Carnitas are a staple in Mexico and they are enjoyed all across the world too. Did you know that in Mexico they use vats of lard to cook the cubes of pork shoulder to make the carnitas? It is simmered in this fat until the meat turns golden brown on the outside, and becomes very tender inside.
But who wants to use all of that fat to make their carnitas? A much healthier option is to create your carnitas sous vide. The pork will still taste delicious, and you can finish the meat off in a skillet for that golden brown look.
You need to be prepared to cut cubes of pork shoulder and then cook sous vide for a long time. Once the pork is cooked, you can then shred it up if you want and add the tacos and other side dishes.
- Sous Vide Machine – our favorite right now is the Anova or the Joule.
- Container – not necessary, but nice to have for bigger cuts of meat. We recommend the Lipavi as it is large and sturdy. You can also use a pot.
- Vacuum sealer and bags, or a freezer Ziploc bag. If you only have a Ziploc make sure to check our our article on the water displacement method. You can find our favorite vacuum sealers here – 5 Best Sous Vide Vacuum Sealers (Reviews Updated 2021)
Sous Vide Carnitas Cooking Times and Temperature
Pork shoulder is a tough cut of meat, and it is important that you use the right cooking temperatures and cooking times to produce tender meat that maintains its flavor.
Rare pork shoulder – Cooking temperature 144°F (62°C) – Cooking time 16 to 24 hours
Medium rare pork shoulder – Cooking temperature 154°F (68°C) – Cooking time 12 to 24 hours
Well done pork shoulder – Cooking temperature 185°F (85°C) – Cooking time 12 to 16 hours
The following ingredients will serve around 8 people:
- 2.5 pounds or 1.2 kilograms of pork shoulder
- 2 slices of bacon
- A tablespoon of brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon of anise seed
- 1 teaspoon of lemon peel
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Preparation And Cooking
- Fill your water bath and then set the cooking temperature to the level of “doneness” that you desire.
- You will need to remove the meat from the bone and then cut into cubes of about one inch.
- Add the pork cubes to sous vide bags. It is not recommended that zip lock style bags are used here, because the cooking time is long and this type of bag can break when it is under temperature for a long period of time. Please see our article on sous vide bags.
- Divide up the other ingredients and add them to the sous vide bags. Vacuum seal your bags so that they are ready for the water bath. Make sure you use a vacuum sealer for sous vide.
- Once the water bath has reached the required cooking temperature then place the bags gently into the bath. Cook for the recommended time. If you go over the recommended cooking times this is not a problem.
- After cooking remove the pork from the bags and then chill the meat in ice water for about 60 minutes. Take out the pork and dry it with paper towels. You can keep the pork in cube form or shred it after this.
- Now it is time to sear the pork with a torch for that golden brown look. Use a skillet on medium high heat and use vegetable oil for the searing. Add the pork but do not overcrowd the skillet. Sear on each side for around 2 minutes. Remove the pork from the skillet ready for serving.
- Serve carnitas style with small corn tortillas, chopped onion, lime wedges, thinly sliced radishes and fresh cilantro leaves.