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Smoked Pork Carnitas – Authentic Carnitas on the Smoker!

Smoked pork carnitas are a delicious and popular dish that has gained a lot of attention in recent years. This traditional Mexican dish is known for its tender, juicy meat and crispy exterior, making it a favorite among food enthusiasts. In this article, we will explore the origins of smoked pork carnitas, the best cuts of pork to use, and how to smoke the meat to perfection. We will also provide tips for serving and storing leftover carnitas, as well as creative ways to use them in other dishes.

Key Takeaways

  • Smoked Pork Carnitas are a traditional Mexican dish made from slow-cooked, shredded pork.
  • Authentic Carnitas originated in the state of Michoacán, Mexico, and were traditionally cooked in lard.
  • Smoking pork for Carnitas adds a unique flavor and texture to the dish.
  • To prepare your smoker for Carnitas, you’ll need to set it to a low temperature and use wood chips for smoke.
  • The best cut of pork for Carnitas is typically the shoulder or butt, which have a good balance of fat and meat.

What are Smoked Pork Carnitas?

Smoked pork carnitas are a variation of the traditional Mexican dish known as carnitas. Carnitas, which translates to “little meats,” is typically made by slow-cooking pork in lard or oil until it becomes tender and crispy. Smoked pork carnitas take this concept a step further by adding a smoky flavor to the meat through the process of smoking.

To make smoked pork carnitas, the pork is first seasoned with spices and then smoked over low heat for several hours. This slow cooking process allows the flavors to penetrate the meat and creates a tender texture. Once the pork is fully cooked, it is shredded and can be used in a variety of dishes such as tacos, burritos, or bowls.

The Origins of Authentic Carnitas

Carnitas have a long history in Mexican cuisine and are deeply rooted in tradition and culture. The dish originated in the state of Michoacán, Mexico, where it was traditionally prepared for special occasions and celebrations. In Michoacán, carnitas were traditionally cooked in large copper pots filled with lard or oil over an open fire.

The cooking process for authentic carnitas involves simmering the pork in its own fat until it becomes tender and then increasing the heat to crisp up the exterior. This method results in succulent meat with a crispy crust that is highly sought after.

Why Smoke Pork Carnitas?

Smoking pork for carnitas adds a whole new dimension of flavor to the dish. The smoky aroma and taste complement the richness of the pork, creating a truly mouthwatering experience. Smoking also enhances the texture of the meat, giving it a tender and juicy quality that is hard to achieve through other cooking methods.

Another benefit of smoking pork for carnitas is that it allows for a more hands-off cooking process. Once the meat is in the smoker, you can let it cook low and slow without having to constantly monitor it. This makes smoking an ideal method for cooking large quantities of meat for gatherings or parties.

Preparing Your Smoker for Carnitas

Before you can start smoking pork carnitas, you need to make sure your smoker is properly set up and preheated. Start by cleaning your smoker and removing any leftover ash or debris from previous uses. Next, fill the water pan with water or another liquid of your choice to help maintain moisture during the smoking process.

Once your smoker is clean and filled with liquid, it’s time to preheat it. Set your smoker to a temperature of around 225°F (107°C) and allow it to heat up for at least 30 minutes. This will ensure that the smoker is at the optimal temperature for smoking the pork.

When it comes to choosing the right wood for smoking pork carnitas, you have several options. Traditional Mexican carnitas are often cooked over an open fire using wood such as mesquite or oak. These woods impart a strong smoky flavor that pairs well with the rich flavors of the pork.

Choosing the Right Cut of Pork for Carnitas

When it comes to choosing the right cut of pork for smoking carnitas, you want to look for cuts that have a good amount of fat marbling throughout the meat. This fat will render down during the smoking process, keeping the meat moist and flavorful.

Some of the best cuts of pork for smoking and shredding for carnitas include pork shoulder (also known as pork butt) and pork picnic roast. These cuts are relatively inexpensive and readily available at most grocery stores. They also have enough fat to keep the meat moist during the long cooking process.

Before smoking the pork, it’s important to trim off any excess fat or skin. This will help the seasonings penetrate the meat and ensure that the final product is not overly greasy. You can also score the fat cap on the pork shoulder to allow more flavor to penetrate the meat.

The Best Seasonings for Smoked Pork Carnitas

To create flavorful smoked pork carnitas, you’ll want to use a combination of spices and seasonings. Traditional carnitas recipes often include ingredients such as garlic, cumin, oregano, and citrus juices like orange or lime. These flavors complement the smoky taste of the meat and add depth to the overall dish.

One popular method for seasoning the pork is to create a dry rub. This can be made by combining spices such as chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Rub this mixture all over the pork, making sure to get it into all the nooks and crannies.

Another option is to create a marinade for the pork. This can be made by combining citrus juices, garlic, onion, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor. Pour this mixture over the pork and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Smoking Techniques for Perfect Carnitas

Now that your smoker is preheated and your pork is seasoned, it’s time to start smoking. Place the seasoned pork on the smoker grates and close the lid. Let the pork smoke at a temperature of around 225°F (107°C) for several hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 195°F (90°C).

