A question about a recipe: Diana Kennedy's Carnitas Has anyone braised this in the oven instead of doing it on top of the stove?

I find that I need to watch things on top of the stove too carefully. It simmers, it stops, I turn it up, it boils too hard, I turn it down, it stops, and on and on. Even a really good simmer ring doesn't always help. I like the constant heat of the oven to cook things that go for a while. Has anyone tried this recipe in the oven?

bella s.f.
Diana Kennedy's Carnitas
Recipe question for: Diana Kennedy's Carnitas


mjlandry September 4, 2011
Hi guys,

I buy pork lard at the SF Ferry plaza. This is horrible but I love frying hot dogs in it!! Def an artery clogger. This recipe looks great and I want to try it soon. I will do the stove top method 1st and see how that goes.Thanks for all the info on this Pickle:-)
My P. July 14, 2011
I was inspired by this recipe, but then came across a recipe I clipped from Bon Appetit a long time ago that suggested using a slow cooker. This method fit my day better since we were headed out. I think the end product must be similar (though I have not tried this one and think it certainly has potential to be superior). The Bon Appetit recipe calls for the pork to be tossed in seasoning and placed in the slow cooker without any water. As it cooks, the fat renders and the meat is cooked in the lard (and a bit of water that the meat gives off). The top of the meat browns beautifully.
We were very pleased with the carnitas.
Here is a link to more info and the recipe:

Regarding Costco, I agree with Bella. I am not sure about what the store offers in other parts of the country, but here in Northern California they offer a number of excellent local products. I'm on my way there today for cheese and some Lagunitas IPA!
bella S. July 12, 2011
Congratulations on your win, Antonia! On to Costco. We shop there a lot, and there are only the two of us. Well, four when you count the kitties. I often hear that as an arguement as to why someone doesn't go there, that they do not have a large family. It is a must for paper products. I alone, have kept Kleenex in business all of my life. The Costco we go to has an amazing cheese section. We get the Point Reyes Blue Cheese that we used to have to buy at the Ferry Plaza Market for a great deal more. We get hunks of Parm, a very nice feta, a Pecorino with truffles, just to name a few. Their meats can be very good. I read once that Julia child loved buying her meat there. There are so many other things that we buy there... drug store items, cleaning products... I could just go on and on. Jeans, capri pants... They have local fresh breads like Acme and Semifreddo. They have La Brea loaves which we use for crostini. What else would you like to know about?
AntoniaJames July 11, 2011
bella s.f., from what I can tell, in the Bay Area, there are two kinds of lard: good leaf lard, that you buy at the "good meat" vendors at the farmers markets and at Prather and similar super high-end butchers, and then there's the really raunchy stuff that's dirty or are like Crisco. If I could get the butcher to give me more of the outside fat, that might do the trick, in providing the rendered fat needed for cooking. The leaf lard has a mild bacon-y smell when you take it out of the container. I use in pie crusts, but usually as a supplemental ingredient. My crusts never smell porky. I just don't know how the stuff cooks up when used like this, in the carnitas. I may have to ask a separate foodpickle on this later tonight. Actually, I'm also interested in the whole Costco question (Should I join? Why? why not?) so I'll ask that as well. Thanks so much. ;o)
bella S. July 11, 2011
Antonia, I never heard of leaf lard. Just read a bit on it. It is supposed to be the elite of lards, but not have much pork flavor. I guess that is why it is sometimes used in pastry. We just got back from being down in the central coast (CA). So much agriculture going on there. We were visiting with folks who buy, oh, half a steer or a pig. We were talking about how pigs have now been bred to be almost fat-free. That is probably what you encountered. We quite often buy a huge piece of pork shoulder/butt at Costco. We cut it into large pieces for roasts (porchetta, carnitas, etc.) and then into pound and half pound packages for grinding (sausage, ragu, etc.) We were commenting about how the meat has become too lean. We have had braises that just get too dried out. They said that where they order their pig from, the meat still has enough fat to keep things from being dry. We do not have room to buy a pig. We may need to seek out a source for pork that is being raised differently. I have too much going on right now to try the carnitas, but I will take time to read over things, and hopefuly, be able to try the recipe soon. I'll report my results. Glad that you were able to enjoy your's.
AntoniaJames July 11, 2011
Wish I'd actually looked at the linked info on braise/roast, though I am fairly certain that this pork would not have fared well with a blast of high heat at the end. I plan to try this again using Ms. Kennedy's method, on the stove. And I won't hesitate to add a bit of good leaf lard if it seems warranted. I do appreciate learning about this method. And especially when the boys are home, we like having meat of all kinds, and plenty of it (!!), on hand for throwing into wraps, fried-rice, etc. so I imagine I'll be making this frequently through the rest of the summer. Thank you! ;o)
Kristen M. July 11, 2011
Thank you for being brave and risking your dinner to try this out, Antonia! I guess we know why Kennedy goes for the admittedly less convenient stovetop method now.

