog chew on the shoulder bone. She was happy! So easy; so good. This recipe is an education in salt, pork, fat and they delicate dance. Really, nothing else is needed. Well, toasted corn tortillas; chopped red onion; squeeze of lime and a splash of Tabasco, and heaven is visible. Enjoy!


over 3 years ago Debbe

The beer is a great idea that I will use! Thanks!!


over 3 years ago sugarmountaintreats

I'm a big Rick Bayless fan, but this recipe may convert me to Diana Kennedy too. I added one step (and one ingredient) - I deglazed the pork with about half a cup of dark beer at the end for some extra color and flavor, and to take advantage of the crispy bits at the bottom of the pan. Delicious!!


almost 4 years ago linh

Everyone love this. It's a easy party dish.


almost 4 years ago adashofbitters

Made this tonight. Oh my god, so good. My only regret is that I wanted to deglaze the pan and incorporate all the crispy bits somehow. Will have to plan ahead for that next time.


almost 4 years ago Lillasyster

Thank you for the heads up about the need to deglaze. I just finished cooking this & made an apple gravy. It's surely not mexican but I think I don't care! Happy cooking!


almost 4 years ago adashofbitters

That sounds scrumptious. Next time I'll have something tasty on hand to use for a deglaze.


about 4 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

We recently had a big birthday party for one of our granddaughters and I made this with a couple little changes: when it got to a caramelization stage I added lime juice and brown sugar. It was a hit with everyone from the kids to the adults. Best part? It was so easy and could be made with almost no attention from me while I made everything else. And I'm having so much fun now going through my new cookbook by Diane Kennedy.


almost 4 years ago Lizthechef

I just took a look at this and love it! Love your idea of the brown sugar and lime juice, a great recipe for fall.


about 4 years ago kirklandj

This was way too easy and turned out way too good to not become a staple. In California we have a lot of good carnitas but it was so satisfying to do it at home. It is just a great way to cook yummy pork and can be a versatile base. Imagine adding Asian seasonings during the carmelization period for Bahn mi, or BBQ as a pulled pork substitute. Yum.


about 4 years ago GSmodden

I promised myself I wouldn't make this recipe until my copy of Cuisines of Mexico arrived. It arrived, and the first recipe I made was this one. First of all, pork shoulder is so cheap! Second, I'm in love with how simple this recipe is. Third, the results are to die for. This book is truly a treasure. Reading Kennedy's recipes I don't feel the least bit anxious, but rather excited and confident that I can follow the easy-to-understand directions and make something tasty. Thanks so much for the introduction to Diana Kennedy.