Smoky Mexican Bliss: Irresistible Smoked Pork Carnitas

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Experience a tantalizing twist on traditional carnitas with our Smoked Pork Carnitas! The slow smoke infuses the pork with rich, melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and delectable crispy edges. Prepare to be enchanted by the delightful Mexican-inspired flavors in the rub, featuring a perfect balance of heat and sweetness. While not entirely traditional, this unique approach adds a kiss of wood smoke, creating an unforgettable and mouthwatering feast.

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Smoky Mexican Bliss: Irresistible Smoked Pork Carnitas

Can You Make Carnitas from Smoked Pork?

Absolutely! Although not the classic method, we’ve taken those beloved traditional flavors and added a touch of wood smoke to craft something truly extraordinary and delicious. The secret to achieving the same tender texture is through a low and slow smoke, followed by a foiled braise. The seasoning blend retains the essence of classic carnitas, ensuring a memorable culinary experience. And let’s not forget the essential final step—crisping the pork in fat—which delivers those irresistible caramelized edges that make carnitas a true delicacy.

Smoky Mexican Bliss: Irresistible Smoked Pork Carnitas

Smoked Pork Carnitas Marinade

The magic behind our carnitas lies in the marinade, which calls for just four simple ingredients. Prepare to be amazed by the robust flavors brought together in this marinade:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • Juice of 2 limes (sliced in half)
  • Juice of 1 orange (sliced in half)

Smoky Mexican Bliss: Irresistible Smoked Pork Carnitas

Place the pork in a gallon-sized zip-top bag, add the marinade ingredients, and let the pork marinate in the refrigerator overnight for approximately 12 hours.

Smoky Mexican Bliss: Irresistible Smoked Pork Carnitas

Tips for Making Pork Carnitas

Eager to create your own delectable pork carnitas? Here are some invaluable tips to ensure your meat emerges as an absolute culinary masterpiece:

  1. Crisp in batches: If you have more pork than needed, crisp the shredded pork in batches. Reserve the rest of the shredded pork and liquid/fat and crisp it just before serving for fresh, hot, and crisp edges every time.
  2. Minimize dishes: Opt for either a 12″ cast iron skillet or aluminum foil pans for the braising process. Both work wonderfully, and it’s your choice based on what’s available.
  3. Preserve the cooking liquid: Utilize the oil for crisping the meat and the juices to keep it moist and flavorful.

Smoky Mexican Bliss: Irresistible Smoked Pork Carnitas


  • 1 7-9 pound bone-in pork shoulder


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • Juice of 2 limes (sliced in half)
  • Juice of 1 orange (sliced in half)


  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • ½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon


  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ cup vegetable oil


  1. Marinate the pork: Place the pork shoulder in a large zip-top bag or food-safe container. Sprinkle all sides of the shoulder with kosher salt and pour over the orange and lime juice. Add the orange and lime rinds to the container with the pork and refrigerate for 12 hours (typically overnight).
  2. Preheat the smoker: Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F using your favorite hardwood (pecan or oak work well).
  3. Season the pork shoulder: Remove the pork from the marinade and pat it dry. Combine all the ingredients for the pork seasoning in a small bowl. Drizzle the pork shoulder with 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and spread it evenly. Season the pork on all sides with the dry rub.
  4. Smoke the pork: Place the pork shoulder on the smoker and close the lid. Smoke for approximately 5-6 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  5. Prep for braising: Transfer the pork shoulder to an aluminum pan and pour ½ cup of vegetable oil over the top. Place the bay leaves on the pork and tightly cover the pan with foil.
  6. Braise the pork: Increase the smoker’s heat to 350 degrees F (this step can be done in the oven as well) and place the covered pan inside. Close the lid and allow the pork to cook for an additional 3-4 hours, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 203 degrees F, or the thermometer probe slides into the meat like softened butter.
  7. Rest and shred: Let the meat rest at room temperature for at least an hour before shredding. Remove the large bone, fat, or gristle, and discard the bay leaves. Keep the liquid in the aluminum pan; it is delicious and will be used in the next step.
  8. Crisp the pork: Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Separate the oil and fat from the pan drippings using a spoon or fat separator. Drizzle the skillet with 1-2 tablespoons of cooking fats. Place the shredded pork in the hot oil and cook for 2-3 minutes, occasionally flipping the pieces for even browning.
  9. Enjoy! Serve the Smoked Pork Carnitas immediately in tacos, burritos, nachos, or as is! Keep the reserved cooking liquid on the side for drizzling, as desired.

Smoky Mexican Bliss: Irresistible Smoked Pork Carnitas

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