Cooking outdoors isn’t always about smoked meat.

Although it isn’t BBQ, I figured that I could share this with you all since it is delicious and it does, after all, involve one of my favorite cuts of meat… the pork butt. My family has a tradition of cooking carnitas outdoors on Easter Sunday and feasting on tacos and downing a couple of cold ones. It’s a day that I am not the one responsible for the Q and it gives me some time to just kick back and enjoy the party.
Carnitas are traditionally cooked inside of a “caso” (large copper pot) and deep fat fried in lard until the meat is tender and a tasty crust develops. Pork butts aren’t the only things that are cooked in the lard, Brother X also likes to drop in a rack or two of spare ribs to boot! Deep fat fried ribs… as if the ribs weren’t fatty enough. We chop up the carnitas and wrap them in a tortilla, sprinkle some cilantro and onions and a dollop of homemade salsa. It’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Brother X
Brother X, doing his thing

A caso filled with boiling lard and pieces of pork butt, mmmmmm!

Deep fried ribs
Brother X, cutting up some deep fried ribs.

The carnitas getting cut up.

Tacos de carnitas
Tacos de carnitas (carnitas tacos)

Here is an indoor version of the recipe:


  • Half a can of Coke or Pepsi
  • 2 lemons


  • 2 lemons
  • 2 pound of lard (or oil)
  • 1 pork butt


  • Onions and Cilantro diced and mixed together
  • Tortillas
  • Fresh salsa

Trim excess fat from the pork butt and cube into 3 to 4 inch pieces. Heat up lard in a large (large enough to fit the lard and pork with room to spare) dutch oven to 375 F (or right before the lard starts to smoke). Add the soda and let then start adding the meat piece by piece. If the lard starts to cool too much wait for it to reheat before you add more pieces of pork. Don’t let the pot get too full; you can always cook the meat in two batches. Stir the lard and pork every few minutes making sure that it doesn’t stick to the side and that all parts are getting cooked equally. The meat is done when the it is a nice brown color and the internal temperature of the meat reaches 180 F. You can always take out a piece and see if it’s cooked through. Remove the meat and let it drain in a metal colander over a cookie sheet.
Chop up the meat with a cleaver, add some salt and squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the meat. You can serve it on a plate with your favorite side dishes and a batch of tortillas… or you can heat up some tortillas fill with meat add some diced onion and cilantro and top it off with your favorite salsa.

IMPORTANT: Never use water to put out an oil fire: the water will splatter the burning oil and spread it more quickly. Instead, smother the flames with a tight-fitting lid or sheet of aluminum foil. If the fire has spread outside the pan, suffocate it with baking soda or a fire extinguisher formulated for oil fires.*

*warning courtesy of

3.8/5 (5 Reviews)

69 thoughts on “Carnitas”

  1. Awesome reminds me of summer growing up when we’ed slaughter a huge hog and throw most of it in the cazo, we’ed make carnitas, chicharones and buche and the cazos do come larger than the one in the picture they make any bbq/cookout fun and its an awesome tradition to pass on to the kids and a great conversation starter.
    Would like to see some pit cooking.

  2. I think that is one of the such a lot vital info for me. And i’m happy reading your article. But should remark on few common things, The website taste is great, the articles is in reality excellent : D. Excellent job, cheers

    • I just purchased mine in California at a Mexican flee market. I paid $230 for one almost exactly like the one in the picture. I see them from time to time here. You’ve gotta jump on it when they are avail. They usually get snatched up quick. The guy I bought mine from, usually carries a few of them in various sizes.

  3. i am a seasoned proffessional at eating carnitas. been doing it since i was a wee lil scallywag. so we had a genius idea while kicking back drinking some cold chellas. the idea was to make some of our own carnitas. so here we are, rainy ass day, cold beers, manteca, pork, the bros and nobody knows how to make em…haaaaaaaa. Google here we come. thanks for the quick lesson. if im not too drunk after this whole ordeal, and if i remember i might let you know how it turned out. Arrrrrrgh mateys cheers

  4. Making these right now, pretty much the same recipe, but put coke in about an hour befor their done, and use no juice…. usuall throw a whole or quartered onion in too, useing the remaing lard to deep fry corn tortillias for tostadas to put the meat on with white mexican cheese,avacado, and homemade salsa.

  5. I am a latino that lives in sc. tried your carnita recipee was primo. thanks I dont get alot of my down home food this was nice. I cook souther bbq all the time but this is diffrent better.

  6. I fell in love with carnitas while working with Hispanics in Georgia. I want to buy my own copper pot to cook them in, I have tried other pots but there is just something about the slow cooking in a big copper pot outside with everyone milling around……….there is nothing like it. I have been searching FOREVER to find a pot, but I am not having any luck. I found this post while searching for one actually. I am hoping you can point me in the right direction.

