Monday, February 13, 2012

Transforming Pulled Pork into Smoked Carnitas

By Dru Chai

Part of the fun of smoking BBQ is experimenting with different spice combinations. You don't want to eat something that has the same flavor profile every single time. You want to be surprised with every bite, keep you guessing, while discovering something new that will make you say "Yum, what is that flavor?"

Recently, I decided to smoke pulled pork again after a 4 month hiatus. As much as I love pulled pork, it's just not something I crave very often. Plus, if I'm smoking pulled pork, you know there's going to be LOTS of leftovers. It's always fun to play BBQ Santa, giving away and spreading BBQ joy.

Pulled pork is relatively straightforward, as I blogged about in my last experience here. You essentially set it and forget it. But this time around, I wanted to bring a unique twist. After smoking some boneless pork shoulder (purchased at Costco) for about 12 hours, I decided to put the meat in a good slow cooker for another 3 hours. I added some Mexican-inspired spices to transform the pulled pork into... smoked carnitas! Add the hours together, and you have 15-hour smoked carnitas.

Dirty Smoke BBQ's Smoked Carnitas

Traditionally, Mexican carnitas is slow cooked in lard (yuck), doesn't have any smoke flavor, and kind of has a mushy consistency. Well, with my method, it's healthy, has a subtle smoke flavor, and has a bit of crispy exterior texture that any pork lover would salivate over. So after smoking the pulled pork, I added the following spices in the slow cooker:

- Chili powder
- Cumin
- Paprika
- Cayenne pepper
- Garlic powder
- Garlic cloves
- Bay leaves
- Finely diced jalapeno peppers
- Red pepper chili flakes
- Chicken broth (or water)

Yeah, I practically emptied out my spice rack. I probably forgot some more spices, but I can't give away all my secrets on here, right? The result was a juicy, tender version of carnitas with a subtle and sweet smoky aroma in the background. For more crispy exterior, you could add a little oil and pan fry the meat for a few minutes. Or, for a healthier alternative, just lay out the meat on a baking pan, put in the oven, and broil it. All that was left was for the meat to be transported inside a warm tortilla with all the fixin's. Lastly, a few dashes of hot sauce and a squeeze of lemon. Delicioso!

(Carnitas tacos picture intended here, but I forgot to take a picture because I was hungry)