Carnitas, which means “little meats,” are popular throughout Mexico. They can be found on street corners, humble taquerias, and in markets. Chunks of pork shoulder are slowly braised in liquid until tender, then fried in a small amount of lard until browned and crispy on the outside. If desired, you can cook the pork until tender up to three days ahead, and then fry the meat just before serving.
- One 3-1/2 to 4 pound well-marbled boneless pork shoulder
- One 12-ounce bottle or can of beer
- Water as needed
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
- For serving: Corn or flour tortillas; pico de gallo; salsa verde; sliced radishes; diced onions; fresh cilantro; shredded cabbage or lettuce; guacamole
Slice the pork into 2-inch chunks and arrange it in a Dutch oven or roasting pan. Add the beer and enough water to barely cover the meat. Stir in the salt and the cumin. On the stovetop over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. When ready to cook, start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes). Set the temperature to 300 degrees F and preheat, lid closed, for 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully transfer the pan with the meat to the grill grate. Roast the pork, uncovered, until the meat is very tender, 2-1/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Add a bit more water to the pan if most of the liquid has evaporated. When the pork is tender, drain off any remaining cooking liquid and discard. Break the meat into bite-size chunks with a fork. (The recipe can be prepared to this point up to three days ahead. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate.) Add the lard to the pan and return the pan to the grill grate. Increase the temperature of the Traeger to 400 degrees. Let the meat “fry” in the lard until it is browned and some bits are slightly crisp, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve with the suggested accompaniments.