During the smoking process, it’s important to maintain a consistent temperature and avoid opening the smoker too often. This will help ensure that the pork cooks evenly and retains its moisture. You can also add wood chips or chunks to the smoker periodically to maintain a steady supply of smoke.

Once the pork reaches the desired internal temperature, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. This will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a more tender and flavorful final product.

Serving Suggestions for Smoked Pork Carnitas

Smoked pork carnitas are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. One of the most popular ways to enjoy them is in tacos. Simply warm up some corn tortillas, fill them with the smoked pork, and top with your favorite toppings such as salsa, guacamole, and cilantro.

Another option is to use the smoked pork in burritos or bowls. Fill a tortilla or bowl with rice, beans, and your choice of vegetables, then top with the smoked pork and any additional toppings you desire.

For a lighter option, you can use the smoked pork in salads. Toss together some mixed greens, sliced avocado, cherry tomatoes, and any other vegetables you like. Top with the smoked pork and drizzle with your favorite dressing.

Leftover Carnitas Ideas

If you find yourself with leftover smoked pork carnitas, don’t worry! There are plenty of creative ways to use them in other dishes. One idea is to make carnitas soup by adding the shredded meat to a pot of broth along with vegetables such as carrots, celery, and onions. Simmer until heated through and serve with tortilla chips on top.

Another option is to use the leftover carnitas in a quesadilla. Simply place some shredded cheese and the smoked pork between two tortillas and cook in a skillet until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are crispy.

You can also use the leftover carnitas to make a delicious sandwich. Pile the shredded meat onto a bun or roll, top with your favorite condiments such as barbecue sauce or coleslaw, and enjoy!

Tips for Reheating Smoked Pork Carnitas

To store leftover smoked pork carnitas, place them in an airtight container or resealable bag and refrigerate for up to 3 days. If you need to store them for longer, you can freeze the meat for up to 3 months.

When it comes time to reheat the carnitas, there are a few methods you can use. One option is to heat them in a skillet over medium heat until warmed through. This will help crisp up the exterior of the meat and bring back some of its original texture.

Another option is to reheat the carnitas in the oven. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C), place the meat in a baking dish, and cover with foil. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until heated through.

If you’re short on time, you can also reheat the carnitas in the microwave. Place the meat in a microwave-safe dish, cover with a damp paper towel, and heat on high for 1-2 minutes, or until warmed through.

Smoked pork carnitas are a delicious and flavorful dish that is sure to impress your family and friends. By taking the traditional method of cooking carnitas and adding a smoky twist, you can elevate this classic Mexican dish to new heights. Whether you’re serving them in tacos, burritos, or bowls, or using them in other creative dishes, smoked pork carnitas are sure to be a hit. So fire up your smoker and give this mouthwatering dish a try!

If you’re a fan of smoked meats, you won’t want to miss this article on how to make Authentic Carnitas on the Smoker! It’s a mouthwatering recipe that takes the classic Mexican dish to a whole new level. The article provides step-by-step instructions and tips for achieving tender, flavorful pork carnitas with a smoky twist. Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or just starting out with smoking, this recipe is sure to impress. Check it out here and get ready to indulge in some seriously delicious barbecue!


What are Smoked Pork Carnitas?

Smoked Pork Carnitas are a traditional Mexican dish made from slow-cooked pork that is shredded and then fried until crispy. The pork is typically seasoned with a blend of spices and herbs, and can be served in tacos, burritos, or on its own.

What is the difference between traditional Carnitas and Smoked Pork Carnitas?

Traditional Carnitas are typically cooked in a large pot or Dutch oven, while Smoked Pork Carnitas are cooked on a smoker. The smoking process adds a unique flavor to the pork, and also helps to tenderize the meat.

What kind of meat is used for Smoked Pork Carnitas?

The most common cut of meat used for Smoked Pork Carnitas is pork shoulder, also known as pork butt. This cut of meat is well-suited for slow cooking, and has a good balance of fat and meat that helps to keep the pork moist and flavorful.

What kind of wood should I use for smoking the pork?

The best wood for smoking pork is hickory, apple, or cherry wood. These woods impart a sweet and smoky flavor to the meat that complements the spices and herbs used in the seasoning.

How long does it take to smoke the pork?

The cooking time for Smoked Pork Carnitas can vary depending on the size of the pork shoulder and the temperature of the smoker. Generally, it takes between 6-8 hours to smoke the pork until it is tender and fully cooked.

What are some serving suggestions for Smoked Pork Carnitas?

Smoked Pork Carnitas can be served in a variety of ways, including in tacos, burritos, or on a bed of rice. They are typically topped with fresh cilantro, diced onions, and a squeeze of lime juice. Other toppings can include avocado, salsa, or sour cream.

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