    • I read your post and would recommend you look at your local flea market. I don’t know where you live but I live in San Jose, CA. We have a very large hispanic community here so I was able to get me a huge copper caso there. If you can’t find one where you live find a friend in california or maybe even go to TJ Mexico and get one.

  7. Ohhh! watch out when you add the coke! I let it start to smoke alittle before putting in the coke and when just enough of smoke was visible that I had to look hard to tell if it was smoke, anyways good thing I poured it in slow …’cause I thought it was going to explode! I just put half of what is recomended and they instantly turned brown added a orange also..Just give you people some “Heads Up” and away from the pot as far as you can when pouring it…even if the oil is not boiling don’t be fooled! ITS HOT! cooking it now 01-10-09 12:30 am slooowly. smells good!

  8. T what temp do you keep the lard at to prevent the pork from burning? What do you do if the pork starts to burn while making carnitas?

  9. I bought my caso at a flea-market in Savannah GA, for $400.00. It is an old antique with a round bottom and steel handles that stick out from the side. maybe over 100 years old. In perfect condition. I have not used it yet. Whole fresh pig at the market now. I spent time fatting her up on corn. I hope she taste as good to me as she thought that corn taste to her.

  10. Please answer,

    can you fry these on the stove or in the oven?

    How about in a large pasta pot?

    Oh, please remove the junk messages.

    Love the pic’s mmmmmmmm

  11. another easier way to cook carnitas is to slow roast the BUTT whole for 6 or 7 hours on 275 or 300 uncovered in the oven….when done….you shred and chunk the pork…THEN fry in lard for just a few min… should be crispy yet juicy….michoacan is the only REAL place to get real carnitas

  12. This is a receipe I’ve been useing for years. I’ve always used a steel pot. It’s always turned out very good. Although I have just bought a copper caso that I can’t wait to use and see the differnce. My wife’s family is coming over for Easter so I’ll get to try it out. You can double or triple this receipe.

    4lbs pork mix of shoulder, butt and (ribs are a must)
    2 oranges the juice
    2 limes the juice
    3.5 lbs lard
    3-4 cups of water
    2 Tbs sea salt
    1 can of coke

    In a 3-4 gal. copper pot (copper is best) add water
    and 2lbs of lard until boiling. Then reduce to a small
    but constant bubbling. Add shoulder and butt in large
    chunks 1/2 to 1 pound chunks. Save the ribs.

    When the meat starts to turn white all around add salt and juices. With a large wooden spoon stir gently but constantly for 1 minute to incorporate the salt and juices. Stir and turn meat every 5-10 minutes. Meat will take 2 1/2 to 4 hours. Make sure there is always enough liquid if not add more lard. (never water at this point) After 2 hours add ribs previosly salted. Stir carefully. Test meat with a fork for doness. or cut open, when pinkish white inside add coke and cook 1/2 hour more. Strain meat and cover with foil.

  13. In addition to adding Coca Cola, consider these other alternative ingredients to add to the caso(I usually make no less than 20 – 40 lbs):

    -couple cans of Tecate beer or Negra Modelo
    – oranges (4-8 depending on size) cut in half, hand squeezed and dropped right in the caso
    -maple syrup or dark honey ()
    -pineapple, (canned or whole)

    Fill a spray bottle with a solution of warm water and salt. You can also fill a sauce pan with the solution. Lightly spray or hand-sprinkle the salt water over the carnitas as they drain on the rack or colander. Do this only if your meat turns out too bland.

  14. That’s one fine Olla, but I just cook My pork in an adjustable tempture deep fryer. Any pot that’s the right size for the amount of meat Your cooking will work. But You’ll need a thermometer so You can adjust the heat. I trim the excess fat off the meat coat it with equal parts of salt, pepper and garlic powder (not garlic salt). I start off at 350 deg till the meat starts to brown then drop the temp to 225 deg turning the meat every twenty minutes. The time depends on the size of the meat 2 – 2 1/2 hrs for a two-four Lbs Butt, check the internal temp with a meat thermometer. Before the last twenty minutes I pour a 1/2 C of Milk into the lard it will boil up and coat the meat, it won’t spatter if the temp is at 225 deg. The lard doesn’t soak into the meat the juices in the meat are moving outward. Although the lard will be coating the outside, but should drain off well on a rack or paper towels. Good Eating.

  15. I made carnitas the other day .. what is the alternative to a copper cazo .. I noticed towards the end of mine that the oil went black …. I would have kept it simmering but it was night time and I coudln’t see… I just used garlic and oranges for my spices .. Tasted great but the burnt oil towards the end left an aftertaste … Any suggestions on my problem …. Yes .. and you do need alot of cervezas, don julio and good company cause they could take up to 2-4 hours to cook ….

