Sous Vide Carnitas are so moist and tender on the inside while remaining crispy on the outside!
Because you can set the temperature precisely to your desired doneness, this recipe is a foolproof and no-fuss way to cook the Mexican pulled pork to the perfect texture.
There is no possibility of overcooking. It’s a complete game changer! This tasty and comforting sous vide pork carnitas recipe can be prepared ahead of time.
They go well with tortillas, burritos, quesadillas, and even salad. So delectable! They also keep well as leftovers!
SUPER TENDER AND JUICY SOUS VIDE CARNITAS
Sous vide carnitas are much more tender and juicier than traditional methods such as crock pot, instant pot, or oven, with a completely melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Yes, it takes a little longer to cook, but it is well worth the wait! It’s actually quite simple to prepare, and your sous vide machine will do the majority of the work. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll never go back to the old way!
Sous vide, also known as low-temperature-long-time cooking, is a French cooking technique in which food is vacuum-sealed in a bag and then cooked to a precise temperature in a warm water bath for an extended period of time.
WHAT ARE CARNITAS?
Carnitas is traditionally made by simmering pork in lard until tender.
They’re made with the same cut of pork as pulled pork, the shoulder, which is often tough and fatty and benefits from slow cooking to bring out maximum flavor and tenderness.
However, there are a few key distinctions between carnitas and pulled pork.
Carnitas are frequently seasoned with Mexican herbs and spices, cooked in lard, and the shredded pork is broiled or pan fried at the end for crispy, caramelized edges.
INGREDIENTS FOR SOUS VIDE CARNITAS
- Pork: My favorite is bone-in or boneless pork shoulder; you can also use pork butt or Boston butt. Before seasoning, trim away any excess fat.
- Beer: Beer enhances the flavor of this dish by making it bolder and more flavorful. You can use chicken stock instead, or Coca Cola for a sweeter taste.
- Lime and orange juice: The acidity in the juices tenderizes the meat, resulting in a fall-apart texture.
- Dry seasonings: The combination of cumin, paprika, oregano, salt, and pepper adds a true Mexican flavor to this dish.
- Garlic: For the best results, use smashed fresh garlic.
- Toppings: Fresh cilantro and chopped onions are traditional taco toppings, and my personal favorites.
HOW TO COOK SOUS VIDE CARNITAS
To season the pork, combine the dry seasoning ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until combined.
Season the pork on all sides with the seasoning. In a separate bowl, combine the orange juice, lemon juice, and beer.
Place the seasoned pork in a zip-lock bag with the juices. Vacuum seal and sous vide cook: Use the “water displacement” technique to vacuum seal the bag.
Place the bag in a sous vide warm water bath and cook for about 18 hours at 160 °F (71 °C). Remove the pork shoulder from the bag and shred with two forks once it has finished cooking.
Broil: Spread the shredded pork on a large baking sheet, and spoon about 1 cup of the bag’s juices evenly over the meat. Broil for 5-10 minutes on high heat, or until the edges are golden and crispy.
Serve with garnishes such as cilantro and chopped onions. Serve hot with tacos, burritos, or salad.
TEMPERATURE AND TIME
Sous vide cooking allows you to cook your pork shoulder to the desired doneness over a wide range of cooking times.
With different temperature settings, you will get different textures.
I’ve tested this recipe numerous times, and my preferred cooking temperature is 160°F / 71°C for 18 hours. If you want to experiment with different settings, use the chart below:
WHAT IS SOUS VIDE?
Sous vide is essentially a method of cooking that employs an immersion circulator.
This immersion circulator circulates water in a temperature-controlled water bath at a specific temperature to ensure that your food is perfectly cooked every time.
Because the temperature does not change and your meat (or dessert, vegetables, etc.) remains at the same temperature, the risk of overcooking is greatly reduced.
SOUS VIDE CARNITAS VARIATIONS
This recipe is extremely adaptable, and you can easily personalize your own carnitas tacos:
- Taco shell: I used soft flour tortillas, but hard corn shells would make a crispy and crunchy carnitas taco. You can substitute lettuce leaves for a low-carb option.
