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Monday, September 21, 2009

Carnitas over fire

I decided after the taco episode, that since I was fired up for Mexican-type food, it would be good to try making carnitas in the kettle.  The rules for this cook were simple, prepare a pork butt, over fire, in the kettle and end up with carnitas.  The trick was going to be a way to get some smoke flavor while maintaining the crisp surface which makes carnitas so good.  I decided that I needed to make sure the meat would render and cook in it's own fat, this meant using a pan in the kettle.  That looks like this.

As you can see, indirect fire from both sides of the skillet, I placed onions, garlic, crushed lime and some chili heavy rub into the pan.  The butt was given a similar rub which was rubbed very lightly onto the meat.  Heat was brought up to 325F to make sure the pan remained hot enough to render the fat. You can see some of the rendered fat in the shot below.

Once the shoulder was done to the probe, I removed it and foiled it to rest.  After removing some of the fat and cooked down veggies, I added some coarsely slice onions and Yukon Gold potatoes which were coated with a liberal dose of chili powder and BBQ rub.  I also added 5 peeled cloves of garlic.  This was allowed to pan fry over the charcoal baskets as well.  Once these were also done to the probe test I smashed the garlic cloves and blended it all together.  I then added back the meat and heated it all for serving.

I added a lettuce and cabbage slaw seasoned with Japanese rice vinegar, Thai chili sauce, red peppers and chopped tomatoes. This is my continuing effort to come up with a slaw recipe that I can enjoy with heavier foods.  This one worked quite well and will join the rotation. Once again, I was joined by the Arrogant Bastard. He just keeps showing up.


  1. Nice looking carnitas but what really got my attention was the slaw, that sounded awesome.

  2. Chris, I have been trying to figure out a non-mayo based slaw for a lot of the BBQ I serve. The Mexican places around here all use a vinegar based slaw that is good. I like this slaw, it is based on the tsunemono recipes of my family with a little more spice from the Thai peppers sauce.

  3. There is no need to filter my comments. I too have been trying non-mayo slaws. I like to shred (.25") the cabbage and salt it so its soft and crunchy. I find it wilts the cabbage which then soaks up my vinaigrette du jour more thoroughly. I also have been using apples for crunch and sweetness, and dried pineapple rings (cut to .25 inches) again for tang and sweetness. I also zest a couple of farm fresh carrots for crunch and sweetness. I find I need less honey or fructose overall, so its added as a correction or balancing ingredient rather at the end. I also let the cabbage sit with salt, then sweeze it and excess liquid out. Salt too is added at the end only if needed. Have you tried cilantro, white part of green onions, a touch of allspice, shoyu, sesame oil, and cider vinegar? Five spice also compliments slaw. I like the cider or white vinegar with pork dishes. It helps cut the fat. I also will slip some mirin or a little dessert wine into the mix.