woman serving carnitas tacos with red onion and cilantro
The Ultimate Tip To Maximize Every Ounce Of Flavor When Cooking Carnitas
Traditional carnitas require a big cut of pork shoulder, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, oranges, and a lot of cooking fat. The latter ingredient is the most tricky to use up.
The fat, which is traditionally lard, creates juicy meat full of porky flavor. However, a huge vat of animal fat can be hard to procure, and it's often discarded after cooking.
Chef J. Kenji López-Alt's no-waste carnitas recipe posits that the pork shoulder actually doesn't need extra lard. It's already full of flavor and fat that can be put to use.
By densely packing hunks of pork shoulder into a small baking dish, the pork renders out fat as it cooks and naturally fills the dish with lard, so it cooks in its own drippings.
The rendered fat from fresh pork is more flavorful than store-bought lard, and the juices it releases can be repurposed as a basting liquid and base for a salsa topping.
After cooking the pork, strain the leftover juices into a container. Spoon some of it onto the pork after shredding, and mix the rest into a salsa verde for a true no-waste dish.