Kennedy's technique is probably best used on one of those days when you already expect to be puttering in the kitchen for a few hours and don't mind pork simmering in the background.

One of the braise-then-broil/roast techniques that I linked to above would be better for when you'd rather abandon the pot (I bet you could even use the slow cooker for the first part).
AntoniaJames July 11, 2011
Just reporting back on my experiment with doing carnitas in the oven. I wanted to try this because I have a well-insulated electric convection oven, but my stove top is gas. Cooking in the oven is more practical sometimes for me, because I feel comfortable going out for 1 1/2 hours (e.g., my daily hike/run in the nearby redwood forest) with something in the oven, but not with something cooking on the stove. I actually was home while I tested this. The meat turned out tender and fairly juicy, but it did not crisp up. The pork looked like, well, cooked pork but with a texture that was nothing special. It was fairly moist and tasted good, but not better than a closed-lid braise. I realized after an hour and a half that not much water had evaporated, so I poured off most of it. I probably should have poured off all of it, but I was concerned that by that point, the fat had cooked into the liquid and that the meat would just be sitting there is a dry pan. Also, I'm not sure my meat had enough fat on it. Next time, unless the meat had a lot more fat, I'd probably monitor it and if necessary add a tablespoon or two of lard -- I have some really nice leaf lard from Prather Ranch that I wish I'd used -- and I'd use much less water. That said, we had a great meal, with the pork pieces doused in a bit of lime juice, joined by slivers of ripe avocado and some sprigs of cilantro, wrapped with hot-off-the-griddle roti. It tasted delicious, but next time, I'm going to see what I can do about getting it dark and crispy. ;o)
AntoniaJames July 9, 2011
I'm making this today in the oven (after bringing to a boil on the stove top), with the lid off, at 250. Stay tuned . . . . ;o)
Kristen M. July 8, 2011
I see, bella s.f.. I think having the lid off is one of the keys to this method though -- there's quite a bit of water that needs to cook off and leave behind all the good fat. Looking forward to hearing how your experiments turn out!
bella S. July 8, 2011
Thanks for your answers, jwolfsthal and Kristen. Kristen, I actually use a lid when I braise in the oven. The liquid still gets absorbed/cooks off. I never thought of doing it without a lid. What do you braise in the oven without a lid? I might just have to experiment with two pots. One with a lid, one without. However, this may be waiting for more appropriate weather.
Kristen M. July 8, 2011
I haven't tried this method in the oven, but I'd be excited to hear how the lid-off oven simmer works out.

I've seen a couple very promising braise, then roast/broil to crisp techniques though:

jwolfsthal July 8, 2011
i have not tried this specific recipe in the oven, but makes braised meat dishes including Carnitas in the over all the time. It works very well and once you set a temperature that works, you don't need to futz with it. I usually start at 250 degrees and adjust from there.
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