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Carnitas is a dish in Mexican cuisine that usually uses pork, typically the front sections of the hog or pork shoulder, that is braised or roasted for a long time, sometimes the length of a day. The meat is then shredded or pulled and cooked in lard, which creates very crispy meat with a tender, melt in the mouth center. It's then served in a variety of ways. One method is to serve it similar to the way people eat fajitas. It can be placed on a dish and accompanied by salsas, fresh vegetables, beans, and guacamole, and then diners can use tortillas to create tacos or burritos.
Due to the popularity of this meat, it is frequently made in Mexican restaurants and will be used as a filling for other types of dishes. Diners can order up a carnitas taco or enchilada in many places. The dual process for creating crispy soft pork is often easier when it is made in the large quantities needed in a restaurant setting.
The lengthy cooking process of this dish means that in many families, it's only made on special occasions. Some Mexican-American families enjoy having it around the Christmas holidays, while others will prepare it for special events like children’s birthdays or anniversaries. Of course, skilled cooks may prepare the meat more often when they have the time to do so.
There is some dispute about the way meat should be shredded, and some prefer it to be chunkier instead of in very small shreds. It’s really up to personal taste how much the cook chooses to break down the meat before frying it. Carnitas translates as "little meats" in Spanish, however, so it should not be served in large slabs.
Knowing that the pork is fried in lard may stop some people from enjoying this food favorite because they don’t want to add additional fat to their meals. Many recipes skip this step and suggest cooking the pork in slow cookers or for a long time over the stove. It won’t have the same crispy texture, but when spices like marjoram, cumin, bay leaf, garlic, onion, oregano, and thyme are added to the slow cooked pork, the cook will approximate the flavors of carnitas. Chefs can use lower fat pork cuts as well for a lower fat meal. When it's served with multi-grain or whole-wheat tortillas, fat free beans, and plenty of fresh vegetables, it will become a healthier meal.