  16. How do you know if the copper pot is lined with tin?? My copper pots looks just like the one you are cooking with…Is there a way to season the pot before using the first time?

  17. Try this on you carnitas…
    2 lemons juiced or more to taste
    1 bunch of cilantro chopped
    4 medium tomatoes diced
    1 bunch green onions diced or one small purple onion
    3 slightly hard Hass avocados chunked
    3-4 diced serrano chilis
    salt to taste

    Mix in large nonreactive bowl within an hour of serving. Add salt right before serving or vegetables will begin to get mushy.
    You can also swap the avacados for mangos and really change things up.

  18. Man, That looks good, I may have to try that. I am lucky that we live close to a Vallarta Market. My wife stops by there and picks up some freshly made carnitas. It comes with fresh salsas (red and green), and freshly made tortillas. When you can get it that fresh I might just stick to smoking the butts (less hazardous). Then again if I can get someone else to cook it like BBQ Junkie I would be set LOL.

  19. Your pictures make me hungry!!! Let your readers know not to try this in hot weather. I live in the Imperial Valley and the weather in the summer is as hot as 114 degress. But then again it may be good to drink some cold ones.

  20. If you are jonesing for some carnitas but aren’t ready to make your own, I can actually recommend some packaged carnitas we discovered at costco recently. They are made by Del Real foods (website is supposedly but it is under construction) outside LA (in Ontario).

    I live in downtown LA, so I have access to lots of great carnitas, but I now keep a package of these in the refrigerator for emergencies ;).

    I don’t know how broadly they are available, but they are worth trying if you find them.

  21. I’m a Baja fanand a comlpet carnita junkie.
    Great recipe ,will do it more.
    The best carnitas I’ve ever had was/is in Tiajuna at a place called “Europan”.we race in the SCORE events and stop there on every trip.
    Your recipe is the best carnitas available in Prescott,Az.(my back yard).

  22. Well, soon after going over your recipe I knew I HAD to try it. Not sure if it was the idea of deep-fried butt or downing a few cold ones… but it was definitely a great afternoon. I didn’t have the copper pot, but I used a really big cast iron pot over a short propane burner/cooker. WOW…my whole family loved it! We had it with corn-on-the-cob, fresh bread, salsa, sourcream and mixture of fried sweet valdali onions – red and yellow peppers – green onions. It was amazing… the only thing that went a little crazy was the coke in the lard. I poured it in as the lard was heating.. no problem…. then as the lard got hotter it started to pop… and I mean POP. I ended up splattering molton lard all over my vinyl siding to a height of about 8′. HOLY CRAP… it scared the hell outta me!!!! Once I got the meat in, things settled down. It was still worth it and I am planning to do it again… just not the erupting lard part. I had the heat very low so I am surprised this happened. My question…. Could I just dip or marinate the pork in the coke first, or does having it in the lard actually do something?

    Anyway.. thanks again for the recipe!

  23. I came across this recipe while looking for a place
    to reline an old French copper saucepan. In Mexico, the
    pots such as those used in this recipe are thought to
    impart a special flavor, and are found in several sizes. Information that I came across online suggests that as long as acidic, vinegary foods are not prepared in unlined pots, nor if food is left to sit in them, there should be no problem. At any rate, this carnitas recipe is great.

  24. Do yourself a favor and forget the copper pot unless it is lined.

    Copper, has been used in cooking utensils almost since the dawn of history. Copper cookware is esteemed for its heat conductivity but should not be used unless it is lined with tin or stainless steel. Cooked foods left directly in contact with uncoated copper may become discolored. Copper will leach into acidic foods, causing an unpleasant taste and coloration. Copper residues in foods can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

  25. Good God, ya’ll are killin me with all this talk of tasty carnitas. I’ve been addicted ever since the guys at work turned me on to them down here in Houston. I only know of one place here that makes really good carnitas though, La Michoacana. I’ve tried them at a few other restaurants and they don’t even compare. I found a pretty good recipe that I was searching for when I found this one. They were slow cooked and then crisped in the oven. The flavor was really good, but now I want to try the copper pot method. Looking at the picture is making me drool and crave carnitas and a really cold one. Thanks for sharing! I also want to add that Houston has some pretty darn good Mexican and Tex-Mex food. Sorry Florida. Unfortunately, that’s why we’re all getting so fat over here.

  26. 180 degrees internal temp is way to well done. Trichinosis dies at 138 degrees and thats the only thing u should worry about when cooking pork. Clay dont cook in copper unless it is lined.