- To make it spicy, add diced jalapeo or chili flakes to the bag, or add liquid smoke to make it smoky.
- Other topping options include sour cream, coleslaw, avocado, guacamole, and relish. Be inventive!
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
- It’s a cheap way to feed a large group. Pork shoulder is a large, inexpensive cut of pork. This recipe yields enough carnitas to fill several tacos!
- Cooking pork shoulder low and slow is ideal, and sous vide takes this to the next level. The pork cooks for 24 hours in a water bath, tenderizing as it cooks. As a result, the pork is flavorful and tender, making it ideal for carnitas.
- The pork can be cooked ahead of time and stored in the fridge or freezer, making this recipe ideal for meal prep. Simply shred the pork and broil it before serving! Shredded pork freezes well as well.
- While the sous vide method takes longer than the traditional methods of preparing carnitas in the oven, crockpot, or Instant Pot, the result is ultra juicy and tender pork!
HOW TO SERVE SOUS VIDE CARNITAS?
These carnitas are best served in tortillas, but they can also be served in burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, nachos, and even salad!
TIPS FOR MAKING SOUS VIDE CARNITAS
CUT THE PORK INTO SLICES
- To begin, I like to use boneless pork shoulder. I tried using whole shoulders, which worked reasonably well, but flavor penetration is improved if the pork is first cut into thick slabs. Once cooked, four pounds of meat will serve eight to twelve people. You can easily make a half batch, but carnitas freeze extremely well, so make the whole thing!
- If you’ll be cooking with a sous vide setup for extended periods of time, I recommend using vacuum sealer bags, but you can also use heavy-duty zipper-lock bags by double-bagging the meat and using the water displacement method to remove air. If you use this method, make sure that the top of the outer bag (the part that seals) is above the water line to avoid leaks during cooking.
MAINTAIN FULL IMMERSION
- If you didn’t get all of the air out of the bag, or if your pork is particularly fatty, the bag may float a little. Place a wet kitchen towel on top of the bag to keep it submerged, or use a large binder clip to secure a metal spoon or knife to the bottom of the bag as a weight.
- As the pork cooks, keep an eye on the water bath to ensure that the water level does not fall below the minimum line on your device. Using aluminum foil to cover the opening or Ping-Pong balls to cover the surface of the water can help prevent water loss during long cooking periods.
MAKING THE CARNITAS AHEAD
- Once the meat has been cooked, you can either proceed to the crisping step right away, or let it cool and store it in the fridge or freezer, directly in the bag, until ready to serve. The cooked pork will keep in the fridge for at least five days and in the freezer for several months.
- When you’re ready to serve, open up the bag and empty the contents into a bowl, discarding all of the aromatics. If there’s a lot of liquid (or jellied liquid, if you’ve chilled the meat), set it aside, reduce it, and blend it into your salsa; use it as a base for a pan sauce for another dish; or add it to a pot of soup for a flavor boost. If you don’t want to mess with a half cup of flavorful, gelatin-packed pork liquid, simply discard it.
COOKING THE MEAT
- The last step is to crisp up the pork. There are several approaches you can take. Spread it out on a rimmed baking sheet and place it a few inches under a preheated broiler. Keep an eye on it and flip the pieces as soon as they begin to brown and crisp.
Frequently Asked Questions
The USDA recommends a minimum temperature of 145°F (63°C) for pork, but the connective tissue must be heated to at least 160-170°F (71-77°C) to dissolve properly, and most smoked pork shoulders are pulled at 195-205°F (91-96°C).
When the bath is ready, add the sealed bag of pork and cover with foil or plastic wrap. Allow 18 to 24 hours to cook. Pork can be refrigerated for up to a week after this stage before continuing.
In the slow cooker, it is difficult to overcook a piece of meat. All of that juice keeps the meat moist and prevents it from overcooking. If the slow cooker is too dry, the meat will burn and overcook. When cooking meat, it is best to add at least a cup of water to avoid overcooking the pork.
Heat the lard or oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 275 degrees. Lower in the pieces of pork, but not any of the juice that may have accumulated around them. (If using bacon, add it now.) Reduce the heat to medium to medium-low.