  27. This is a wonderful Mexican tradition, an invitation to join a buddy with their family for carnitas is a real honor. Fresh pico de gallo with lots of serranos are the trick for good tacos… and ice cold beer. Question: Is it safe to cook with a copper pot that has not been coated with tin? I know that you should never use acidic ingredients in copper, is frying lard safe? I hate to be a buzzkill, A friend just brought me a caso from south Mexico.

  28. I made carnitas yesterday in a caso from Michoacan. I didn’t follow this recipe exactly but still much the same only without the coke. I used some boneless picnic cuts about 1.5 -2 pounds a piece. Took about 3 hours. Just have to make sure you don’t cook it too hot towards the end. Slow cooking in oil just like bbq. I dip the cooked carnitas in a mixture of lime juice, orange juice, salt and water. I love carnitas because they taste so good and because I make a lot so I need to invite lots of family and friends.

  29. Bravo to you, BBQ Junkie !!!!!

    Thank-you Sooooo Much for the recipe. I have been looking for a deep fry recipe since I lived in Michoacan ! Here in Santa Cruz, most carnitas are the boil and bake type – never with the awesome flavor of the copper fry method.

    I’m ready to go to the weekend mercado for a caso and get started !!!!


    Ruby Puma

  30. And now, the results:

    Ribs were very good and tasty with a nice carmelization. The coke is an inspired idea. It gives the meat a great carmelization and a little bit of sweetness but it is hell on the pan (nothing a little soaking wouldn’t clean up). I felt the “carnitas” (as they were labled when sold to me) had too little fat and cartledge for the desired result. I would certainly stick with the butt next time. I’m going to fry up the other half of the pork ribs tonight. I’ll be using a deep cast iron saucepan instead of the alum. stock pot. The other carnitas is too lean…going to get breaded with panko and baked to 180 in a 325 oven. I’m going to slice it thin and serve it with a sweet Mole (Just to short cut, Trader Joe’s makes a fantastic deep, rich mole sauce which is good in a pinch)

  31. Aaaah! Carnitas! The carnitas tacos shown above are surreal! Where’s the Food Channel? This is an excellent subject for full, robust discussion. Fresh, crispy carnitas just might be the only treat that surpasses bbq (shudder, quake!). I’m always looking for carnitas in the meat markets local to Pasadena/Altadena. While this tasty discussion could well push me over the edge and into a backyard copper kettle, I’m finding pretty good hot carnitas at around 4.95-5.95 / pound, sometimes less.

    Have you ever seen oranges in the cooking lard?

    To “The Dude (Lubowski) Abides,” you are so right! If you have grown up in SoCal, there is no Mexican food anywhere else to compare, well, not so true anymore: good comida in East Oakland, South San Jose and, of course, Watsonville. But Florida? You’ll just have to get by on your White Russians and tumbleweed dreams.

  32. Hmmm. Two Coronas gone. I will say this…taking a lot lnger than expected to cook the meat. Also, the lard boils way before it ever thinks of getting to 325. I’ve started with the ribs. I think I put them in too early, it was boiling…but I guess I was sort of expecting the “tempura effect” so now I am waiting for the browning to happen.

  33. I’m trying this tonight in an 8qt stock pot. 2 lbs of lard is not as intimidating as it sounds. Not as much fat as one would use, say, to deep fry a turkey (think 8 sticks of butter)

    As far as meat…I went to Jons Market (several ones in the Van Nuys area) They specialize in Hispanic, Middle Eastern and Balkin foods. A nice selection of pork butts and shoulders… whole roasts, half, with and without bone, marinated, plain, cubed and the size I bought, called “Carnitas” about plump London Broil size as in the picture above. I think this will be a good thickness and size for deep fry. Cubes intimidate me a little because they are small and cook quickly. I bought an inexpensive rack of ribs as well.

    They also make fresh tortillas and salsa on the premisies. Some nice Corona’s for the cook. Gotta go invite some people for dinner now.

  34. Oh lordy. I miss good carnitas. Orlando is a vast wasteland when it comes to good Mexican food. If I could just find one place here remotely like Cinco Puntos in L.A. I’d be happy forever.

  35. add the coke as the lard melts, but before it heats up. casos are hard to come by, you might be able to find one in East Los Angeles at one of the mercados. You can also find them in Tia Juana, just make sure that you test the caso by filling it with water to make sure that it doesn’t leak.

  36. Sounds great. I’m going to do it. Where can I buy a caso?

    I also want to clarify: add the coke to the Caso just before the lard starts to smoke? This sounds incredibly hazardous. Do you mean…add it to the meat?

  37. Have you tried the same with bbq butt? I like the idea of the tacos… but I don’t know if I’m up to deep frying a whole butt! Looks great, though, and a great tradition… also love the copper pot!


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